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FAQs on Tank Troubleshooting 5

Related Articles: Tank Troubleshooting Pt 1, Part 2, The Three Sets of Factors That Determine Livestock Health/Disease, A Livestock Treatment System,

Related Tank Troubleshooting FAQs:  FAQs 1, FAQs 2, FAQs 3, FAQs 4, FAQs 6 FAQs 7, FAQs 8, FAQs 9,

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.>

Another Saltwater Convert 2 (1/5/2004) Steve, I'd like to thank you for your quick response. <you're welcome> I realize that I made LOTS of mistakes <believe me, we all do> and I did just recently purchase "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist" by Fenner. (Our very own Bob, BTW> I have glanced through it but I really need to sit down and really read it. <A wise investment of time and $> I'm also sorry that I didn't explain myself more clearly before (I have about 3 weeks left of my first pregnancy so I have my hands full); <CONGRATS! First child? Parenting is a true challenge. I have 4 of my own and am also a pediatrician. Your hands are full for many years to come. But every worthwhile endeavor is challenging, right?> I was told that the Blue Chromis had cycled the tank and that I needed some livestock to keep the system balanced. <Not really. A great way for them to make money though.> That is when I bought the shrimp, Goby, and Pseudochromis.  I also forgot to mention the Yellow Tang (bought with the Maroon) that did great for about a week and a half but then I returned it with Ick. <Don't put any more fish in your tank until you haven't seen s spot of ich on your Clown for 6-8 weeks. The parasite is still in your system. Read the ich pages on WWM.>   I realize that you really don't need to know all of this and that you are likely wanting to remind me of your previous advise...read the book. <actually, more info is helpful, but you are right about needing to read/learn as well. Good luck finding the time/energy with a new baby.> I am just wondering about my bad (not known to be so at the time) decision to set up the hex. <Can be difficult, but not impossible. Search on "hex" on WWM and read of other's experiences. You might even start a thread on the wetwebfotos.com forum looking for input from other hex owners.> Is this design doomed to give continuous problems? <Just requires some extra care with attention to circulation and oxygenation (due to low surface-to-volume ratio.)>  Will the addition of the extra water flow help with my livestock problems <can't hurt> or is it just that TIME is needed to properly prepare the tank. <Patience is a richly rewarded virtue.> s for your advise (great advise, I know) on returning the anemone, the marine shop assured me that my lighting was sufficient (makes your wonder about folks). <Indeed. You said 14W, right. If they think that's enough, you need to go to a different store where they know something. I'd say you need closer to 200 watts. Start reading here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/inverts/cnidaria/anthozoa/anemonelightngfaqs.htm> About how much money should I expect to spend on the correct lighting? <Possible a couple of hundred dollars. Probably money better spent on baby supplies right now, eh?> I don't know if it is relevant but I do get some morning sun on the tank (the windows are at least 13 ft. away from the tank but I can keep the blinds closed if needed). <not adequate.> I do monitor this as not to get the temp. up however. As for the anemone itself, I am scheduled to go to the marine shop in three days; will it survive until then?  <Yes> It secured it's foot onto live rock about 3 hours after being let loose and has seemed okay since then.  It has been in the same place, stays open just about all day, and folds up at night ( for the 2 and a half days I've had it anyway).  Should I bring it back even with improved lighting? <Read everything about anemones on WWM and decide if you want the  expense/effort. Do you really want to hassle with an anemone while coping with a new baby? If you do remove it, do so carefully so as not to injure the foot. If it's attached to a small rock, you may want to take it back rock and all.> Also, could you recommend a species that I could put in the 30 gal. with the clown and sand star to help age it for other more demanding livestock.  By the way, I was also told that I should put some other fish in the tank so the Maroon Clown would not get too aggressive. <Again, bad advice. They get mean no matter what. This is a rather small tank for this particular fish. You may want to consider taking it back too. An ocellaris (or Percula), AKA Nemo, would be less aggressive. Then you could leave your tank free of fish for several weeks while you get used to the baby and get him/her settled in. Take a look at Scott W. Michael's "Marine Fishes" for some good ideas. Consider the Royal Gramma, Firefishes, Dartfishes and another Shrimp Goby. Go slow.> Again Steve, I would like to send a sincere thank you.<My pleasure> I know you guys get your share of frustrating questions and situations. <Believe me, we all started at the beginning. Everyone on the crew is happy to share knowledge and experience with persons such as yourself who are sincerely interested in learning and in providing the best possible care for their animals.> I am certainly beginning to understand that a saltwater tank is an extremely delicate ecosystem and demands extreme knowledge and understanding. <Indeed, it is a balance that requires ongoing attention. I wouldn't call the needed knowledge extreme. Let's say "thorough." Kinda like parenting only easier.> -Kim B. <Good luck with the remainder of your pregnancy and the delivery. I certainly hope that you have a healthy baby.>

Lodging Deaths? >Dear WWM, Firstly thank you for Bob Fenner's response to my previous question of where to put a fish store (Couple of months ago).   >>I think I can speak for him and say "You're welcome, mate!" >I now have a store named Aquatica in Garner, NC and this a question from one of my customers.      In an established 125 primarily marine fish tank with some live rock, my customer has had several fish (Foxface, cowfish, spotted Sweetlips) which he bought from me lodge themselves beneath or within rocks sporadically.   >>I'm guessing your customer is new to the hobby, and with the exception of the Foxface, ALL those fish are among the poorest of choices for a newbie. >Only his original inhabitants survive (damsels and fairly large moray eel).  The fish appear to be thriving before death and he has never observed the death occur.  He always finds them after the fact.  He has never been shocked by the tank and claims it is well grounded, and the water quality is fine.   >>Electricity is indiscriminate, that's  not an issue.  "Water quality is fine" says nothing to me - I need to know what was tested for (with what kit, and whether or not it's an old kit or has been stored improperly), as well as EXACT readings.   >The tanks he bought the fish from had no copper in them and neither does his.  My guess is it's the eel.  What do you think? >>If it were the eel, chances are he wouldn't find much of the fish.  Also, I'm not familiar with any morays that eat cowfishes.. though I could be wrong.  One would wonder why the damsels don't also get nailed if it is the eel.. especially if it's large.  No mention of quarantine has been made, it is my opinion that your customer, before buying ANY more fish, set up a quarantine system.  We have many, many FAQs regarding quarantine, and ways to go about this on the cheap.  (Hopefully for YOU your customer also has access to the net and can find this information on his own, eh?  I bet you are HELLA busy!)  If he can get the fishes through 30 days of q/t, and they still kick it in the main display, then the eel becomes a much more likely culprit.  In any event, I do hope he's doing plenty of water changes post-death.. and have him test his source water, too.. it's amazing how often we find high nitrate readings (some municipalities will allow as high as 40ppm!), copper, and other pollutants in the water that's supposed to help improve the situation.  He can also get a printout of the city's most recent water testing results, should be free.  Marina >Thank you in advance, Neal Isaacs Aquatica

- Tank Dilemma - Wet Web Crew, I do some tank work on the side, both fresh and salt. I have this one client who's tank is driving me nuts and I am at a loss to figure out what is going on. It's a 55 gallon, FOWLR. It has been set up since early summer. Setup is as follows: About 60 pounds live rock, nice clean Fiji stuff. Arranged with openings and areas for flow. 2 inches of Southdown with a top dressing of small grain aragonite. 2 Penguin 660 powerheads with sponge pre-filters HOT Magnum with normal sleeve and SeaGel Chem. material changed monthly. Water changes are done 25% on a monthly basis. Current parameters are: S.G. 1.021 pH about 8.2 NH3 - 0 NO2 - 0 NO3 - 10ppm and falling. It has a VERY healthy growth of Caulerpa prolifera, a "clean-up-crew", Cleaner Shrimp and  assorted small inverts, all doing great. The rock is maturing nicely, showing some sponge growth, many tiny Serpulid worms and gradual spread of encrusting algae. Just as you would expect to see in a healthy rock setup. About 6 weeks back, they purchased a 1 inch "Stars and Stripes" puffer from a local store who shall remain nameless. The new fish started to chase and harass their existing Porcupine Puffer (could have seen that coming) and the Porc broke down with tattered fins and eye cloud. The client, instead of calling me, assumed that the new fish was at fault and went back to the store for remedy. They recommended and sold them Salt Water Maracyn to treat the entire tank. The next thing I know, I get a call that the tank is cloudy and the fish are all dying one by one. By the time I am able to get there 2 days later, the fish are dead and ammonia is up. Now its not hard to figure out what happened here, but after removing the meds with carbon, doing a hefty water change and letting the tank re-cycle itself, the rock is fine and all of the inverts are flourishing. Here comes my problem. EVERY fish he gets for this tank, well established and eating, does well for about 3-4 days, eats in his tank and promptly drops dead. The water quality never changes so its not a cycle issue. I am at a loss to figure this out and I am about to lose him as a client. <Well... I would be interested in this part: "Every fish HE gets." Have you been there to see his acclimation and introduction procedure for these fish? If I were you, I'd consider quarantining a few for him and then putting these fish in yourself. Or at the very least observing him - could be an issue with his methodology, or could also be he's getting poor quality livestock from the store or perhaps not familiar with selecting a winner.> I am beginning to think that Inverts are easier (chuckle). <Sometimes they are. There are some things that would affect fish before the inverts that you should check on - nicotine, low oxygen are both possibilities. If your client is a smoker and puts his hands in the tank a lot, this could be the problem - nicotine is used to kill pest fish. I didn't see a skimmer on the hardware list, and with only a Magnum filter on the tank and no additional aeration, a lack of oxygen/aeration could also be your problem. Also, and this is just a small issue, but could help quite a bit in the short and long term is more frequent water changes - 5%/week or 10% every two weeks - wafting for a month to do a water change, especially when fish are dying in the tank is perhaps waiting too long. Do investigate all angles.> Sorry this was so long. I was trying to figure out all of the questions you would ask, the ones I would ask. Alan <Cheers, J -- >

Tank Die Off (likely environmental in origin) Hello Crew, <Hi there, Kevin here> I have been using your site as my guideline to my tank set up since late September. <Excellent!>  I have a 75 gallon tank with 20 pound of Fiji live rock.  I use only RO/DI water since I started the tank.  I have a wet/dry filter under the tank and in the tank I have a Berlin Airlift protein skimmer and an extra powerhead to help with circulation. <ok> I cycled the tank with 5 each domino damsels, blue damsels, and yellow tail damsels.  During the cycling process I lost 2 of the blue damsels and 3 of the yellow tail damsels. <I can see that, you're cycling with around twice the recommended number of fish for that size tank.> The week before Thanksgiving I added 2 small yellow tangs.  With in 3 days the smaller of the tangs died and I removed him right away. <I doubt that 2 yellow tangs in this size of a tank would have got along very well anyways. Were you monitoring your ammonia and nitrite levels while all this was happening?> Thanksgiving week I left for 6 days and had a friend turning the lights on for me and feeding the same amount and schedule. Around day 4 all but 1 of the remaining damsels mysteriously died and my friend removed the ones she found.  When I returned on day 6, the last damsel and last tang had died as well. <Water tests, water tests, water tests!> I removed them and found a dead damsel logged in the main circulating power head.  I checked the conditions of the water to find that SG was 1.023, temp was 79 F, no rise in ammonia or nitrates or nitrites. <Really?!> PH was 8.0. The only thing I noticed was a "scum" on the top surface of the water. <The skimmer is considerably undersized and has no way to remove this film, try breaking it up with a powerhead pointed near the surface.> I changed out 25 gallons of water with RO/DI water, pre-buffered and SG set-to 1.023and continued to monitor the levels.  Everything looks to be good except the "scum" that accumulates on the top of the tank.  I then had the water checked at a local marine aquarium store in Houston, and they told me everything looked good.  I added 5 domino damsels and they seemed to be fine for a few days. After about 3 days I noticed they were losing their color, fading to white. They had their fins clamped down and seemed to be gilling rather heavily. Within 2 days, I lost all five and removed them. <Sounds like they were diseased. It's hard to say if you're getting bad fish or if you're crashing the tank.> Algae growth has been fine, and my small feather dusters are fine.  I then added 5 scarlet hermits and 5 blue legged hermits thinking that the algae may have been causing oxygen issues. <Algae photosynthesize, a process that produces oxygen (or we'd all be dead!).>  The hermits went right to work and have the algae under control, so i again added 5 dominos, 4 of which have met the same demise. I just can't seem to find anything else to test for.  I have since been able to manually remove the scum on top of the tank and get my O2 level up from 4 to close to 7, but as of this morning, the last damsel I have was still gilling rather heavily. <It's likely diseased, but there could still be water quality issues.> This evening I am going to add an additional power head to increase water flow and cause more turbulence at the surface.  I was basically just wondering if there's something else I need to check to see why the damsels keep losing their color and why they would be breathing so heavily. <The first thing to do is verify that the test kits you're using are fresh ( < a year old) and that they're of good quality. I suggest Fastest (SeaTest), Salifert, and LaMotte test kits primarily. Seachem, Red Sea, and other dry tab or dip stick kits are unreliable at best. It does sound like you're getting a few bad batches of domino's though, but if the water quality was poor that could have brought on a similar fate. I would suggest setting up a quarantine tank for your future fish, and let this system go fallow (no fish additions) for a month (which works out nicely w/ a one month quarantine for the next fish!). Instead of tossing 5 in at a time, how bout 1 of a non-aggressive species? Get something hardy, like a royal Gramma or a Dottyback. Do some searches on our site to find more info on quarantining and disease, you'd be surprised how much stuff has been compiled on this site! Good luck! -Kevin> Thanks in advance for your help,

Help with Lessons Learned Please (mysterious livestock losses) 12/19/03 Last Friday I returned from work and found all of my snails, three brittle stars and two of my cucumbers dead in my 38-gallon, three month old tank. <Yikes!  Sorry for your losses.  Some random loss is common in such young tanks, but mass losses are usually triggered by some sentinel event.> I had lost a few snails the day before, but though it might be starvation because my algae load had substantially dropped during the three weeks the snails were in the tank and I had just added a 15 watt UV light the Sunday before. <Starvation is indeed a common (and under appreciated) cause of snail deaths.  UV will have no direct or significant effect on algae growth. Also on that day I added a wet/dry system to supplement my canister and skimmer. <Why?  Wet/Dry's are very effective at reducing ammonia and nitrite, but generally allow nitrate to accumulate.  A typical modern reef tank with enough live rock and/or sand can handle these processing duties just fine on their own.  Canisters can also allow nitrate to accumulate.> In the days following, my last two cucumbers died, along with the small fan worms that came on my live rock and some flat worms I had never fully seen.  Yesterday a few of the remaining hermit crabs died, along with two small green(?) crabs that were also in the cleaner package from marine depot.  All I have left are two peppermint shrimp, a half dozen hermits and 6 damsels.<It sounds like someone oversold you on "clean up" critters.  Starvation is sounding a bit more likely since you probably had more snails and cucumbers than there would be food for.  A good rule of thumb would be no more than one cucumber in your tank, and no more than one turbo snail per 10 gallons or one Astrea per 5 gallons.  Obviously, most online retailer grossly exceed this!  One death of starvation could have created a big enough ammonia spike to start the cascade you say.> On that fateful day, I immediately checked my water quality and all were "normal".  No ammonia, no nitrites, 20ppm nitrate with normal salinity (1.024) and ph (8.3).  I made a 10 gallon water change and took a sample of water to the LFS to confirm my tests. <All good moves.  I always double check test results when suspect, and except in cases of very high ammonia, water changes never hurt.  20ppm is actually a bit high for a reef tank, and I suspect that your canister filter is the culprit (your wet/dry was probably too new to be really working yet)> Their well-regarded "expert" was somewhat perplexed and suggested it might have been a dead cucumber that poisoned the rest. <This is indeed possible, but I would expect the toxins to have killed or at least very noticeably stressed the fish.> Someone else suggested that adding the wet/dry might have caused an ammonia spike that had moved through the system by the time I measured five days later. <This is backwards.  The wet/dry would not have caused an ammonia spike, but it may have helped control it.  But I am confused... I thought you tested the day of the initial losses.> Indeed, the algae load has increased since the wipeout, even with the UV light.<Your losses produced wastes that are feeding the algae (ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, phosphate, organics), so this is no surprise.  As I mentioned above, UV has no influence on this. My real question is what should I do now?  I would like to know what happened so it does not happen again.  My inclination is to wait a few weeks and begin to build the bioload again.  Any suggestions or is the cause unknowable? <I would continue doing regular partial water changes and remove the canister and wet/dry.  We may not be able to figure out for sure what happened, but we can try to prevent it from happening again.  Before you start re-stocking, please do write back and describe your system in detail and list all of your current livestock.  One of the crew can let you know if anything should be changed and if any livestock you are considering is appropriate.  Best of luck!  Adam>

Getting Back Into The Game (Recovering From Fish Losses) Hi crew, <Hello! Scott F. here today> Well, after almost a year, I'm back to square one. I lost the one Rabbitfish I had in display about 3 weeks ago. The gory details can be found here ( http://wetwebfotos.com/talk/thread.jsp?forum=31&thread=13483&tstart=75&trange=15) <Sorry to hear that...Good to have a "support group" on the WWM Forum, though> My questions are: 1)Reviewing the thread, I'm still not certain what killed the darn fish.  I think electrocution because it was too rapid a death after the UV filter was plugged in. Your thoughts? The fish was brown (but dead Rabbitfish tend to turn brown anyway), and seemed to have a circular pattern on its side. <I agree about the color changes- they are indicative of stress, moods, or a simple night/sleep pattern. Prolonged brown colors (depending on the species) could indicate something wrong with the fish or its immediate environment. The electrocution thing seems possible, but it may simply have been coincidental. Lots of other possibilities, ranging from toxins (did you rinse the UV unit out before use? Maybe some oils or materials from the manufacturing process leached...> Granted, Poly Filter and carbon should cope with lots of stuff, but who knows. The fish could have even been sick before you purchased it, and some kind of stress event "pushed it over the edge." In the absence of a thorough water chemistry analysis and possible postmortem exam of the fish by a qualified pathologist, we may never know! I guess the best solution is to keep up good husbandry practices, including quarantine of all new arrivals..> 2) Going forward, and having lost a Scott's Fairy Wrasse in quarantine around the same time, I have a credit with Marine Depot Live. Problem is, I need to order more livestock in addition to the fairy wrasse in order to claim the credit.  They suggested inverts (which doesn't sound like a bad idea, as my display is now overrun with green algae).  I was thinking 2-3 abalone. Question is, I hear different suggestions about whether or not to quarantine inverts (some say yes, others [notably Bob Fenner] say no).  I  don't know whether I should or not. <I am a fanatical quarantine supporter. My thinking is that the inverts could have come in contact with sick animals at any time during the chain of custody from reef to retailer, and you just cannot be too safe. There are some instances were it may not be necessary, but I err on the side of caution, myself> 3)Now that the UV is in the loop, the flow rate back to the tank is a lot lower. The plumbing goes pre-filter -> wet/dry -> protein skimmer -> return pump -> UV -> tank. I' like to remove it and use it in the QT, unless there's something I can do to increase the flow rate. <Short of a more powerful pump, or less applications, I'd say no.> Thanks in advance, Rob <My pleasure, Rob- Hope things go well for you and your tank from here on out! Regards, Scott F>

Green Chromis Terror? >We have a 100 gallon tank that recently developed a horrible algae.  The closest we can figure is it's a brown diatom (?) algae.  We have "vacuumed" the algae off of the rocks and done about a 25 gallon water change at each vacuuming.   >>Sometimes it's better to treat it like lemmings, let it starve itself out. >We got another 30 gallon tank for the Chromis because they turned white, hovered straight up in a corner, and acted as if they were having seizures.   >>Holy God!  This isn't right. >Our tank finally cleared, with little algae left in the tank, so we took everything "back home."  Much to our dismay, within six hours the Chromis were back in their corners, acting spastic.  Why are they doing this.   >>Boy.. without at least knowing some water parameters, length of time you've had them, previous behavior and so on, I'm limited.  However, twitching may (MAY) be the warning sign of impending disease.  You may wish to ensure that there is no stray voltage in the tank, though my own experience has shown that as long as there is nothing in the tank to make ground the fish suffer nothing.  YOU do when you put your hand in the tank make yourself ground. >They are the neatest fish, so calming to the tank, (and to me,) I hate to see them this way.  This is our first saltwater fish tank, and we are definitely learning a bunch.  Any thing you can tell us would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks in advance, Anne   >>It would be helpful to know at what point this behavior started, for instance, were they fine until you started your efforts to get rid of the algae?  Parameters, and the other information I mentioned all helps add clues (or at least lets us eliminate possibilities) to the picture.  Marina

New Tank Syndrome Over and Over Again? >I've had a 48 gallon reef tank for the last 4 months with little incident.  Yet every time I do my monthly water change (25%) something goes haywire for a few days.  Yesterday I did my usual change.  Rinsed the filter media out in dechlorinated salt water. Rinsed and added new reef carbon. (I have a Fluval 304 and a protein skimmer). Added dechlorinated saltwater made from Coralife mix. Everything was fine.  This morning the water is cloudy, coral are "pulled in" and one of my cleaner shrimp bought the farm! >>Hhhmm.. and you say this sort of thing happens every time you do a water change?  I'll tell you, most folks don't run reef with tis sort of filtration (the canister), especially if this is what you rely on for biological filtration.  My first thought on this is that if your water appears milky, you're killing off your nitrifying bacteria every time you use this method.  You need a more stable means of biological filtration, in my opinion.  If the shrimp kicked and the corals look so bad within 24 hrs., then it makes me think "ammonia spike".  This would jive with the killing off of the benthic bacteria (your nitrifying bacteria).  What you are seeing (assuming it's milky cloudiness) are free-floating bacteria that are allowed to take over when you kill the benthics.  It's a nutrient competition here, and you want the benthics to win. >I know I have to do water changes and clean the filter media on a regular basis.  Is this "drama" normal and should I just get used to it, or is there something I've done wrong or should be doing differently?  G >>No, it's not normal, especially in established tanks.  It IS normal for new tanks, and is known as "new tank syndrome".  My first advice is to alternate rinsing the carbon and the filter media.  I will also suggest looking into other forms of filtration as well.  A search on our site will net quite a bit for you.  Marina

- New Tank, New Problems - Hi, I desperately need some advice. I have a 29 gallon saltwater tank. I am running two filters and a powerhead. I have ordered a AquaC Remora protein skimmer which should arrive next week. I have had the tank set up for about two months. I currently have in the tank 1 hippo tang, 1 flame angel, and two damsels. ,That's a good deal of life for a two month old tank.> I don't have any invertebrates.  I have about 25 pounds of live rock.  Over the past week I have lost 3 clowns and 1 coral beauty.  I test my water every other day and even took it to the local pet store and they say everything is fine with the water. <Still, the tank is very new... Angels require mature tanks. I wouldn't add a fish like this for at least six months after setting up a tank.> I am keeping my temperature at 78 and my salinity at 29 (I believe the specific gravity at that level is 1.022).  My water is crystal clear and there isn't excessive amount of algae in it.  I am feeding the fish a rotation of frozen angel food, reef formula, and formula 2 food.  I have been monitoring the fish everyday and there is no ick on them but now the Hippo Tang is acting like he is dying. The fins on his back are raised and he won't come out from behind the powerhead.  When I removed the powerhead he floated to the bottom of the tank and laid in the sand. When I put the powerhead back in he swam back up to it and proceeded to hide behind it again.  He also looks very thin.  He was fine the other day. One of my damsels is also now hiding behind the powerhead with the tang.  The angel and the other damsel seem fine but I just got the angel yesterday. <Well, the new addition would cause a little distress, this is really a small tank so when someone new shows up, all the existing inhabitants are quite aware of the implications. With only 29 gallons, that doesn't leave much personal space for any individual fish.> I am really disheartened. I have spent a lot of money on the tang and the angel and I hate to see either one of them die. <Well... for starters you should be quarantining your fish before you add them to your main tank. To purchase a fish and just add it to your tank is to invite a whole host of problems. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/mardisease.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/quaranti.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/parasiti.htm > I just don't understand. <Please do read those articles. You will understand much more once you do.> One day the fish are fine and the next day their lying at the bottom of the tank dead. <Could have been compromised long before you got them home.> I'm about to give up on trying to keep a saltwater tank. <I think you need to be patient as well. As I mentioned before, a two month old tank is very new, and you should only be adding one item a month to a tank of this size and age. Any quicker is leaving the doors open to trouble.> I know you are busy but you could give me any advice before 4:30pm (Eastern Time) I'd greatly appreciate it. <We answer all these in the order in which they arrive. We always strive to get to them as quickly as possible, but it doesn't always work out to be as quick as you might like.> I am leaving work at that time and I was planning on going to the fish store yet again to buy everything I need for a quarantine tank if the tang is even still alive. I was also wondering if it'd be a good idea if I bathed him in freshwater. <Only if you actually see something on the fish, otherwise the stress of capture and the dip could be too much.> I've heard that rids saltwater fish of diseases. Again if you could give me any advice I'd really appreciate it. <Yes, please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/dips_baths.htm > Thanks! Amanda    <Cheers, J -- >

- Trouble on the Horizon, Follow-up - Jason, Thanks for the quick response. <My pleasure.> I have a 250 gallon container, and a quarantine tank standing by should things take a turn for the worst.  Is there any additional symptoms I should be watching for that would signal that I am losing the battle and need to move to more direct action? <Flashing/scratching against various surfaces, high breathing/gilling rates, appearance of more white spots that previously observed.> Bob McCook <Cheers, J -- >

- Did the Skimmer [or lack of one] Do It? - Hello WWM crew. I have a bit of a problem am losing my babies. *sob* 75 gal reef aquarium 2 clowns 1 yellow damsel 1 purple tang. Now down to just the purple tang. <Sorry to hear of your losses.> My Remora Pro skimmer pump went down was not able to get one for 2 weeks. But now have replaced with  mag 5 pump <That pump is too large for this skimmer - you should put a valve inline to throttle that pump back a bit.> Rio pumps stink should have listened but any way. <Not sure I agree entirely... have owned, and still own several Rio's with no event. Do require frequent cleanings to keep them healthy, but that shouldn't be a big deal. Sometimes one or two will be bad out of the box, but that happens to every pump manufacturer.> 10 gal water change per week  while skimmer was down. Ammonia 0, nitrate 0, nitrite 0, ph 8.4, cal 220. Will bring cal up with Kalk. Bubble coral and mushroom suffering from low cal - do you think my fish deaths are due to skimmer being down? <Wouldn't be my first or second choice of causes.> Also have green algae every where on sand and all over live rock 100lbs (Arrrgh). Tank 4 years old and one last question, what fish would you suggest with this set up? <Please go through the Wet Web Media website, many possibilities and too many to list here.> Thank you for providing such wonderful knowledge.  Rocky   <Cheers, J -- >- 

Missing in Action - Must Find That Mantis!  >Hello to all, I find myself scratching my chin yet again and staring at my tank like the RCA dog, a daily occurrence. I have/had a yellow tail Coris wrasse ~ 5-6" ~ for over a year and he made the move from my 55 to my 125 four months ago without any problem.  In addition I put a three inch two line goby in the display tank last Sunday and haven't seen him since.  I've heard the loathsome intermittent clicking noise coming from the tank since day one and have yet to see the devil. >>Uh oh.  I know this story all too well. >I tried to flush it out when transferring the live rock by exposing all the rock to a bath of hyposalinity for three to four minutes per my LFS guidance counselor. >>Fresh water dipping is generally most effective, but it helps to have an idea of which rock/rock group to go after. >My question is it likely that the shrimp could/would catch and devour either or both fish in a two to three days time? >>Hhmm.. depending on the size of the mantis, I'd have to say it's a good probability.  Especially if it found the wrasse, though large, buried and at night.  I'm assuming your tank is well-covered and you've done the search all about, even in the places where "it's IMPOSSIBLE they'd land there!". >I have check all around the tank, floors, overflows, hood, probed the sand bed, checked the tank with lights off,  looked behind the tank with a mirror.  Ammonia isn't up and I don't know if it's worth breaking down the tank and disturbing the other fish and more than I have to find them or what left of them, ughhh.  :(  Any thoughts or suggestions, and again, thank you ahead of time.  Steve Suniga >>In a tank that size, even if the fish just kicked with no help from the shrimp it doesn't necessarily follow that the ammonia would spike.  However, as I said, it could be likely that they've been nailed if you're rather certain (the clicking sure is a bugger) you've got a mantis.  In this case, I think it is QUITE worth it to do what you can to find that shrimp.  They can, do, will, and HAVE decimated entire tanks.  I even lost a gorgeous Tridacna derasa to a mantis (just smashed it open, even when it was said it would never happen, it did).  Must find that shrimp!  Marina

- Strange Losses - Well I will explain my conditions & problems to you to see if you have any advice.  All I seem to get from my local stores is a shoulder shrug or "Ick" as the answer. Water: ammonia - low or neutralized nitrite - ok ph - 7.8 / 8.0 <This pH is too low, you really should address this and bring it into proper range for marines, 8.2 - 8.4.> nitrates - <20 Temp - 78 Decor - rock, live rock, plastic plants, top fin fake tree root, live sand Gallons - 380 Lighting - White, Blue, Moon lights Bio - wet/dry salt - 1.022 Problems: White spots (smaller than ich spots) Cloudy Eyes Stringy film (usually from head/eyes) Lethargic/ not eating Sitting on bottom w/defenses up (fins) Heavy Respiration Extreme Thrashing if bothered by other fishes. Usually dies within 3 days of seeing spots & cloudy eyes. I have lost 3 new fish to this (Puffer, Naso, Trigger - all from diff. stores), these fish were each in my tank appx. 2-3 days before symptoms started. I have other fish (Rabbitfish, Toby Puffer, damsels, Eel, Wrasses) that have been in the tank for 2+ months (new tank) that only show typical ich spots every now & then (copper is in tank currently to kill ich). <Mmm... big mistake. Copper will be absorbed by your sand and live rock, causing the sand and rock not only to be no longer live but also reduce the therapeutic dose of copper. You should always, always quarantine new fish away from your main tank to observe and potentially treat, and sick or questionable fish should be removed from the main system for quarantine and treatment.> Water changes are treated to get out metals, chlorine&mines. My tank gph turnover is 1200 (so I'm told), I always see tiny air bubbles in tank - could I have too much oxygen? <Doubt that.> Or is this parasitic? or bacterial? how should I treat my water MetaF/x, Cupramine? <I would not treat your tank directly, but instead treat the fish individually in separate quarantine tanks.> I do normal water changes. I am starting to think I have a demon tank because I have lost so many fish (I have lost appx 10+ others due to stress or might have been this, but I never saw cloudy eyes in them - 2 hippos (covered in ich), 4 Chromis (heavy breathing since day dropped), Dussumier's Tang (scrapped w/Naso & then showed above signs, also may have been nipped by eel), Mimic Tang (all above symptoms accept eyes), Sunset Wrasse (never acclimated, died next day), handful of perculas (believe eel got them at night, they slept on bottom - zebra eel). <You really need to start by addressing the low pH of your tank - this alone is enough to slowly stress and kill all your fish - continual stress will 'do a number' on the fish's immune system and increase their susceptibility to disease. If ich is showing up in your tank, it is most likely a result of the continued exposure to the low pH.> I am just stumped because I have 4 damsels & 5 other fish that have practically been there from day 1. <Some fish are more tolerant than others - the fish you list as having lost are certainly in the less than hardy range.> I recently added some more fish (before the last 2 died) and want to make sure they are gonna be ok (8 yellow tangs, 3 giant dominos, Volitans Lion & Guinea puffer- large). <Likewise, you should really slow down your rate of additions here - no more than one fish a month, and even then you should always quarantine them first. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/quaranti.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/toxictk.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/mardisease.htm > Sorry about all the info, I just wanted to give you as much as possible so you might be able to help me, since no one here can. <Please read those articles. You will have to help yourself, examine what you've been doing and what you might do to change that.> Thank you <Cheers, J -- >

Sick Sick Tank >I have a Truvu AquaSystem 55 gal hex saltwater tank (are they even still around?). After many years of running the tank I took it down recently when we moved across town. Now I have unsuccessfully attempted to set the tank back up and although everything checks (salt- 1.021; temp 80, etc) I have lost 12 (count them 12) damsels. They last about two to three days and begin to show signs of stress yet there is no indication of ammonia or nitrate in the water. I use AMQUEL when adding water to deal with the chloramine in our water. The store where I purchased the sand, rock, and damsels, can't understand why either. >>Are you adding 12 at a time?  Also, I'm curious as to why you're not cycling fishless by now (it's all the rage, as you lose no animals to cycling this way).  My first instinct is to wonder if this tank has been exposed to pesticides or other non-water soluble chemicals, this would account for the consistency of the problem. >They check the water and all seems fine. So I buy another set of Damsels thinking that they have simply died from Ammonia/Nitrate levels even though I can't detect them with my tester kit. >>If your kit is old, be sure to get another one. >I believe somewhere in the moving process the tank became tainted (a bit of soap; a dirty rag maybe,? something?) So I am about to take down the whole thing AGAIN. My question is this: Assuming I throw away all the new gravel, live (now dead) sand; and live (now dead) rock; what should I clean the tank with to rid it of whatever is killing the fish? >>Mmm.. that is a tough one.  I would go the bleach and baking soda route (soaking with bleach, then dechlorinating -- try getting just sodium thiosulfate instead of Amquel with all the extra [read: expensive] goodies), then let dry, then carefully clean with a slurry of baking soda, then let dry.  Then, I would make my first fish in there mollies, in the BARE tank.  Set them up with it fresh, then over the next couple of days add salt slowly (or you'll pop 'em!) and see what happens.  If they last two or three weeks, it may be suitable.  Be sure to have all filters hooked up during this process.  If they die, then I would try cleaning all with isopropyl alcohol, then going the bleach and baking soda route again.  By then you may be ready to trash the whole thing and buy another tank. >Should I also throw out the bioballs? Is it possible that I have somehow not put the system back in the right order (e.g., the bioballs are immersed in water and I have no filtration media other than a thin pad at the top of the skimmer). >>It's possible, but it wouldn't explain well enough what's happening. >Can that cause trouble? >>It can.. but I honestly don't think it would be on this "scale".  If you're very unsure, go over it again with your books and LFS. >Sorry for the length but this seems a bit puzzling, to say the least. Any help would be appreciated.  Gordon >>To say the least.  If this is as simple as you adding a dozen damsels into a 55 gallon tank at once, then you get to kick yourself in the pants once, and the rest of us get a shot, too.  ;)  Best of luck, and I hope I've offered some help.  Marina

Damsels and Mollies (10-10-03) - Sick Sick Tank II thanks for the info. <Your welcome, but next time you write a follow up please include the original email so we know who you were working with and exactly what was going on, it just helps us and you get a better reply.>Just to be clear and you don't think I am a complete dummy....I put only 3 damsels in at a time. I've done it 4 times, thus the 12 damsels I mentioned. Also my test kit is brand new so I think that is accurate on the water tests. Especially since the Aquarium shop is getting the same results I am. I will try the clean-out you suggested and add mollies in the bare fresh water tank. You also suggested that if they last over two or three weeks all will be well for adding my marine fish. But what about the mollies? Will the mollies survive with a salt level of 1.020 or 1.021 in the tank? I would think that at some point the salinity will kill them. At what point can I assume it is the salinity and not more contamination? <The mollies should be fine as long as you raise the salinity slow.>  I appreciate your quick turnaround and am glad I found your web site. <Thank you for writing, Cody!>  Gordon

New Setup, No Quarantine=Black Ich >Hi, >>Hello, Marina today. >I have a 5 foot tank bout 22inch high and 18inch wide ...marine setup crushed coral on the bottom and 5 live rock in there .... it almost in the end of its cycle, bout 4 and a bit weeks now and nitrite is nearly clear.  The reason for marine (I have freshwater tropical with discus) is my wife, she seen the fish and that's what she wanted.  I have had fish in there which amazing have not died thus far during the cycling period.   >>Haven't yet heard of "cycling fishless" yet, mate?  It's quite easily done, but a moot point now, eh? >But I'm a little worried now about 2 angelfish 9 black dots on their bodies and black to the end with yellow tails.  Yes they have been behaving a little weird these past couple of days ... scratching sometimes (not a lot) and shivering with quick dashing ...  I've been trying to observe them, they are breathing normally and chase each occasionally, but I can't notice any dots or any difference in their color or anything... >>I'm rather confused here, do they have spots or don't they?  Are the spots black only, or are they black with yellow tails?  The rest of what you tell me indicates parasitic infection, if the spots are all black, then this is black ich, very easily eradicated with freshwater dips and hyposalinity (1.010).  Also, try quarantining practice in the future, makes life much simpler. >The other fish (2 damsels and lipstick tang and blue cleaner wrasse) are their usual self so far, it's just these angels ... >>Oh no.. you have all these fish in a 55 gallon tank?  If small now, do know that they will very soon outgrow this system.  Also, expect the cleaner wrasses to not last very long, no more than a year or two in such a set up.  If you haven't got any books it's a really good idea to get some before you begin replacing fish. >I'm thinking they may have a parasite problem ... but I cant identify (maybe it's too early), one of them is wafting for the blue wrasse to come out as I write this... should I be getting formalin and doing a dip for both of these?   >>No, your whole tank is infected now, won't do you any good to simply dip the two fish showing signs. >What would you recommend?   >>Quite honestly I recommend doing much more research in the future.  You've entirely skipped quarantine, which is the place to sort out disease issues.  At this point I suggest you set up another system in which to treat ALL the fishes with hyposalinity for the parasites, and leave the display tank fallow (fishless) for 6-8 weeks, hopefully this will be long enough to starve out all parasites (I'm thinking Cryptocaryon irritans as well as black ich could be in there). >And should I be putting any medication in my tank? >>NO!  Never treat the display tank, my friend, always use a hospital/quarantine system for this. >Another question ... is sea water ok to use in the tank when doing changes? >>Fresh from the ocean?  Only if properly filtered and sterilized. >Or could that introduce unwanted parasites? >>Yes. >I'm running 2 canister filters and I'm saving for a skimmer.  I'm waiting for the nitrite to disappear to do a water change! >>Do your poor fish a favor and do a water change. >Temperature is 24-25 degrees.  I have a powerhead as well in the tank for more circulation!  Oxygen bubbles out the back of the tank.. >>Huh?  You have oxygen hooked directly up to the tank?  Is this legal in Australia?  I think maybe you have an air pump, yeah?  If so, know this: you will increase salt creep, and the issue of oxygen saturation is solved by ensuring that the top, middle, and bottom layers of the water are all circulated, and most importantly, that the SURFACE of the water is very well agitated.  It is at the water's surface that the O2-CO2 exchange takes place. >Brown algae has appeared on the crushed coral on the bottom but I think that's part of the cycling coming to an end or maturing ...(correct me if I'm wrong please). Any advice would be appreciated. Just caught the angel scratching itself again ... >>The algae is normal, indicates nutrients.  Do the water change, use the hyposalinity, if it must be in the display then do it in the display.  Give all the fish a freshwater dip for as long as they can take it, be SURE to match the freshwater with the tank water for pH and temperature.  Get a skimmer on the system as soon as possible, but until then do weekly water changes of at LEAST 25%-30%, but don't vacuum the gravel/crushed coral too aggressively.  Know that you may end up having a real battle with parasites for the manner in which you've gone about setting up and cycling, though.  Marina P.S. I have a star fish in the tank I caught when I went fishing it goes around and buries itself under the crushed coral. >>Well crap, this animal won't survive the hyposalinity.  Move it to its own container for the time being.  Also, know that it won't survive any meds you put in the system.   >Sam,  Sydney, Australia

- The Sole Survivor - HI everyone, I live in Australia and have had my FOWLR running for 4 years now - no problems. <Glad to hear it.> The water is fine no abnormal readings. The tank is 5x2x2ft. My livestock was :   1 Yellow Tang 4 inches                      1 Flame Angel 3 inches                      1 Blue Tang   4 inches                      2 False Clownfish  approx. 2 inches each                      3 Green Chromos                      1 Emperor Angel 2-3 inches My problem is that over about a week everything apart from 1 chromos and the emperor has died. <Oh no... sorry to hear this.> No battle marks on any of the dead fish and absolutely no warning signs! Any ideas on what happened? <Perhaps some toxic event.> It has me totally stumped. My water reading have not changed at all - so the water is still fine. <Sadly, there are a bunch of contagions that won't show up on any standard test kit. I would potentially find a veterinarian who could assist you with a postmortem examination. Would give you a more definitive reason.> My only thought is that as the Emperor survived he may have gone on a territorial rampage and stressed everyone else out. <Possible, but thought you might have noticed this taking place - certainly wouldn't have killed everyone in a day. A good way to find out is to try and add something back to the tank.> Any ideas would really help me out before I re-stock the tank. <I'd give it a very thorough once-over - perhaps replace some of the rock and substrate, give it a really good cleaning - look for foreign objects that shouldn't be in there, etc.> Thanks a lot , Jessica. <Sorry again about your losses. Cheers, J -- >

- The Sole Survivor, Follow-up - Thanks for the swift reply. <My pleasure.> My main concern was that I thought the Emperor would be the first to die if the water was of a poor quality or suffered a rapid change. <Actually, given the mix you had, I'd expect to see exactly what you saw, with the Emperor there until the end.> Anyway, are Emperor Angels regarded as aggressive/territorial fish? <Not especially, but there is always individual variation that is impossible to predict.> From reading about these guys it seams to me that they are not aggressive to other fish except for other angels. Is this right? <99% of the time.> What would be a few good fish to mix with the emperor? <Just about anything but another full-sized angel.> Also, a Majestic angel about 1 1/2 inches with adult colours came into my LFS today. Are they hardier than the Emperor. <I'd say about the same, given good capture and so on... sadly, Majestics are often poster children for cyanide capture. The bottom line would be... put a deposit on the fish, and let it stay at the store for a couple of weeks.> Also would they make a better "community" fish when compared to the emperor? <Perhaps... they are fairly easy going and don't get quite as large as some of the other full-size angels. Majestics are one of my favorite fish, but this one could be in trouble - getting kicked around by that emperor. I'd try some other low-cost dither fish like Chromis to check your Emperor's temperament.> The reason I ask is that the Majestic is $360. <Zoinks!> Not cheap and if the emperor is hardier and of the same aggression level then I would rather keep the emperor as I am growing very attached to the little guy. <I think I'd keep the Emperor.> Thanks for your help. <Cheers, J -- >

Bouncing Back From Tragedy! Thank You for the advice, Yesterday that I got the pump, and I was going to install it, I got scared because there was like a plague of the (transparent shrimps I mention), so I also purchase 5 damsel fish to see if the water was OK, and these morning, all the (transparent tiny shrimp) disappear, I don't know if they got inside the live rock, or if they got under the crushed coral. <If these creatures are amphipods, as I suspect, they are merely returning to the "cryptic" environments which they inhabit...> All my new damsel fish are doing OK, and the other shrimp I guess got to the live rock were they live. <Yep! LOL> Every thing seems to be normal except the tank does not look the same with the puffer, the clown trigger and the harlequin Tuskfish. Just 5 damsel fish. <Yep...But give it time, and you'll slowly but surely be able to repopulate this tank!> Thank you Scott for the advice. <Any time...Hope it was helpful> ps. a friend told me that if I would have open the canopy, and put my hand in the water and starred and make bubbles the fish wouldn't have died. Is it true??? <Well, if he was referring to vigorous aeration of the tank water, it certainly would have helped ensure a greater chance of survival for the animals...A back up battery-powered air pump might not be a bad investment...! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

The brown/red yuckies I have A 55 GALLON WITH PROTEIN SKIMMER, FLUVAL Canister filter live rock, live sand and have 5 damsels, my tank has been set up for 2 months, my ammonia is still a little high, problem is I am getting brownish red film forming all over my sand and a little on glass, what could the problem be, if this is a problem or not <Sounds like the beginnings either diatoms or Cyano. Both are a direct result of water quality issues. Are you doing regular water changes? I would recommend 3-5 gallons twice weekly until the stuff disappears and then 5 gallons or so every week as a part of your regular maintenance. Make sure you use a high quality filtered water for top off and to make change water with. Bet this will help with the other water problems (i.e. ammonia that should be 0) too.  Don>

Saltwater mixing (don't try this at home) - 8/7/03 Your web site is AWESOME and I appreciate it very much <Thank you> I have a friend that has a 18 gallon saltwater aquarium. <Donovan, c'mon....is this friend really you?> He has 2 clowns, a rusty angel, a yellow tail damsel, a few small hermit crabs, some type of anemone (possibly a carpet ?), a Skilter 400 and a Wal-Mart 65 Watt grow light. <Donovan, first things first, this is an unacceptable environment for the inhabitants. An 18 gallon tank? I am not even going to dignify this with a response to what is wrong here. I would rather have you and your friend read some books, research the internet (this is a good starting off point don't ya think?), and attend a local reef hobbyist club for information on inhabitant environment. (What type of fish, size, feeding requirements, temperament, etc. etc.) This is not a tank set up for long term success. Read as much info on our site as you can!!!!> He has been losing a lot of animals including a few fish, a few red scarlet crabs, a few cleaner shrimp, all his turbo snails, 1 sand sifting stars and other inverts. <Not surprised.> He currently performs his water changes by using tap water straight from the tap, mixing the salt in it and putting it straight into the tank. <WHAT!!!!! No heating? No aerating? Hose???? This is utterly ridiculous!!!! No.....ricockulous!!!! I don't even know what to say. You are headed in the right direction by coming here, and no time like the present, but.........COME ON!!!! Where did he get this blatant disregard for life???? The politicians handbook??? The information is out there if you look for it. As a matter of fact, here you are, on a site that is easily accessible with solid information and methodology for aquarists, yet this person......Awwwww forget it. I am going to link to the place on this site that discusses water change methodology (best practices) but surely this is the least of the issues here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water4maruse.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/scottsh2ochgart.htm Could you tell me if this has anything to do with why his animals are dying. <One of many. I am disgusted...> Any input or recommendations would be greatly appreciated. <I am feeling a bit frustrated, Donovan. My recommendation is to do your best to stop this friend from buying any more marine animals of any type, read some books, read some websites, talk to people with tanks you respect, join a reef club (if possible) and ask questions here if need be (we have two of the most popular and knowledgeable reef writers in the biz at your fingertips). Re-evaluate your set-up and create a plan, appropriate the funds and execute on said plan. Do your best, Donovan. I do commend you for voicing your concerns and coming here. You are on your way to becoming a Conscientious Marine Aquarist. Just need to do more research. -Paul>

Yellow tang and anemone troubles (8-4-03) Hi I just put a Condy in my tank on Friday.  It is Sunday afternoon and I have returned home to find my yellow tank dead and floating and my Bubbletip Anenome missing.  Do you think the Condy would have done this?<I don't think the Condy did it.  The first thing I would do is check you water parameters.  Also make sure the tank didn't overheat.  Cody> Thanks, Brad Anatomy of A Disaster... OK, I'm back with a little more info. Sorry, I was trying to sign up to ask a question on the forums but "The page could not be found" after I tried to submit my info. <Scott F. here...Receiving this in the middle of your correspondence with other WWM crew members, no doubt- but I'll see if I can help sort things out a bit for you  at this junction. Forgive me if some of my questions/points seem redundant, okay? Not sure what you've said/been told thus far...> The tests I have done so far are: PH: 8.3-8.4 (8.3 Salifert, 8.4 Fastest) Calcium: 380ppm Alk: 7 meg/L (a little too high, but can this be the cause) <I doubt it...Unless it was sudden- in which case it may be possible that such a change caused a trauma to your animals> Nitrate: 4.5 ppm Copper <.05 (never dosed copper, tested just because) <Should be undetectable! Run some Poly Filter in your system to remove it! A big potential cause of invert death right there!> Nitrite: undetectable at the moment. Unfortunately my Salifert Ammonia test kit has been back-ordered (sold my Hagen master test kit) <That could also be a factor- take a sample to a LFS and have it tested ASAP!> I have a couple questions, 1st I was wondering if it will cause any harm in doing about 20% water changes daily for the next week or so using salt that has only been premixed for about a day. <If the water is buffered, well-oxygenated, and the salt mix is dissolved well, there should not be a problem. However, I'd recommend smaller daily changes- like 5 or 10 percent. 20% daily is too much, IMO. Large water changes can be helpful in emergencies, but they can sometimes cause greater problems if not done correctly. Avoid "knee-jerk" reactions, and proceed calmly and carefully...I think that 10 percent will work better> I think, whatever it was that happened, there will be a lot of die-off of my small inverts, mostly hitchhiker tiny brittle stars and copepods (hopefully that's it).  Those are the only things that I have noticed that have died so far.  My room is starting to smell like I am curing live rock and that is very worrying, hopefully that is just the buckets of water changing and me being paranoid. I have a gut feeling I added too much SeaBuffer or Selco or possibly something from the bathroom got into the tank. <Good possible causes and areas for you to investigate> Your input once again is greatly appreciated. James <James, I think that you're taking the correct approach to dealing with such an emergency. "Test- then tweak" as author John Tullock always says. Review your standard husbandry procedures to see if you did something that could have caused this problem. Is this a new tank? Has it fully cycled? Do you have  protein skimmer? A well-functioning protein skimmer, along with regular use of chemical filtration media (such as activated carbon or Poly Filter) can help serve as a first line of defense in emergencies. Someone once wrote (I think that it was Bob or Anthony) that the use of aggressive protein skimming and sudden die-offs of animals seem to be almost mutually exclusive! Sure, a poisoning event could have occurred, in which case the chemical media would have been your best bet- but pollution and die-off from biological causes would have been greatly reduced, or even thwarted. Don't quit- keep looking beyond the obvious (or even FOR the obvious- such as an ammonia spike, etc!) for a cause of this disaster. You'll be surprised how quickly an otherwise well-maintained system can recover from a disaster. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Vacation Tragedy... I am watching my friend's tank and fish are dying.  Before my friend left one of his Tang's died from Fungus...  My friend treated the tank with penicillin, but another Tang died yesterday.  When I got it out it's eyes were gone.  Now his Lion Fish is lethargic...  I tried to check him out this morning by poking him with the end of the net and he just sat there on his side.  I didn't  see him eat too much yesterday.  What should I do??? Jen Treacy <Well, unfortunately, there is no one ideal procedure to help solve this problem. It's a process of determining just what is causing the problem...It may be that there has been a rather sudden deterioration of water quality. I'd start by checking for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH. Maybe the penicillin, if added to the display tank, killed off the beneficial nitrifying bacteria, which caused a major lapse in water quality...Hard to be sure. Another possibility is some sort of aggressive illness accompanying the fungal infection that you mention; could be Amyloodinium ("Marine Velvet"), which kills with shocking rapidity...I'd start with the water quality, then see if there are any other disease-like symptoms, and maybe look into possible poisoning or other factors. Sometimes, even a simple water change can help reverse a bad situation...If necessary, you may want to consult the local fish store to see if someone could make a "house call" and investigate with you...Do let your friend know what's going on...Hang in there! Regards, Scott F>

Labored Breathing, Dead Fish, Parasitic Disease and Quarantine Hi everybody, I Have attempted to search your FAQS for this problem. No luck so far. I have 45gal tank set up for 6 month. A powerful light system about 45 lbs live rock and 2 inches of live sand. Many inverts snails, hermits, shrimp lots of tiny life. My levels are near ideal and I keep after the tank with supplements and special food for my soft corals. polyps and mushrooms. That said here is the problem. When I add fish they develop heavy labored breathing after about 2 - 5 weeks and die off. They show no outward signs of disease also I recently tried a brown seahorse he did great for 3 weeks eating like a "horse" swimming around then in a short period of 4 days his breathing became heavy and today he died. The levels in the tank are on target and the other creatures don't seem to be having any problems. Do you have any ideas on what would cause my gilled creatures to develop this breathing problem? thanks, Kevin <Sure Kevin, Velvet and ich will both kill your fish like this. Any fish can host ich or velvet and unless your tank is held fallow of fish for one-two months, all fish will continue to be reinfested.  Please read http://www.wetwebmedia.com/parasiti.htm Be patient, take plenty of time, and follow the quarantine/medication exactly.  Craig>

What's That Disease? Scott, I managed to trap this Gramma in a rock and move it to a quarantine tank.  This problem had not spread to any other fish but the Gramma seems to have a thin white film over its eyes in addition to the front portion of its body.  The fish is not dashing around the tank or breathing fast, It is behaving normally.  I am treating it with copper.  Do you have any other suggestions for treatment? Thanks for the help, Tom <Well, Tom- it sounds like it may even be a bacterial or fungal infection of some sort. Copper may not be effective if this is the case. Perhaps a broad spectrum antibiotic is a better choice. Do a little more research on diseases on the WWM site to ascertain exactly what you're looking at here...Then take the appropriate action as needed. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Do I need to start over again? Hi, I've been reading your website diligently since discovering it few weeks ago. Unfortunately it was after my tank developed ich and lost a dwarf angel! >>Sorry to hear that, Cindy. Anyway, the reason I'm writing is because I feel that I need to make some drastic changes to my tank and need advise on which "order" to go in. In December I upgraded a 35 gallon fish only tank to 75 gallons. Current tank has the following: *Aqua C Remora Pro skimmer w/Rio 1400 pump (I want to upgrade to a Mag 3) *Magnum 350 canister filter *Lifeguard Fluidized sand filter *An old 400 powerhead for additional water circulation *Transferred  approx. 40 lb. of coral substrate from 35 g tank and added 50 lb. of sand, 20 of which was "live sand" *Several pieces of coral but no "live rock" *2 CustomSeaLife Smart Lamps (half 10,000?K Ultra-Daylight and half Ultra-Actinic) >>Everything appears to be suitable, but I'm wondering why you've gone for such mega-lighting when you haven't got anything in the system that would require you to duplicate sunlight.  This in itself can worsen problems with algal blooms, especially if you've got a nutrient export/excess problem.  While the fluidized sand filter will handle ammonia and nitrites, it can only leave you with nitrates.  This is a good reason to add the live rock you mention further on, as well as a deep sand bed. *1 tomato clown *1 flame hawk *1 picture wrasse *3 pajama cardinals *1 coral banded shrimp *2 cleaner shrimp *3 hermit crabs *4 assorted snails >>Were all these animals in the 35, as well?  That would be a good source of your troubles in the 35. Water parameters are: *0 NH3 *0 Nitrites *Nitrates are continuous problem at 50 *Specific gravity at 1.020 *Temp at 82 (due to ich outbreak). >>Clearly, you know you have a problem with the nitrates.  Why have you been keeping the temperature in the tank with fish in it so warm?  Higher temps speed up the lifecycle of the protozoan, but the purpose behind doing that is to speed up their demise within a fallow tank--that means there should be no fish whatsoever in the tank. Water source is well water. I have not tested PO4 yet. >>You should test for nitrates, as well.   There is a consist "algae" problem that I'm thinking is Cyano (it's a dark burgundy color and all over the coral and sand). >>That is to be expected with your current setup.  Problems with Cyano and other microalgal blooms are typically founded upon the same problems within a system: excess nutrients. I feed 1-2 cubes every other day and the fish eat everything pretty quickly. I'm thinking its due to the high nitrates, possibly from the magnum canister filter (I been changing the filter every week), what's your opinion? >>The only instance the canister filter would be keeping nitrates up would be if you were using it for biological filtration.  What you need to do now is close the loop, so to speak.   So, I want to add LR, probably 45lbs. to help with the NO3 problem - would that be enough for the tank? >>No, not for a 75.  1lb-2lbs./gal is a good, general rule of thumb.  The live rock will help with the nitrates, but you should also check your source water.  Be sure to cure it first. My dilemma: 1. This ich problem doesn't seem to go away, I've treated with Greenex, the cleaner shrimps have helped. The LFS feels that moving all the fish out is an extreme step to take, they suggest treating with hexamine(?) before taking the fish out. >>I'm sorry, but I disagree with them.  They're busily selling you products that are not known to cure ich, as you've experienced.  I see absolutely NO use whatsoever for hexamine in treating ich.  I know of two absolute cures: copper and hyposalinity.  Neither can be utilized in a system with inverts.  This means that you are obliged to move the fish to their own q/t system. I know from all the reading that quarantining the fish is your advise. The hawk has some (2-3) spots on him each morning usually gone by evening, everyone else looks good. So, should I move all the fish out to the 35 gal tank, set it up as a quarantine tank and cure the LR to the main tank, let it cycle then bring the fish back? >>This is basically what I would do.  Move only the fish to the q/t, be sure you've got a skimmer on it.  Treat them with copper, none of the species you have listed should have a problem with it.  When you treat with copper, be sure you are using a good quality test kit (Salifert is fairly consistent).   Freshwater dipping when moving from the tank to the q/t will get rid of most external parasites, but be certain it's matched with pH and temperature. You can also try hyposalinity, but for it to really have any effect on the protozoa you would have to drop it down to 1010 or so.  You can do this in the q/t (keep it bare-bottomed so you can siphon off the bottom every day) away from the inverts.   When using either treatment, be sure to keep the fish in the q/t for a MINIMUM of 6 weeks, 8 are better.  You can then keep the main display's temperature up at 82F-84F (I wouldn't go much higher with the other inverts). Will the invertebrates survive the addition of the LR? >>If it hasn't been cured, then I would be hesitant.  You can cure new l/r in a trash can, don't even need a tank.  Just be sure to use aggressive foam fractionation and water changes so you don't lose too many goodies on it. Or, should I cure the LR in the 35g tank then add to the main tank? >>You can go that route, then switch the l/r at the same time you put the fish into the q/t if you haven't got room to cure the l/r at the same time you're q/QT'ing the fish. And what can I do for the ich problem? >>Outlined above.  Greenex is useless for this. 2. Is this fluid sand filter helping the tank? Would having  4" of live sand be better? >>Add the live sand, 4" is a good depth.  The live rock and live sand are what will help your nitrate troubles more than anything, and you can also utilize a refugium with a DSB and some macros that will, hopefully, outcompete the Cyano/microalgal troubles.  Going that route you can nix the fluidized sand filter altogether, but wait a few weeks till it's well established. 3. Is the 350 magnum enough mechanical filtration or do I need something else? Would it be better to use the carbon instead of the micron cartridge? If your skimmer is giving you really nasty skimmate from a relatively dry foam, it's doing its job.  As long as that is the case I see no need to add carbon unless you have stained water and wish to clear that up. 4. Since I use well water, I want to look into a water filtration system for the entire house. Any suggestions on a system that would supply the house and be good for the tank? >>I'm afraid I'll have to kick that query to someone else, I'll also suggest you do a search on the site at--> http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/index.htm   and possibly--> http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/index.htm and also a Google search for home filtration systems.  Test your well water first, before you go and make a big investment.  My city uses well water, and it's so good (except for being rather hard--percolated through limestone) that the only reason we even have to chlorinate it is because of health department regulations.  It's THAT clean.   Thanks for your help. Cindy >>I hope this is of help, and you should meet with better success.

Mysterious Fish Deaths and High Nitrate Levels Dear WWM, <You have Scott F. here today!> I have a 150gal marine tank that is fish only (no live rock).  I am experiencing a lot of my livestock dying these past two weeks and don't understand what is going on.  The fish look fine, then act out of character for a very brief period prior to dying.  There is no discoloration in them or visible disease. The fish that died are a flame angel, two clowns, banner fish, two royal grammas, hawkfish, and blue devil damsels. The system deploys a good protein skimmer, canister filters, carbon and UV.  Water changes are about 12% per week.  My water chemistry is 8.2 pH, 0 ammonia, 0 nitrate and 80ppm nitrate, 79-80 degrees F, and 1.022 salinity. The tank is about four months old.  The brown algae has subsided significantly.  My nitrate was hovering around 15ppm (that is what comes out of my faucet), but now its over 80ppm.  Could this be the problem?  Are canister filters causing this? <Well, nitrate in and of itself is not deadly. And yes, it is possible, in fact likely- that the canister filters are accumulating organic materials that are not helping these high nitrate levels. You need to change or clean all mechanical media at least once a week, or more often, or they can certainly degrade water quality. Again, the nitrate itself is probably not the culprit. However, the potential effects of the accompanying lower water quality could, over time, cause stress on the fishes, which could lead to their eventual death. The water chemistry parameters that you noted seem fine. Although the nitrate level in your tank is very high, I do not believe that this directly was responisble for the deaths of your fish. Rather, I suspect some type of disease or toxin at work here. There are a number of diseases, such as Amyloodinium (a nasty parasitic disease) and others that can kill with frightening rapidity and few visual clues as to their presence! Remember to quarantine all new fishes at least 3 weeks before introduction to your tank. Other possibilities include too much carbon dioxide in the water, caused by either overcrowding or too little aeration/gas exchange, as well as sudden environmental changes (i.e; dramatic temperature, specific gravity, or pH fluctuations). Your water change schedule seems okay. I suggest a review of all basic husbandry technique (i.e; maintenance, stocking levels, feeding procedures, etc.) and your equipment and setup itself. Verify if an event or events took place that put any toxic materials into the water (anything- paint fumes, household cleaners, copper, etc.)...Look at the obvious, then look beyond that, as well.>   I also noticed a white film on part of the water that is not turbulent. Searching the forums, I concluded this might be a breakdown of waste excrement.  I am now skimming the surface water to help alleviate this film. Is the film a contributing factor? <Hmm.. a surface film is indicative of two things, IMO. 1)The need to feed water to filters and/or the protein skimmer from the surface, where most organics tend to collect, and 2)That there may be some interference with the air/water interchange (i.e; gas exchange is insufficient/inadequate circulation). These warrant investigation and manipulation of your system to increase this interplay between the air/water, and efficiency of your skimmer.> Any suggestions on the cause of my die-out?  Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated. Thanks...Jeff <Well, Jeff, as mentioned above- I'd check out all possibilities here. You really need to get the nitrate level down in the interest of providing long-term water quality and stability for your animals...Check out this article I wrote and the related FAQs for some tips on nutrient control and export that may help you: www.wetwebmedia.com/nutrientcontrol.htm   . Also, don't get discouraged by this setback. Frustrating though it may be, you can learn a lot from this awful experience, and you'll come out of it all the better for having went through it...Think good thoughts here- chin up! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Mystery Malady? Hi, <Hey there! Scott F. with you today> I've contacted you earlier today (btw, you have the patience of a saint with all these questions from people like me!) Anyway, To recap briefly, I have no decent LFS around me (been to everyone with in an hour's drive - scratch that - did find one, but a small hole in the wall with very few fish - but at least the fish all seemed pretty healthy for the most part) - onto the question... I bought 4 fish from FFE to try them (my first fish for the main tank).  2 false clowns, a yellow coris wrasse and a yellowtail blue damsel. The others seem OK in my QT (the ammonia is starting to rise, so I used some AmmoLock and am going to do water changes daily).  The yellowtail died within 6 hours of receiving him.  I assume from the shock of being caught & shipped etc. <Quite likely, unfortunately> But I have never seen anything like this before on a fish - maybe you have any ideas?  (I've done FW for about 15 years and am familiar w/ most aquatic problems such as Ick, etc.) - This damsel looks like someone dropped some bleach on him - in four different spots.  His body color was blue, then had these "bleached" white areas - like he was burned or something? It wasn't there when I got him, though I did notice one small pinhead sized spot near his dorsal fin that I thought may be the beginnings of ICK because it was hard to see, but figured I wait a few days to see.  When I checked in on them before going to bed (which I haven't done yet...) He was pretty much "done for" so I decided not to prolong any suffering for him.  I acclimated them slowly -  floated for about 15 min, then put in plastic bucket and added tank water 2-3 times over about 15 minute period.  (forgot to mention that I did a FW dip - but used a buffer to bring the PH up and the temp was close - the wrasse was not happy at all (pretty much jumped right out) w/this so he was excused <I've experienced the "Intercontinental Ballistic Wrasse Phenomenon" during the dipping process myself!> - the damsel was in distress, so was also excused - the clowns did fine - max was about 5 min) The QT is small, but it's all I had a budget for right now. <I'm just thrilled that you are embracing the quarantine process!> I used water from my main tank and lowered the salinity to >about 1.018 from 1.022.  The temp is about 76 and the ammonia has risen (as mentioned earlier) - and the Nitrite is currently reading 0.  I had the tank  running for a few weeks w/ a piece of left over live rock.  Any suggestions? <Well, this is one of those rare occasions when I'd condone the use of a "bacterial culture" product to help establish biological filtration in the quarantine tank. Normally, I'd opt for a filter sponge run in the main system to acquire bacteria> He doesn't have any spotting/fuzz/cottony/grainy/reddish etc. typical illness signs - just his skin/scales are white in the few spots.  Anyway, any suggestions would be greatly appreciated - I hope it's not something that will affect my other fish. <Well- could be anything from a parasitic disease to simple abrasions caused by the netting process...You'll have to do a bit of research in the WWM FAQs, or a good book on marine fish diseases to get a certain ID, as it's kinda tough for me to make the call from here without a pic...Your FW dip protocol is not a bad one, but more "serious" medication may be required to affect a full cure...Do your homework here...> (btw - I've never seen clown fish swim, but from everything I read - including probably everything on this site - the swim with a "wagging" motion?  The only way I could describe it is similar to when a swordtail etc. has been stressed and is just hovering "wagging". <That's a pretty good description, IMO!> This is normal, correct?  (Their color is a little brownish, but I again figure that is due to the stresses of  being brought into captivity). <I wouldn't worry about it> One last question (yea, I know... everyone has "just one more") - is Quick Cure w/formalin / Malachite Green safe for Marine fish?  I've used it very successfully on my FW friends.  I've read a few different opinions w/regard to it's safety and possible harmfulness to fish? Thanks a million! <Well, I am generally a copper sulphate or formalin fan, when it comes to treating parasitic diseases. I have also heard good and bad things about "Quick Cure", and decided a long time ago that it wasn't the product for me! Good luck with your new fishes....With quick action, and a little time, your remaining fishes should be fine, and ready to swim in their new home soon enough. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Lost Tank, What Now? Hello all.  <Hi Heather, Don today> Since I last contacted you, I have lost almost my entire tank.  <So sorry to hear> I have a 30 gal Eclipse with sand filter that was home to a Yellow Tang, 2 Banggai, 2 Percula, 1 Sebae, 1 Fire Goby, and 2 blue Damsels.  All that remains is 1 blue damsel, 2 Choco starfish, & 2 Condylactis anemones.  My question is this...how long should we let the tank go until we add any livestock?  <Not being harsh, but until you have researched the hobby and have an idea where you went wrong> Should we treat it with anything?  <No, not until you know for sure what happened> A water change? <Yes, 10% or so over the next few days. Make sure you used well mixed and aerated water.> I am concerned that my Damsel is quite lonely.  <Nope, possibly going the route of the others? The water changes will help> Also the frustration is that we don't know what caused the problem.  <You don't mention Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, pH levels. All possible factors, along with several dozen others> We can hazard a guess, but no more.  My husband bought some cured coral online and we think this may have been a factor. (although it said safe for marine...plus we boiled it for 15 min.s.) Any other tidbits of advice would be most welcome.  <You don't mention how old the tank was. So many things to discuss here. Did you test any water parameters? Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, and pH are minimal. If the tank wasn't cycled that would be a problem. In addition, this is way to much livestock for a 30. Did you add it all at once (or over a short time)? Maybe the tank just 'crashed' from to much livestock. In the end game, the tang would have reached 10"+! Take a dinner plate and hold it in you aquarium. Doesn't look to comfortable, eh? The damsel (blue damsels get very aggressive/territorial> and clown would have likely bullied the goby possibly to death. Are you aware of the special needs of the anemones? A challenge for experienced marine keepers. I would recommend that you try to show patience and research the livestock you want to purchase and make sure you go slow and add fish that are more compatible and reasonable for this size tank. Start here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/index.htm and follow the links for more info at WetWebMedia.> Thanks so very much.<Again, Heather, I am not trying to 'scold' you, just saying, learn from this experience, study and learn, and let us know if you need some more help restocking, Don>  Heather

Tank Health Troubles - 2/17/03 I have worms in my salt-water fish only tank.  They are small and appear white.   <Common detritivores from excess food/overfeeding and/or poor water circulation. Common with new aquariums/aquarists. Do large water changes and improve water flow and protein skimming and they will wane naturally> My fish appear to be breathing heavy, and I have lost a tang. I began treatment using Chem Marin Stop Parasites, <A weakly effective product at best... frankly, I regard it with several other dubious "reef-safe" Ich cures on the market. Parasites simply must be treated in a separate and proper QT aquarium.> but after 4 days I have only seen mild improvement.  Please help! Thank you. Cory Kross <Please read through the archives here at wetwebmedia on this subject. Start here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/QuarMarFishes.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/dips_baths.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/tanktroubleshting.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/parasiti.htm best regards, Anthony>

Re: Fish keep dying Hello Crew, <Hello! Ananda here this morning.> Once again I need your input.  Yesterday I purchased two Ocellaris clowns to join in with the one I've had for about two weeks.  Acclimation went well, I did the fresh water dip on them and put them in the tank (my QT is still cycling). <Uh-oh. Bad juju. Do consider keeping a sponge filter in your sump, or perhaps in a filter compartment of a hang-on-tank filter for just this reason.> The new fish seem fine.  The two new clowns ate this morning but the clown we had did not and seems to be breathing rapidly.  This has happened a lot in the last two months.  I recently lost a Beau-Gregory Damsel this same way.  He did great for about a week and a half, then stopped eating, rapid breathing, whitish fecal thread, then disappeared. <That whitish fecal thread tells me your fish have an internal parasite. Do put them on an anti-parasite food, if you can find one with Metronidazole in it, and into the hospital tank and treat them with Metronidazole in the water. The Metronidazole will quite likely harm your inverts, thus the necessity of using a hospital tank for this.> I think the puffer and the Coral Banded got him after he died.  Before him was three Domino Damsels that did the same thing.  Before the Domino's, was three Four-Striped Damsels and two Tomato Clowns.  This is getting old and expensive. <You need to get your remaining fish healthy before you buy any more fish!> The tank has cycled and I do regular bi-weekly 20% water changes with softened water and Tropic Marin salt.  Ammonia is 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 0, PH 8.2, temp 79.  I'm using a Remora Pro skimmer that takes lots of nasties out of the water. <Good skimmer.> My shrimp and crabs don't seem affected by anything, and my Porcupine Puffer and Green Spotted (brackish) Puffer don't either.  I've had the Green Spotted since before the tank cycled and the puffer for about 6 weeks now.  Those two never miss a chance at a meal. <I know what that's like! Watch out for those shrimp when the puffer gets a bit larger....> Can you suggest anything?  Thanks <Aside from the above suggestions... You don't mention your tank size -- I'm wondering if perhaps your fish are overcrowded. Also, your porcupine puffer will require a very large tank when it gets to be a football-sized adult! --Ananda>

Learning To Love Your Fishes Hello Scott, <Hi there!> Thank you for your reply, your information and advice is always helpful. <Glad that you found it useful!> Just another question regarding the same aquarium.  I showed up this afternoon to do some work on the aquarium and noticed that all the fish were dead except for a Fire Goby. <Yikes! Sorry to hear that...> Also about 5 out of 10 golf ball sized Mexican Turbo Grazers are gone along with a few Blue Legs.  On the other hand I was surprised to see a Condy Anemone, a large (About the same size as the Turbos) Hermit crab, and a dead Sally light foot crab that the customers Daughter said had been in the tank for awhile and a "White" anemone that she said was put in a couple of days ago, but was probably hiding.  Also, a Fire Shrimp had been added to the tank that they claim the person who had sold it to them had raised himself.  If this is the same person that had sold them the anemones for a tank with a 40W Flo. tube for lighting then I question his abilities to raise shrimp. <Ahh- the joys of being in the aquarium maintenance business...> I must admit though, that breeding has never been a passion of mine in this hobby so I could be completely wrong, but I didn't think that Fire Shrimp were easy to breed or raise in the aquarium, is this true? <Possible, not necessarily simple...but it has been done regularly> Either way, the point of this e-mail is that I was hoping that you could direct me to some sites that I could print or to some good literature that I could reference to help make my case to these clients that quarantining is a very important practice. <Well, being the obsessed, anal-retentive quarantine freak that I am, I wrote a brief piece on the site about this very topic! Here's the link:   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/QuarMarFishes.htm   > To show them that this anemone will not survive and even if it did that it could pose problems for the other livestock.  To show that this Hermit is likely eating those smaller than himself. <Well- There are tons of resources about anemones on the wetwebmedia.com site...use the Google search feature to find more information. Also, Joyce Wilkerson's book "Clownfishes" has a lot of good information on the difficulty of maintaining anemones in captivity..> And to show that it is important to plan carefully the livestock that will exist together in a given system. <Again the wetwebmedia site is filled with lots of information about this topic. Also, Michael Paletta's "The New Marine Aquarium" has a lot of information on this, as well as Bob's "Conscientious Marine Aquarist", which is basically a "bible" for all aquarists> And lastly for my own purposes, could you please let me know where to look to get some info. on the breeding/raising success history of the Fire Shrimp. <I'd look into the Breeder's Registry on the internet...Also, various University aquaculture research projects have informative sites on the 'net as well...Use one of the larger search engines to begin your research> and could it be possible that my whole problem could have come from the addition of the Sally Light Foot weeks ago? <Possible, but more likely the result of not quarantining a new fish, IMO> Again correct me if I'm wrong but isn't the Sally Light Foot a Caribbean species?  This may be strictly bad luck, but I've noticed over the years that parasite problems seem to be very frequent in Caribbean species.  I remember always having to treat Queen Angels, French Angels, Blue Tangs, etc. for White Spot, Flukes, Lymphocystis, and so on.  At least more frequently than livestock from other regions. <May be coincidental, or the result of improper collection and handling along the way...There are lots of theories about mixing Pacific-Atlantic animals and the lack of resistance to disease between species from the various regions...I'm not aware of any studies regarding this subject, however...> Again this could be completely coincidental, please advise me to your experience with this. I need to do something to get this situation under control as just when I seem to be getting things back to normal and things are living and doing well the customer takes that as a sign that it's safe to go to any old LFS and pick up some livestock, I've even found Crayfish in this system before! <I think you need to have an honest talk about the responsibility and ethics that go along with keeping marine animals in captivity. Really stress that these are a priceless treasure, and are not "toys", that can simply be thrown about and discarded when things go wrong. I think that if people are taught to treasure and respect the ocean and it's animals, then they will understand and do all that they can to maintain them in a responsible manner> Any help or direction would be greatly appreciated as I guess the only way I'll have a chance to convince this client is to show something to them in black and white.  I apologize for such a lengthy e-mail. Thanks Again, Myk. <No problem, Myk...Just share your love of the animals with these people, and you'll be surprised at how they will learn to appreciate them. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Hey, this isn't Kansas! (i.e. New home stress) I have a 35 gallon salt water tank. I added a UV sterilizer yesterday evening and I had to move all the live rock around. I have a Pseudochromis porphyreus that I bought on Sunday and was doing fine up until this morning, it has not eaten today and now it looks week and is sitting on top of the motor swaying back and forth from side to side slowly. my PH is 8.4 and my ammonia is I think it hard to tell 0.25 or .00 <<needs to be/stay at 0. Ask your LFS for a second opinion>> I cant tell exactly. <<Hi, some additional info would help. How old is the tank? Has it completed cycling? What are other parameters (i.e Nitrite/Nitrate, Temperature, Specific Gravity)? Other inhabitants? It could be that the fish is still overwhelmed/stressed by its new environment. If you have a small tank set it up for quarantine ASAP for the eventuality things get worse and you need it. Check here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/quaranti.htm and beyond for ideas. In the meantime, you might  try some small (5%-10%) daily water (with aged water) changes to help it out. Keep a close eye on it and good luck, Don>>  

The Mystery Killer Greetings crew, <Scott F, on call today> Thanks for your help in the past.  I'm new to the hobby (4 months) and appreciate the guidance and reassurance. <We aim to please! Glad we could help!> I have a 30G tank with 40# live rock, single 17 watt Zoo Med Reef Sun 50/50 lighting (12-hr on timer), H.O.T. Magnum Pro filter with activated carbon and bio-wheel, Berlin Air-Lift protein skimmer (added two weeks ago), and the following (known) inhabitants: <I like the "known" preface!> Fish: 1 Dascyllus melanurus, 1.5 inch (4-stripe damsel) 1 Amphiprion ocellaris, 1.5 inch (Ocellaris clown) 1 Centropyge bispinosus, 3 inch (coral beauty) Inverts: 4 scarlet hermits 3 Lysmata wurdemanni (peppermint shrimp) 3 Turbo snails 1 Lysmata amboinensis (scarlet skunk cleaner shrimp) 1 Mithrax sculptus (Emerald crab) 1 Condylactis pink-tipped anemone Lots of tiny (Mysid?) shrimp - more every time I look. <Cool- sounds like mysids!> The turbo snails were added about three weeks ago, the coral beauty and anemone just one week ago. <Remember to quarantine all future fish purchases, okay?> The rest have been in the tank for about 3 months. I feed Tetra Marine Granules (softened in water for about 30 seconds first to make them easier to eat for the fish -  in retrospect, not the best food choice for my small fish) daily, and flakes about every other day, either Spirulina or Tetra Marine flakes.  Occasional frozen brine shrimp. <Try some frozen Mysis shrimp, or "Formula" foods- they offer more complete nutrition than brine shrimp> Latest water numbers (typical for my tank - no major deviations): Temp:               77 F pH:                   8.2 specific gravity:  1.023 ammonia:          0 mg/L nitrite:               0 mg/L nitrate:              30 mg/L (can't seem to get this to go down) About once a week I add 2 ml of Seachem Reef Iodide, though I do not measure it in the tank.  I change 5 gallons about every 1.5 weeks. <Make it a bit easier- try smaller (like 5% of tank volume) changes twice weekly- that may help with the nitrate reading a bit> I should preface this story by saying that there may be additional, unintended inhabitants in the tank: shortly after adding my last batch of live rock (15# on 11/07/02), I think I saw a small (1 inch) pistol shrimp - he came out of the new rock quickly, grabbed a piece of food, and hustled back in.  I've only ever seen it that one time and am starting to wonder if I imagine it, but I don't think so. <I hope you are...but if you saw it...could be there...and could be a problem!> I distinctly remember seeing one claw being larger than the other, besides that, it looked similar to the peppermints - not easily confused with a mantis shrimp.  I haven't heard any distinct clicking sounds coming from the tank, and I've tried to sneak up on the tank a few times when the lights had been off for a while but haven't seen anything major.  There is also at least one bristle worm, maybe two inches long and 1/8 inch wide. Here's the story: During the first week of January, I was away on vacation, so my brother stopped by to feed the fish, using individual food packets I'd previously measured out. <Smart idea!> I was gone 7 days, he ended up coming by four times to give them a single packet each time - I told him not to worry about missing a day or two, better to underfeed. When I got back, he informed me that one of my clowns just disappeared, and I have found no trace of her since (I had two then, in the pre-coral beauty days).  Not to ruin the ending, but I also had two Emerald crabs at that time (pre-snail and anemone days).  The odd thing is that of the two clowns, the one that is still around is the one I would have expected to have fallen victim to a predator - he apparently has a swim-bladder defect, and cannot maintain neutral buoyancy (he was tank-raised).  He seemingly gets so tired constantly swimming up that, several times a day, and all night, he just lies on the gravel, a prime target for a hungry Emerald. <Yeah- you'd think head be the "Vic" (okay, I watch too much "CSI" on TV) > The one that disappeared swam normally. I suspected the mysterious shrimp first, so I took out the rock I saw him in months ago and put it in a bucket for a few days, with a piece of scallop in there to temp him out.  The food (replaced daily for freshness) was not eaten in a week, so I gave up and put the rock back in the tank. I then assumed it was the Emeralds, and decided to keep an eye on them (there were two at that time, remember).  Of the two, one was clearly bigger and slightly more aggressive, but never, to my knowledge or witness, posed any real threat to the fish. So fast-forward to this week - I have a tank divider in place to let the frisky 4-stripe damsel get acclimated to the coral beauty.  The two Emeralds were on one side, together with the 4-stripe, two snails and two peppermints, but on the other side from the suspicious rock. Yesterday I saw the carcass of the larger, more aggressive Emerald, lying upside-down on the gravel.  I've been fooled by crabs molting in the past, mistaking them for having died, but this one I am 99.9% sure is really dead.  I removed the carcass - it seems the right weight etc, has no "escape" hole that she could have gotten out of. In fact, the only thing differentiating it from a living crab (besides the fact that it is dead) <Yes- being dead is generally the best indicator that it is dead! LOL> are that the abdominal cover (the baseball-catcher chest-protector like thing between its legs on the underside) has been loosened so it is only attached posteriorly (exposing some clear muscular looking tissue), and, most interestingly, seems to have had a hole punched though it!  The hole seems like it required some force to create - like a puncture wound right through the abdominal shell. I can't imagine that the other Emerald crab could have done it - taking down a larger, more aggressive crab. <Neither could I...I vote for the mystery shrimp> I can't imagine that any of the known inhabitants in the tank could have done it, actually. So the only explanations I can think of are: 1) the crab died "naturally", due to an unknown water parameter, poor nutrition, etc, and the other crab and/or peppermint shrimp scavenged the carcass, creating the wound; <Possible, but too many similar coincidences recently> or 2) an unknown murderer is living in my tank, picking off my pets one by one. I have still seen no sign of the clown (no measurable water changes either, that would indicate a hidden decomposing fish), so I assume what ever got it ate it, or, if it too died naturally, was consumed thereafter. <Both good possibilities> Have you ever seen a fish just disappear without a trace (in a 30G tank), and a crab get stabbed to death?  Any advice on how to further investigate/prosecute this case?  I apologize for the length of this question, but I thought it was all relevant.  I appreciate any help. Respectfully yours, Tom <Well, Tom- based on the circumstantial evidence (that sounds soo cool to say that!), I'd have to believe that you have a nocturnal killer. If it is the "mystery shrimp" (and I believe that it is), you'll have to lure him out somehow with some bait (like the scallop you used before), and maybe utilize one of the commercially available "traps" for this purpose. I used to think that they were a joke until a friend of mine caught a 3 inch mantis shrimp in one! Keep trying to bait this little *&^%$# out, and get him out of the tank as soon as you can. Don't give up! Regards, Scott F>

Is There Fungus Among Us? Hello. Very nice site. <Glad that you like it! Scott F. here for you> I have a percula, clarkii, black clownfish, Pseudochromis, and a Sailfin and Yellow Tang in my 85 gallon. <Sounds nice! Be advised, however, that the Sailfin Tang can and will get HUGE! He'll need to be moved to a larger tank soon, okay? I'm off of the soapbox now :)  > They are all in good shape, except for my black clown.  He stays in the back because the clarkii darts at him on a regular basis.  I'm thinking maybe he injured himself swimming away from the clarkii one time.  He has a light purple, spongy growth on his side.  Little tiny spots around the head.  All of it from a distance looks crystalline, but up close it looks spongy. It is a rather large growth.  I thought some of it was ick, but the growth is fluffy like.  My only other problem was a granule on my percula which went away.  Thanks for any information. <Well, hard to be 100 percent certain from here, but I believe that you're looking at some sort of fungal infection on the injury. It would be a good idea to remove this little guy to a separate tank for treatment, and a little R & R before he is returned back to the tank. Assuming it is a fungal infection, I'd utilize an antibiotic, such as Maracyn. I'd also employ a product like Novaqua, which helps provide a protective coating analogous to the fish's natural slime coat. This will help protect it during recovery. Allow the fish a little time in the tank for extra feeding and observation, and hopefully, he'll make a full recovery! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Newbie help I have a 35 gallon salt water tank. I can't seem to keep anything alive. My filter that I am using is a Emperor 230. My water levels seem to fluctuate with the Ph>7.8-8.2 and the ammonia>0-0.25. I have had it established for a little over 2 months. Right now I have three green Chromis, 3 hermit crabs. I lost my Foxface today. I had a long tentacle anemone that blue it self up, then deflated and died... should I consider a under ground filter <I can promise you that you will succeed if you take the following advice. Before buying another living creature... please buy and read a book called "The New Marine Aquarium" by Mike Paletta. It is very informative, easy to read and inexpensive. It will get you on the right track. Then consider Bob Fenner's "Conscientious Marine Aquarist"... really a better book in my opinion with a lot more information. If you read one or both of those books, I assure you that the information you need to succeed from the comprehensive question you have asked will be revealed therein. Best regards, Anthony>

Re: hard time keeping fish I have wrote a couple times in the past.  I am having an extremely tough time keeping fish. <Let's see if we can solve this problem> I have a 55 gal/ with about 40 pounds of live rock & sand.  The fish live for about 5-6 days, then start having trouble breathing.  This has been ongoing for a month.  I have a damsel and a clownfish that have been in there since day 1 and they are OK.  This last time, I gave it 2 weeks and then I added a yellow tang and a goby.  Both are dead today. <Breathing hard? Amyloodinium (velvet) has this effect. The presence of ammonia in the water will burn the gills> Within the last 4-6 weeks, I have treated the water for both parasites and bacteria.  I have done 2 water changes over the past month. I have to get to the bottom of this and figure out what is going on. Salinity, pH, ammonia, nitrite/ate is all ok.  Invertebrates are thriving and doing well.  Lots of good coralline algae growth.  I am having an extremely tough time figuring this one out. <I don't know what kind of treatment you used to rid the tank of parasites but I sure hope you didn't treat the main tank with copper. If you did, your troubles have just begun> I have a Marineland canister filter.  I do have a protein skimmer.  Keep the temp right at 75-76 degrees. Thanks for your help.  My LPS suggests tearing down my whole tank & starting over. <Sounds drastic. I don't think you're ready for this just yet> I hate to do that since my inverts are ok and my tank is well established. <Well...if you have a couple of fish that have been living for a while, then the problem is probably not in your tank. Please consider not adding any more fish for a month or so just to let the tank restabilize. Then try a different supplier. I hope you are quarantining...> Any help would be greatly appreciated. <You're welcome! David Dowless>

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