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FAQs about Marine Water Quality 1

Related Articles: Captive Seawater Quality, Nutrient Control and Export, Water Changes/ChangingUnderstanding Calcium & Alkalinity,

Related FAQs:  Marine Water Quality 2, Marine Water Quality 3 Marine Water Quality 4, Marine Water Quality 5, Marine Water Quality 6, Marine Water Quality 7, Cloudy Water, Smelly Water, Films on Top of Water, RO/DI & Distilled Water 1Environmental Disease,

Rapid Gill pumping.... Anthony,  Any tips on how to raise and maintain the ph level, and alkaline buffer, of my tank? <simple tri-buffers usually do the trick (sodium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, and a borate)> This has been a constant source of intrigue for me. I have previously tried to use calcium carbonate to increase the ph to a more acceptable 8.3 , <was it even soluble? many are not in pH water above 7.6!> but every time I would do a water change it would dip down to around 8.0-8.1- and stay there. <likely a reflection of your source water...naturally mild or soft...or, purified water that is not aerated and adequately buffered before use as evap makeup or for synthetic seawater mixing> My concern is that the constant increases, and subsequent decreases, in ph would more adversely affect my fish more than just leaving them in a ph that is only just slightly below what it should be. <yes... agreed> I use water that has been run through a reverse osmosis unit, but can never get water that has a ph higher than what is stated above. Any help in this area would be greatly appreciated. <yes... this is a common problem. It is important to first aerate RO water for 12+ hours to drive off CO2 (carbonic acid) to temporarily raise pH, THEN buffer it (remineralize to stabilize ALK), and THEN it can be used to make seawater or for evap top off. Else, the soft acidic RO water naturally depletes hardness in the display tank> On to the tang..... (please see below if you need to refresh your memory on the plight of my tang) I hear you on the quarantine tank. Normally I quarantine without question, <excellent> but the size of the fish gave me concern. I only have a 20 gallon QT, and I experienced not a little trepidation at putting that large a fish in that small a QT. <agreed...but the problem wasn't the fishes size, but the QT tank size <wink>. You could certainly use a plastic garbage can or a storage container in a pinch... the fish won't care... just harder for you on inspection. Plastic under bed storage vessels are low and long and cheap (Wal-mart) and hold only around 30 gallon with a huge foot print. In such shallow vessels it is just as easy to inspect marine fishes as pond Koi (very easy). As such, it is a cheap QT vessel in a pinch. $8 more and a piece of egg crate will cover the top. We live and learn. Future reference.> Well to make a long story short; I thought what the heck he came from a trusted dealer, with excellent water quality. <yes... but reputable dealer or not, how many new shipments of stressed fish came into that system in the last two weeks (at least one... 3-4 if it is a busy store). Too great a chance to transmit disease. An easy sense of false security when the fish has been at a vendor for a month looking disease free, but a new fish was added to that dealers system the day before you buy yours...Murphy's law.> So I placed him in the tank, after acclimating him. Which puts me here. I woke up this morning to find him rapid gilling, just like last night. Only this morning I noticed that he may have a minor ick outbreak, and he is definitely loosing slime coat. <no worries...we can deal with this> Also he refused food. First time that has happened with this fish. <expected and not so great a concern on a big/fatty fish> Eyes look pretty clear, but the fins and actual body look terrible. Also his activity levels since last night have dropped considerably. Have grave concerns that we may heading down a road which ends up with my tang dead. I still haven't seen any change in physical condition, or behavior, of the Passer Angel. <good... we are hoping for resistance with this hardy and established angel> I didn't see the rapid gilling immediately after the water change-btw. It was more like 5-6 hours later, and then only after he ate. Unsure of what would be the best thing to do at this point. I am concerned about actually transporting him to a QT, have been in situations where moving the fish seems to cause more harm than good. <really not possible... a good move is a good move, and a fish that dies in one was not going to make it anyway.> So I'll follow the advice you outlined below, unless otherwise directed. <QT, freshwater dips and medication are necessary at this point. Copper if it seems sure to be Cryptocaryon... other meds and/or more freshwater dips if it may be other parasites (Velvet, Brooklynella). For catching the fish, try this copied from another recent post: Best way to catch a fish is in the AM and to simply turn the power off and drain most or all of the clear undisturbed tank water into a clean garbage can. Only after it is drained to the water level of the fishes back do you begin to catch the fish (now in a less dimensional plane..). Much less stress on you and the fish this way with so little water. Only takes minutes to drain with one inch straight tubing/hose and not much longer to catch fish scooting in [just enough water to cover their back]. After the targets are caught, pump the water back in with a pump or tank powerhead and some tubing. A WWM crew member just did this on his 90 gall in 35 minutes complete!> Thanks, Michael Mariani <best regards, Anthony Calfo>

Re: Rapid Gill pumping.... Anthony, If I'm not making a nuisance of myself, I'd like to respond to some of your statements. <not at all.. I can shovel as fast as folks can query... hehe> First of all I don't think you're too rigid at all with your advice. I know too many people in the hobby who think nothing of killing some rather rare fish. <thank you for saying so> In my opinion some of them deserve a good scolding (wink). Especially when you consider all of the legislation that is bandied around attempting to restrict the hobby so. <yes...very good point. If we do not police ourselves, then we stand to have our privileges legislated away. We cannot forget that... keeping exotic animals is a privilege and not an intrinsic right.> I think this is a sad shame. While I'm not a nature nut, abject killing of some truly beautiful animals is disgusting. <agreed we are> I thought your advice was solid, and straight from the hip. <excellent... I wouldn't mind a reputation of being honestly opinionated <wink>!> If nothing else it was a shot in the arm and served to cure my anxiety. I would have been not a little angry and depressed if my stupidity had killed such a great, and personable fish. If there is one thing that my 2 years of experience in this hobby have taught me it's that this is one of the most difficult, not to mention expensive, endeavors that one can find. I'm not ashamed to say that even though I have two masters degrees, unfortunately not one in biology! (wink), <no regrets here either for you... many biologists know little about the science of practical aquariology (and vice versa!)> I really know very little. A website where experts, such as yourself, make themselves available to offer sound advice to those who are novice' to the hobby is a God send. So long as you set me straight, and I don't have to pay you, you could swear at me till you're blue in the face, all while wearing a pink tutu; <[In a soliloquy:, "Hmmm... how could he know that?! Must be a web cam somewhere... dag nabbit!"]> and I'd still come back. LOL Once again...many thanks. Michael <my great pleasure... keep learning and sharing. Anthony Calfo>

Water Quality If my ammonia, nitrates, nitrites are all at zero, and my ph is at 8.2 and my fish are still not as thriving as they should be then what else could be wrong? <Temperature fluctuations are another thing to look for.> What should I test for. I have two fish, a hepatus tang (small), and a green Chromis in a 45 gallon tank. <The Chromis would ideally be kept in a small school of three or more.> Also, at what levels should I begin to worry for ammonia and nitrate? <I prefer never to have any readable level of ammonia or nitrite. Nitrate is a little harder. My understanding from reports out of the big public aquariums is that nitrate itself is not harmful, but is a good indicator of other harmful substances, total dissolved organics. Now, the desirable maximum level depends on what you wish to keep. The closer to zero the better for most anything. For FO, under 40 ppm is probably best. -Steven Pro>

A simple question (aren't they all?) Hello Bob, Steven, Anthony....errr...am I forgetting someone? <that depends on what you are looking for tonight, big fella... hehe. The Little Bo Peep outfit is out at the cleaners so you may be out of luck today> I have a newly cycled (or so I thought) 46 gallon tank. 60 pounds of Aragonite substrate mix (fine and special), 48 lbs of Walt's nice Fiji, <as opposed to his...> and 16 lbs LFS fish store Fiji. I use instant ocean, discontinued Kalkwasser mix (reasons below) <I'll probably disagree <wink> and SeaChem Seabuffer, with distilled water while I wait for my appropriations committee (the wife) to approve lighting and R/O filter. Right now using 2 8-month old NO flour (upgrading to 2x96w PC's) and a SeaClone skimmer (bought years ago before I knew better, plans to order a Remora this weekend).  <excellent> 2x 100gph powerheads, and a Millennium 2000 wet/dry filter with the large bag of Chemi-Pure (added yesterday). <polyfilters are very nice too and work differently and complimentary> The tank is near to a month old, and I've watched the ammonia jump to almost opaque blue on the Fastest kit. Slowly it came down to where it was almost undetectable, and nitrites were hovering around < 1ppm. This weekend we bought 4 small hermits (tiny actually, mix of scarlet reef and blue legs) and a huge Mexican turbo (Cap'n Poopypants the wife calls him due to his...errrr...digestive habits).  <the really strange thing about this last comment is that I used to call my cat that when he was a baby... high protein, raw meat diet...phew!> That's all we have right now, except for a growing plague of copepods.  <indeed a blessing, not a plague> Right away I noticed one hermit was behaving funny, so I ran the usual tests: SG 1.0235 : been very consistent pH 8.0 : been trying to raise this throughout the cycling process. <aim for 8.6 by day, 8.3 by night> Alk 8.0-9.0 : needs to be a weee bit higher <aim for 11-12 dKH> Cal :400-450??? (another problem here - I have a very hard time reading the Fastest/Seatest calcium kit...is there a trick to this?  <that's close enough... the colorimetric tests are tricky> When it turns from bright red, to purple, to blue....It's very hard and subjective to say what's pure blue. I'm hoping to order a Salifert Calcium test kit, or LaMotte. Are these easier to read than the fastest kits?  <our eyes all see color differently. I have used all three and like the Aquarium Systems one best!!!> Or are they basically the same reagents?) Ammonia >1 : and there I stopped. Test was a dark green.... I did an immediate water change (about 5 gallons) <excellent> and dumped some ammo lock 2 into the tank.  <save your money on such products that stall ammonia or mask test kit readings> I did see an improvement in "Chewy", our new scarlet reef hermit, but this morning, I found him outside the shell, dead. The other hermits seem to be doing better than he was, and the snail is on the move and eating/pooping up a storm. <thanks for the visual...?!> I'm not entirely sure what caused the 2nd large ammonia spike (perhaps because I blew water over the rocks the day before, opening up a decaying animal in a passageway???),  <actually... if you didn't wait until the nitrite was also zero, then you weren't truly cycled and the stocking aggravated the situation > but I'm trying to determine what to do now. I went to the LFS today and purchased a few items. B-ionic to help me raise the PH/Alk,  <yes... one of the only reasons to stop/reduce kalkwasser... good call> a new poly filter,  <most excellent... I should read ahead before I answer some posts <smile>> and some Kent Ammonia Detox.  <again...save your money on these products> On to the questions: Will increasing the pH to 8.2-8.3 significantly raise the toxicity of the present ammonia amounts,  <raise yes, but not significantly and really still not even close to some natural reef pH readings> and will Part A be enough to do this without the need for a true pH booster like Seachem 8.3? <likely if you started dosing the two part mix when the Ca/ALK dynamic in the tank was relatively balanced> If raising the pH by .2-.3 isn't going to increase the ammonia's effects that much, would it be possible to dose with the Part A component (waiting on B until I get a better test kit),  <generally a bad habit... start with balance in the tank (through water changes if necessary) and then dose in balance. That's what you are paying for in these expensive two part mixes... else go back to kalkwasser and Seabuffer separately> and using a combination of the chemi-pure, Poly filter and Ammo Detox to continue to help the tank cycle, or would you go about a different route. I'm hesitant to do a massive water change for a few hermits, as I'm thinking this will only delay the tank cycling.  <no delay possible... nitrifiers are benthic, not in the water column> Hoping that the new protein skimmer will help out greatly in this department as the only way I've gotten the SeaClone to work is to drop 3-8 drops of a foaming agent (like stress coat) directly down the tube. Skim is honey colored and perhaps only 1-2oz per day. <yes...sad but true> Last question, when using RO/DI or distilled, would it be advisable to use a product like Kent's Osmo-prep, or just use a small portion of the b-ionic before introducing the water to the tank (either as top off fresh water, or replacement salt water). Is there a preferred method, or are the means basically the same? <I'm content to aerate for 12 hrs then add a simple Seabuffer to remineralize/buffer before using or top-off or a salt mix> Any additional thoughts you might have, please do share. Thanks, as always your BIGGEST fan (haha) - <so how much do you weigh, my friend?...hehe> Mike Jacobs <Kindly, Anthony>

buffer bob, <You got Steven Pro this evening.> It seems that I cant get my PH any higher, its at a constant 7.7ph, nitrates 35-40ppm. My system is a 240 gallon F/O. I have a huge emperor angel, and two other Blochii tangs. Anyhow the fish are doing fine. Should I add some kind of marine buffer to raise the PH? or should I leave everything alone. Because the fish that I have right now do require a higher PH. I want them to be fine on the long run. <Definitely, do not leave every as is. It is not healthy for your fish. I would guess that you are not exporting enough nutrients, not performing enough water changes, overfeeding, or all of these. Please take corrective measures immediately.> Thanks again, Lee <You are welcome. Please read through some of the FAQ's on maintenance to determine which aspect of your husbandry is lacking. -Steven Pro>

Re: Caulerpa, Cloudy Bloom Anthony, The rock was cured. Bought it from a very reputable dealer in CT right out of one of their MANY display tanks. (Reef & Fin Stamford, CT)  <very good> My water tests perfect. Bacterial bloom???  <possible, but uncommon. Do you have, or can you borrow (/buy) a UV sterilizer... it would clear up the tank perfectly within 24-72 hours if what you suspect is true> This is very frustrating. How big a water change should I do? Or should I wait? It seems like there would be a fine line between doing maintenance for the good of your tank vs. over doing it so as to stress your environment and your animals. Also, don't get mad, but I don't have a protein skimmer yet. AAAAHHHHHHH! <double "AAAAHHHHHHH!"...hehe. Actually, just the addition of a skimmer alone could help you without the UV sterilizer. Truly a wiser investment than excessive water changes (and less expensive even in the short run for what you'll save on sea salt! Anthony> -Pat

RE: Elevated pH, VERY low Ca, Rising KH Anthony, Thanks for your reply...comments and questions are embedded... Elevated pH, VERY low Ca, Rising KH...follow-up [Jack's reply in double carrots "<<", Anthony's reply in asterisks "**" Bob, Greetings once again and a belated happy Groundhog Day. <Jack... Anthony Calfo here. It's funny that you should mention Bob and Groundhog day in the same sentence... I too think he looks just like Bill Murray... especially when Mr. Fenner gets enough beer into him and does the lounge singer version of the Star Wars theme> <<Sounds scary! Did he do this at MACNA?>> **actually, no.. he didn't have time... his Sinatra/Dean Martin tribute set ran too long** As a reminder, I have: 65 gallon tank, running for just over 3 years, 60+ lb live rock 1 yellow tang with deteriorating fins. I've had it for 3 years, fins began to deteriorate about 8 months ago. <water quality almost always (burn from skewed chemistry or from pathogenic organisms in and unsanitary environment like overfed displays (doubtful indeed)> <<Is there anything in particular about my water quality that you think would cause this? I have tried soaking the food in vitamins and lipids (Zo?and zoecon), but it hasn't helped...I've stopped doing it as regularly as I used to...>> **please continue to enrich the food regularly...a great help. Has this tang been getting a predominantly green staple to his diet (Nori, spinach, etc)? A three year old tang on a meaty (rather than herbaceous) diet should not look so hot.. inappropriate diet** 2 Percula clowns (added in May) 1 engineer goby (had for 3 years) A nice crop of macro algae <<some of the macro algae is bleaching, if that means anything>> **hmmm...still leads us towards a chemistry problem and not so much pathogenic or dietary** UV sterilizer Protein skimmer Wet/dry sump filter with the bio media removed. Hamilton 55w compact fluorescent super sunlight Hamilton 55w compact fluorescent actinic blue I change about 10% of the water every 7-14 days, usually closer to 14. I should probably try to keep it closer to 7... <agreed, but twice monthly is still nice> I have recently removed the carbon from the sump as I have been told it's not necessary. Do you agree with that? <nope...thanks for asking<G>...hehe, unless you've replaced it with another means of nutrient export (a second skimmer, frequent poly filters, etc)...sounds like a bad idea> <<OK, I'll add the carbon back into the sump. I do clean the sump filter pad weekly>> **excellent maintenance...I wish more aquarists did** I have had trouble with the KH level and Ca levels in the water. I have been adding 3 t super dKH and 1 t Ca+3 to the water weekly to elevate both. Today I measured the following: KH 7 pH 8.3 < x < 8.6 Nitrite 0 Nitrate 0 Ammonia 0 phosphate 0.5 ppm (a little high) Ca 220 (very low...weird) <agreed> temp 28.7 salinity 1.023 The elevated pH concerned me, especially since my pH level has NEVER been anything other than 8.3. Reading your wetwebmedia site, however, made me feel as though I shouldn't worry too much about this. <agreed and not high at all. Average seawater is 8.45 as a reference. Your pH sounds perfect to me and would be dead on accurate for a reef tank. Ideal is 8.6 by day dropping down no lower than 8.3 in the dead of night> <<OK...I won't worry about the pH>> The phosphate level is a bit high, but since I don't have a reef tank, I don't think it's a big concern...do you? <a problem in the long term as it accumulates... if nuisance algae bother you> <<I get some nuisance algae on the glass (brownish in color), but it's easy to clean. Would more frequent water changes help this?>> **nope...common diatom growth. If it takes 7 or more days to become unsightly it is normal...if it grows thick faster, you have a slight nutrient problem** What REALLY puzzles me, though, is the low Ca level. The level has been low in the past, but I have been adding Ca+3 weekly in order to boost this level and don't understand why it's so low. <You either have a source/tap water with a naturally low mineral hardness (under 300 ppm) or you are using purified water and not reconstituting it sufficiently. Calcium chloride is fine for a temporary fix to raise free calcium levels but can be problematic/dangerous if used regularly for a year or more (causing precipitous snowstorms of crystalline carbonates)> <<I use NYC tap water that I run through an Aquarium Pharmaceuticals tap water filter. Should I test the hardness of this water with my KH test? Should I test it before adding salt or after?>> **there is your problem, bud. The tap water purifier is fine but any deionized water MUST be aerated for 12-24 hours before it is used for anything (drives off carbonic acid and raises pH). Then the water must be buffered before use as evaporation water or for using to make seawater. Go ahead and test the raw filtered water for KH and pH...you'll be staggered. You have soft, unstable water at that point, albeit pure. It burns up buffers/calcium in your salt mix and can easily explain your difficulties with modest alkalinity and low calcium** I have been intending to add some fresh crushed coral in a filter bag to the sump. Do you think that will take care of the problem? Should I add 2-3 bags? <absolutely not... calcite is useless as a buffer unless the pH dips scary low (7.6) to liberate carbonates. Your problem is most likely your source water. Please test that first and report back. Otherwise, we may be looking at a chemical imbalance (different from the one that I have). In that case... a few large water changes and the at least temporary use of a two part buffer mix may help get you back on track (but not/never while one component such as you calcium is so skewed)> <<OK...so are you saying that periodically removing and replenishing some of the crushed coral is not necessary?>> **helpful for a different reason...organics coated on aragonite or calcite are an impediment...but crushed coral (calcite) does not buffer well or at all above 7.6. For that you want an aragonite aggregate** <<Thanks again, John>> **quite welcome, my friend. Anthony** Thanks for your assistance, John <best regards, Anthony>

Elevated pH, VERY low Ca, Rising KH Bob, Greetings once again and a belated happy Groundhog Day. <Jack... Anthony Calfo here. It's funny that you should mention Bob and Groundhog day in the same sentence... I too think he looks just like Bill Murray... especially when Mr. Fenner gets enough beer into him and does the lounge singer version of the Star Wars theme> As a reminder, I have: 65 gallon tank, running for just over 3 years, 60+ lb live rock 1 yellow tang with deteriorating fins. I've had it for 3 years, fins began to deteriorate about 8 months ago. <water quality almost always (burn from skewed chemistry or from pathogenic organisms in and unsanitary environment like overfed displays (doubtful indeed)> 2 Percula clowns (added in May) 1 engineer goby (had for 3 years) A nice crop of macro algae UV sterilizer Protein skimmer Wet/dry sump filter with the bio media removed. Hamilton 55w compact fluorescent super sunlight Hamilton 55w compact fluorescent actinic blue I change about 10% of the water every 7-14 days, usually closer to 14. I should probably try to keep it closer to 7... <agreed, but twice monthly is still nice> I have recently removed the carbon from the sump as I have been told it's not necessary. Do you agree with that? <nope...thanks for asking<G>...hehe, unless you've replaced it with another means of nutrient export (a second skimmer, frequent poly filters, etc)... sounds like a bad idea> I have had trouble with the KH level and Ca levels in the water. I have been adding 3 t super dKH and 1 t Ca+3 to the water weekly to elevate both. Today I measured the following: KH 7 pH 8.3 < x < 8.6 Nitrite 0 Nitrate 0 Ammonia 0 phosphate 0.5 ppm (a little high) Ca 220 (very low...weird) <agreed> temp 28.7 salinity 1.023 The elevated pH concerned me, especially since my pH level has NEVER been anything other than 8.3. Reading your wetwebmedia site, however, made me feel as though I shouldn't worry too much about this. <agreed and not high at all. Average seawater is 8.45 as a reference. Your pH sounds perfect to me and would be dead on accurate for a reef tank. Ideal is 8.6 by day dropping down no lower than 8.3 in the dead of night> The phosphate level is a bit high, but since I don't have a reef tank, I don't think it's a big concern...do you? <a problem in the long term as it accumulates if nuisance algae bother you> What REALLY puzzles me, though, is the low Ca level. The level has been low in the past, but I have been adding Ca+3 weekly in order to boost this level and don't understand why it's so low. <You either have a source/tap water with a naturally low mineral hardness (under 300 ppm) or you are using purified water and not reconstituting it sufficiently. Calcium chloride is fine for a temporary fix to raise free calcium levels but can be problematic/dangerous if used regularly for a year or more (causing precipitous snowstorms of crystalline carbonates)> I have been intending to add some fresh crushed coral in a filter bag to the sump. Do you think that will take care of the problem? Should I add 2-3 bags? <absolutely not... calcite is useless as a buffer unless the pH dips scary low (7.6) to liberate carbonates. Your problem is most likely your source water. Please test that first and report back. Otherwise, we may be looking at a chemical imbalance (different from the one that I have). In that case... a few large water changes and the at least temporary use of a two part buffer mix may help get you back on track (but not/never while one component such as you calcium is so skewed)> Thanks for your assistance, John <best regards, Anthony>

Hydrogen Sulfide? Hi Bob, <Good sir, Anthony Calfo in Bob's stead> I have a question about a new problem that the introduction of a LS bed brought me. My tank has been running for over a decade and morphed over the years into a Berlin reef with two refugiums, one with light and one without. I keep a test log that records all my test results, the health of my livestock and any changes to the system I make. <excellent... I wish more aquarists did> Over the years this has helped my diagnosis and remedy application of problems considerably. Now the problem. Following your advice, I introduced a LS bed.  <excellent and agreed> of your advice in the past from the addition of the refugium, the Knop reactor to lighting specs have been on the mark. Following your direction, I added the LS directly to the tank. I wrote with a question a few prior to this asking about introduction procedure. I needed to know if I should remove the rock or add it around the existing rock wall footprint. I was also concerned about burying the small bit of life that had developed on the tank floor. The tank started with about a 1/4 inch of sand in a few areas that was teeming with life. You said to just add the sand to the tank in small amounts until I hit the desired 3-4 inches.  <agreed again> I did, over a three week period. Fine. I added two sand stars to stir it. I had two scarlet hermits in place prior. I also had a large snowflake moray that promptly hollowed a lair in the rear left of the tank to regain access to the preexisting one under the rock wall. I though my sand stirring was covered. <modest detritivores activity in my opinion with such a messy feeder as the eel (or at least producing copious waste). If the skimmer doesn't produce skimmate daily or the current allows detritus to accumulate on the bottome...no amount of detritavores will spare you from nuisance organisms... see "Keeping the Sand Clean" on todays Q&A posts> Then my corals started to decline.  <unlikely unrelated to the sand in such a short time frame and still wouldn't affect corals much (fish yes)> My water parameters were in line. <what was pH and Alkalinity during the daytime specifically?> Then the decline accelerated. I spoke to my dealer and he suggested stirring. <arghhh...what an awful idea. Liberates nutrients in a mature sand bed and contributes to algae growth> I did, and quarter size bubbles emerged. <literally trapped atmosphereic air or by-products of bacteria/algae in a more mature bed. Sulpher smells like rotten eggs overwhelmigly and you didn't mention that your eyelashes curled from the smell> Within 24 hours the corals showed improvement. <without a doubt, a pure coincidence> What else can I do to eliminate this. <if the suspicion is methane gas or hydrogen sulfide, it is unfounded. rarely occurs and rarely a problem. You have to have so much sulphur from a neglected tank hat you can smell it from across the room... and you didn't mention that. Again, don't worry... the bubbles were harmless and unrelated> The Sand stars only stay in the front of the tank, so my problems continue in inaccessible areas of the tank.  <correct with water circulation and nutrient export processes (skimming daily)> I don't want to remove the sand and go back to the clean bottom, but I may have to. <that would be an extremely hasty and unwarranted move> With over $1,500.00 of life in the tank and years in the making, this gas problem must be solved. If I vacuum the bottom, how often, how deep.  <should not be critical in a system that is not overstocked/overfed and has adequate water circulation/skimming/carbon and water changes> I did do some light vacuuming since adding the sand as you suggested on your FAQ's but never noticed the problem developing and I also couldn't get to the rear of the rock wall. I must say, the moray does the best job of all.  <yes, I certainly can believe it!> the left rear is entirely free of gas, with worms and such surviving. Should I be that aggressive in my stirring? <not necessary to be aggressive> Are there any testing kits that will pick up the gas in the water? I have found none. What can I do to prevent the gas? My fish are only fed 3-4 times a week, that has never changed and I have had them for years. Help! Brett <best of luck to you, bud. Anthony>

Oolitic Sand and Milky Water

Hello Bob, I have one more quick question... <You got Steven because Bob is off traveling the great Midwest.> First off, thank you for the helpful information you gave me yesterday!! My question is: I Have just started a saltwater tank (This is day 3). I used very fine grain sand/coral for the bed of my tank and instant ocean salt. My problem is that my tank looks like milk, and it's been 3 days!! <This is not unusual with fine aragonite sand. It will usually disappear on its own. You can help by adding a mechanical filter or doing the water change. Just be sure not to disturb any more sand.>

Chemistry questions Hi again, hope you're well. I"ve just reread the site on h2o chemistry and quality/maintenance(well, not every word of course), but would really appreciate y our input as well. This is re: a new 46 gallon reef running x 3 mos.with 70# LR and very small bioload(5-6soft corals ,some hermit crabs, 2 scarlet cleaner shrimp, a bubble coral, a fungia, and some snails. I'v only done one h20 change:10% about 1 month ago. I've been using Red Sea test kits(till today) and here's my parameters: SG 1023-1024 T=77 NH4, NO2/NO3 all nil pH had been running 8.2-8.4 Ca++ had been 320-340 alk had been 3.2-3.6 or so I thought. Since the CA seemed low I've been adding the two-part solutions , first C-BAlance with no change. When I ran out, I started to use the Kent two-part according to directions and Kent Liq. Ca++ also per directions; oh and 1 tsp weekly of Red Sea Marine Buff. <Okay> Anyway today got Salifert kits for CA and Alk (their ph kit is in the mail) and got aCa++ of 440 and Alk of 2.97, but today the pH(still with Red Sea which I'm about to toss) was down to 8.0. <Yes... makes sense... you lost/precipitated some of the chemicals/alkalinity that were holding/buffering the pH at the higher point... by their combination with biomineral/calcium...> So, I'm mixing up some Instant Ocean for another change, but I'm, not sure if I have a problem or not, or how I could even tell till I get a more accurate pH test kit. I'm hoping for any advice you can offer. Thanks for your help and patience!! <Advice? Study> <You are on the brink of "great discovery" of the interaction sets that occur in closed captive marine systems... twixt biomineral (Ca, Sr, Mg), alkalinity (carbonates, bicarbonates mostly) and the phenomena of pH, buffering... Keep thinking, studying here... Bob Fenner>

Re: Temperature Dear Robert, My son-in-law likes to keep the temperature at about 72 f. He claims that tropical fish like warm water. I maintain that such high temperature breeds bacteria, nitrite, ammonia etc. I contend that he should lower the temperature. <Mmm, a tough general question...> Could you please advise us what is the ideal temperature for tropical fish? <Depends on species, gear involved, the aquarists wishes (more rapid growth, but more money for filtration, aeration, lighting...)... but something in the mid to upper seventies F. is "about right" for the broad mix of "tropical" fishes offered in our interest. Lower temperatures (lower seventies, upper sixties F.) are tolerable to many species identified as "tropical", and keeping temperatures lower is more "safe" in terms of induced metabolic rates, dissolved gas concentrations, higher stocking densities, costs of operation... but most folks would rather see their fishes, invertebrates moving about more briskly, more colorful, growing faster, reproducing... most often tied in with warmer water. If, where in doubt, by species, you can find useful information on temperature range of many species (in the wild) posted on www.Fishbase.org Bob Fenner> Thank you, and best regards Joe Carabott

Re: cloudy water Bob, Sorry to bother you again with the same nagging problem, butI seem to have hit a plateau again. To recap; had massive bacterial bloom. On my own, I...Changed nearly every drop of water at 10gallons per day, stripped out every piece of ornamental coral, vaccuumed every square inch of the tank floor substrate, and cut back on feeding to nearly none at all. You then pointed out the weakness of my mechanical filter, so I added a massive black diamond carbon stage. Also, I raised the specific gravity from 020 to 025. This helped a lot. In fact, it cleared up ALMOST entirely. There is still a light haze to the water. <This will go, in time> I haven't done a thing for about 5 days now, but the haze is driving me insane! Will it now go away eventually on it's own? or should I go back to the daily water change regimin? (Salt is starting to get expensive) -Pat <Patience my friend. Read over the WWM site re macro-algae use... and wait. Bob Fenner>

Re: cloudy water Bob, Pleased to announce dramatic improvement since adding the mecanical stage. I used old emperor cartriges, but cut and emptied them and refilled with 10 times the pre-packaged amount of black diamond carbon and things seem to be clearing. I still intend to add a stage of poly-filters, but they were not available to me at my local (yokel) store. This success leads to new questions...1) Sould I keep going and put more and more and more of these super carbon bags in the flow path? <Mmm, no... just "let time go by", be careful about feeding...> 2) If this is essentially what the emperor filter is doing, but is doing it way more effectively, should I get rid of the clumsy looking emperor hang on filter?  <You could... I'd run both> 3) My understanding is that these murky conditions left my animals weakened and thats how they contracted the protozoan ich. Is this accurate?  <Yes, this is so> and...4) I know someone who routinely runs copper through his fish-only tanks, but I've heard it kills the inverts...is there and effective brand of ich treatment/preventitive that can be routinely added to my system that will not harm the wet/dry bacteria OR my inverts?  <The copper actually "kills everything"... akin to treating venereal diseases in days of olde with mercuricals... it hurts "the good guys" as well as the "bad"... Don't routinely use copper in this way.> 5) I've read on your site varying views on environmental manipultion as a preventitive. What would your recommendation be on specific gravity and temp. to lower the hospitable climate for parasites, yet not stress the desired animals? (right now the sp is at 1.020 and the temp is at 74-75) Thanks again Bob, and my creatures thank you too! -Pat <I would move in this direction, stipulated the system is showing no further sign of biological filter imbalance (no ammonia or nitrite detectable). Bob Fenner>

Re: cloudy water Bob, Thanks for the good advice. I took it and read a considerable chunk of the link you sent me, and though theres plenty more to go, some questions come to mind. Since you pointed out that my wet/dry system is ineffective from a mechanical stand point, could I capitalize on the fact that it does move 1000gph through it and possibly add an in-line mechanical stage before it hits the drip plate? <Absolutely... a simple pad (open cell foam, dacron "batting" material as from a yardage store) or engineered bag (better by far), like the ones made by Emperor Aquatics would be great> If so, would that just mean flowing the water through multiple stages of batting and Black Diamond Carbon (which I read was very good)? <Oh. Yes> If yes, and while I'm building this stage, do any other mediums come to mind that I should flow the water through and am I going on the "the more the merrier" thoery? Also, could you possibly define the terms you used in your reply...Chemical filtrants (like high-retentive carbon, Polyfilter) and tell me where I would obtain these treasures?  <Are you in the U.S.? U.K.? Where?> Finally, I seem be picking up through reading, that vaccuuming the tank floor substrate might not be a very good idea. <You are correct... best not to be too fastidious here... as others have pointed out on our chatforum in response to your posting> If I misread, fine, but if it is indeed a bad idea, please explain why, as I pulled up appx. 20 gallons of water from the gravel that looked and smelled worse than raw sewage. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than this tank (with a few obvious exceptions) <Hmm> , but my radical thinking/theorizing tends to sometimes get me in trouble. I read once that there is no such thing as "too much" filtration,  <Mmm, depends on definitions... but there is indeed a thing as "too much"> which starts my mind on the path to overbuilding the theoretical "Superfilter" Any thoughts? Thanks -Pat <Lots. Bob Fenner>

Re: cloudy water I am in the US. Connecticut, to be exact. Still unclear on what a chemical filtrant is. Thanks. <Ah, good... the HR carbon is imported from England (brand name by Tropic Marine Centre), the Emperor Aquatics bag/s you can order from most any decent LFS, or the etailers... Chemical filtrants are products that specifically ab/adsorb materials down to the atomic and molecular level for removal. Bob Fenner> -Pat

Re: cloudy water Would the "Poly filter" pad be an example of a chemical filtrant?  <Yes> Because I've also heard good things about that particular brand. Thanks you again for your personal attention. I am very greatful. -Pat <You're welcome. Bob Fenner>

cloudy water Bob, I am at wits end. I came home from vacation 3 weeks ago to a cloudy tank. (150 gal. salt water set up with a trickle system moving appx. 1000gph and an emperor mechanical moving 400gp) Everything I've read has led me to bacterial bloom. <Likely yes... now, what has led to the bacterial bloom?> Apparently, the chap I had looking after the tank was overfeeding. <Very common... and your type of filtration (trickle) is not good at clearing up the results> (Though he swears this is not the case) Since then, I have been doing water change after water change. (5-10 gallons at a time, every couple of days) to no avail. Then, I started losing fish. First, a medium pearlscale butterfly. Then, a huge henn. butterfly, 3 large yellow tangs, and oddly enough, a domino damsel...one of my starter fish. With just a few starter fish and some inverts left, I went to war. I pulled out all ornamental coral, (Lots of it, built into elaborate formations) then I went to work vaccuuming the substrate under these ornaments. Amazing the amount of disgusting debris and goo I vaccuumed out of this tank. Over the next few days I had vaccuumed the whole floor, changing appx 10 gallons at a time, and even added 1 dose of StressZyme. (a product I had never used, but I'll try anything) This morning.....still cloudy. Do I continue on this course of action? <I wouldn't... Do you have water quality measures? Test kits? I would go the "blitzkreig" approach here, and use all avenues at once to bring resolution/solution to the cloudiness and its implications: Chemical filtrants (like high-retentive carbon, Polyfilter), live macro-algae, new cured live rock, added mechanical/particulate filtration... All these are gone over on our principal site... WetWebMedia.com  Sorting through the articles and FAQs files there can take some time, but the search tool, Index for the Marines section will help direct you.> It does not seem to be working, and my remaining creatures are really getting pissed. Help!?!?! (More useful info for your diagnosis; 1) Tank is about 6 months old 2) Water tests perfect 3)Green algae grows like a blanket, despite the fact that I have cut back on the light to only when I'm home, acouple of hours at night. 4) Loft apartment with 29 huge window FLOODED with sunlight. Tank is not directly in a window, but the whole place gets a lot of sun. 5) Remaining creatures, large coral banded shrimp, Flame scallop, c.chip star, blue damsel, 4 stripe damsel, small puffer and blue hermit crab. -Pat <Do start reading WWM Pat... to awaken to your consciousness what plan/s you will put into action. Perhaps starting here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/tanktroubleshting.htm We are soon to be good friends, and your understanding of your system, yourself with it enhanced. Bob Fenner>

cleaning crew dies quick Hi Mr. Fenner, It has been a 1/2 year or so since I wrote last and I have run into a problem again, I don't mean to be a fair weather friend. One of my set-ups is a 30 gal. (marine) with perfect water conditions, 25-35 pounds of live rock (which the corralline algae is taking over nicely, thanks for the advice). I have 2 percula clowns a few turbo snails, peppermint shrimp, a couple of feather dusters, and a few scarlet hermits. Over the past year I have noticed that my turbo snails have slowly died off. I originally started with about ten and went down to about 4 originals left. After doing a routine water change I noticed (usual for my water changes) that the diatoms (brown algae) as well as other types started to run wild. (I know I should be using R/O water, lots of silicates with my well water). Figured I needed some algae control so I picked up the extra turbos to replace the ones I had lost over the year. They were in the tank over two weeks and working hard. Then, the other day I noticed that a couple of the snails had dropped attachment, I probally would have never noticed but I heard them fall off and hit rock. Within about 4 hours every turbo snail including the originals had basically dropped attachment and died, also dead was the peppermint shrimp, and one of the feather dusters took a leave of absence from his tube and quickly died as well. I was perplexed as to how this could happen so quickly. I cleared everything out and utilized activated carbon in filtration. Although I try to rid my system of bristleworms the smell of death brings those suckers right out. Whenever I see bristleworms bad things either will happen or already have happenned. From reading all the different FAQ's I have seen some scenarios similar to mine, but never as quick. The clowns are doing well, it just seemed to be an invert thing. Water testing turned up near perfect water conditions with every test pH, ammo, nitrites/ates, Ca, Phosphates, etc. both before and after. My remaining feather duster is weak and does not respond as before, it has not dropped the head but his feathers look shriveled?  <Yes> What do you think? And with something like this what is the propper waiting time until I would possibly introduce a few turbos as I have lost the majority of my cleaning crew? Thanks for your time Bob. <"Something" chemical was/has gone wrong... perhaps a type of algae, other organism that caused the collapse, death of your invertebrates... perhaps some outside contamination (did this happen after a water change?). A thirty gallon system is hard to keep stable due to small size... I would consider adding a refugium, other life, light, volume there before adding more invertebrates. Bob Fenner> Torrey Charlestown, RI

algae I got a 45 gallon tank it has a red algae and a black slime algae, I tryed everything i know every time i siphon the algae out the black alae comes back all over everthing and the black goes all over everthing and none of my bottom feeders will touch it, even a weekly water change will not help. Can you think of anything to help me clear this algae up. Thank you, Brian <All sorts of approaches. These are detailed starting here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bluegralgae.htm Follow the links, faqs files where they lead you, develop and implement your own plan. Bob Fenner>

Trials and tribulations Dear Bob, Sorry for the length, I have had a FO show tank (6'l x 30"d x 24"w about 200 gals) for over 6 years running a wet/dry, berlin xl w/ ozone, and a Fluval 404. I had not lost a fish in almost two years though ran high nitrates, <60. The motor in the Fluval burnt out and I stupidly left the lines in while deciding on a new filter. <Yikes...> Fish started acting sick after about 3 weeks, water tested fine. <Anaerobic problems here are very transient... likely not testable.> After losing a puffer, lion, a clown trigger (all over 4 yrs old) and two wimples, (a dragon eel and naso survived), I started a major over haul and when I drained the lines left from the Fluval, you knew, rotten eggs-hydrogen sulfide! <Yes> I spent a month of weekly 25% water changes, and lots of carbon. I read your articles on LR and added 90lbs, let it cure out for 6 weeks, pulled about 3/4 of my bio-balls over that time, added a "clean up" crew and let it settle another 3 weeks. Last week I added a hippo tang who spent two weeks in quarantine, I did not dip. It has ich now, and I have not been able to catch it to put it back in quarantine to treat. The naso and eel seem fine. Should I have skipped the LR and cleaners since I only plan on keeping fish and now can't treat the tank. <No, I would have done what you have... and you can still try some of the fish/cleaners... Likely the Eel won't immediately consume a Gobiosoma goby (or two)...> The boss (wife) isn't happy about the tank, which is viewed from both sides, being a large empty water container without fish for the last couple of months, or the $ I have spent to get to where I am. Suggestions? Bill <... keep the Boss happy, use "hidden" funds if need be to purchase some more colorful, outgoing fishes (maybe a couple more Wimples/Heniochus butterflies... though I know they'll be much smaller than the ones you lost... and don't become overly concerned about the apparent ich at this point. It may well clear up on its own here. Do try adding a vitamin and iodide preparation to your fishes foods (actually not the Eels foods, but the Naso, etc... this will help as well. Bob Fenner>

Re: Trials and tribulations Dear Bob, Thank you for the speedy reply. I do soak both shrimp and nori in Zoe prior to feeding. Clarification ...I should go ahead and add a couple of wimples in a couple of weeks (after quarantine) even though I know there is ick in the tank? And should I add the gobies immediately, skipping the quarantine? Thanks again, Bill <Mmm, I would quarantine the new Butterflyfish, and wait about a month total time to determine the disposition of the ich/tank... otherwise do what was written... Place the gobies sans hesitation, lower spg... Bob Fenner>

discoloured water On the 13th October, I added a small piece of cured live rock to my 180l aquarium. Since I added this rock, the water has discoloured and my Yellow tang developed a cloudy eye, and flicked against rocks. I followed the instructions for myxazin and gave the tang two fresh waters dips, and the cloudiness went from his eye. I have reinstalled my carbon and skimmer, and the water is a hazy green/yellow colour.  <I would change to another brand, fresh carbon... maybe the HR (High Retentive) Tropic Marine Centre brand.> The tang has started to flick again, although I cannot see anything wrong with him. The water is; ph 8.2, ammonia 0, nitrite 0 and I have an internal Juwel filter, eheim 2233 and an aqua-sander maxi skim 400. Your help would be much appreciated, James Matthams. <From what you state, does seem like something from your live rock causing this trouble... I might pull it, or at least change the carbon. Bob Fenner>

Cloudiness Problem. Hi, I've had my AGA Mini-Bow 7 running pretty well for about 7 months. I have about 5 pounds of fine sand for substrate. Another 5-6 pounds of live rocks. A pengiun 125 Bio-Wheel for mechanical and biological filtration. Plus it does a good job of water agitation and circulation. A 32w power compact does the lighting. At present a have a ton of live stock including 4 small fish, 4 hermit crabs, 2 shrimp, 3 snails and a small tiger cucumber.  <Yikes... all in seven gallons of volume?> No corals except 1 rock that has a few dozen tiny shrooms. Like I said the tank has been running great for six months. I do a 1-2 gallon water change every 1-2 weeks (with steam distilled water). I also use a small packet of Nitrex in my filter to remove Nitrates (witch it does very well). <Okay> Now my problem. About a month ago I had an algae break out. I understand that's pretty common in all new saltwater tanks. It would collect on my glass and on my sand. I would clean my glass every weak during the water change but in a few days it would come back. So I ordered a bunch of stuff. I put phosphate removing pads in my filter....no effect. <Generally don't work> I ordered Sea Clear hoping to clump up the free floating algae and trap in the filter. No effect. I got something called Aquarium Clean that's supposed to live in your substrate (bacterial) and combat algae. No effect For about 3 weeks my water is a thick murky green. I can bairly see my fish. I did a 4 gallon water change (out of a possible 7). In about a half day the water returned to the same murky green. What do you thing cause this? How do i get rid of this problem? WHAT DO I DO? <A bunch of possibilities. Please read through this introduction and on to the links therein: http://wetwebmedia.com/algaeconMar.htm A small system is hard to manage... Bob Fenner> Thanks you for your help, Edward

Hard time with (chemical imbalance) Hello Bob, <Hi there> I want to first thank you again for your previous advise, you have been a big help. Now I have an on going problem and I have read and researched into a dead end. Just so many opinions out there. My tank is about one year old, 46 gal, 30+ lbs rock, some live, some cycling.  <Some?> About two months ago I had a crash caused by a salinity problem. Lost all my inverts (cleaner shrimp, brittle stars, emeralds) At about the same time I had a major growth of green algae which killed off some of the mushrooms and polyps. <Yikes> Researching for causes and solutions I really tried to figure the chemical balances on a more advanced level. The time of the crash I had the following: During this time it was very hot and I had some temp rises and lots of evaporation. Ph - 8.2 highest I could keep it, Ammonia & Nitrite @ 0, Nitrate @ about 5, Phosphate @ 0, Calcium @ 350 - highest level I could maintain, used Kent Liquid Calcium, and KH @18. <Hmm...> Since the problem time I have fan setup that keeps the temp perfect, and do daily refills as needed. I have also tried to figure out the way to keep the chemicals balanced. Hard to get a good guide line to achieve this. I decided to use Kent A & B and started about a month ago. But now my chemicals are going a different direction. I have an increased pH spike to about 8.7 and my calcium dropped to 320. The KH did drop to 12. All the rest of the chemicals are the same. <A few things may be at work here... you could take a few definitively different paths... I would start with the following: Doing a series of weekly water changes of about ten gallons each with pre-made, stored synthetic water. 2) Getting in the habit of "knocking back in salt that makes its way to the edge of the aquarium (as some of your chemical inconsistency problems may be arising here... from differential solubility...), 3. Using simple sodium bicarbonate to boost you GH... and abandoning KH focus for a while... this may well be the reason for your constant struggle with calcium...> The one other thing is that I have a small yellow tang. He does not eat any algae. Now he appears to be faded in color and kinda white in mid-section. Is this a result of the pH or diet or ? <Both, yes. Please read: http://wetwebmedia.com/YellowTang.htm and the associated FAQs file> I would appreciate any advice or suggestions on how to get the chemicals balanced and maintain the balance to be able to get inverts, mushrooms and polyps again once the tank is balanced <We may have quite a bit to discuss, do further... do think on what I've responded to here, read over the pH, alkalinity, calcium FAQs pages on WWM... and we'll be chatting. Bob Fenner> Thank you in advance, Dave

NSW (Near SeaWater, conditions) Do you know of any publications that have the natural seawater parameters and their ranges for the world's reefs? Of particular interest would be the following; pH Alkalinity Calcium Ammonia Nitrite Nitrate Phosphate Salinity Temperature Thanks, Steven Pro <Hmm, look for the CRC manuals on these measures (the Chemical Rubber Company) produces such definitive works... Something like "Natural Sea Water Parameters" in a subject search on a large book co. engine. Hans Baensch (Marine Atlas)has such a list as well... as does Stephen Spotte in a couple of his tomes... but I would seek the CRC manual. Bob Fenner>

cloudy water Hi Bob, I hope your having a good day. I have recently set up a 125ga tank with a 55ga sump. I just put the water in one week ago with instant ocean salt (1.024). All the water is from a new Kent RO unit. I glued and siliconed baffles in the sump. The water in the tank seems to be very cloudy. When I look from one end to the other, the water isn't very clear. It has been circulating through the system for about 4 days now. I think it is like this because of the epoxy in the sump. <Mmm, unlikely... don't worry re the cloudiness at this point... the tank, water, et al. is "just new"> Whenever I tested the sump outside of the system, the water did seem to get a little 'milky'. How can I get rid of this situation? There is no sand or LR in the system yet. I put some carbon in the sump last night, thinking it might help. The water is forced through the carbon on a tray I built in the sump. So far it hasn't helped.  <Do place the substrate... wait about another week... and place the live rock at your leisure... and be patient... the water will clear soon enough> If/when the water clears, will it be safe for LR and fish, or should I do a massive 100% water change (hope not) before I add any LR? <Not necessary, advised to change the water at all... Wait a good few weeks after the rock has been placed... please read over the www.WetWebMedia.com site re set-up. Bob Fenner> Thanks for you help again. Jason

White Film on surface of water Hi Bob I had a question about my (45 GAL)salt water tank. I have live rock which have the Coraline Algae on it in which I am trying to grow. I have been adding the Kent Part A and B Calcium Buffer along with the Tech M and Trace elements weekly. At the same time every week I perform a water change(2 Gal). My question is I have a white film(bread crumbs) forming at the top of my water It looks like maybe some of the additves are breaking down. <Likely a reaction product, yes> Last you wrote me about my filtration systrm you said everthing looked good except I should add a fugium. Please help me out. Should I discontinue the use of these additives? <Mmm, not necessarily. What sorts of readings are you experiencing for what you're adding?> The Salt I use is Instant Ocean could it be the salt? <For? No my friend, the salt is fine... please posit your query to the fine folks at our chatforum: http://talk.wetwebfotos.com/... they will lend you their insights as to how to provide sufficient alkalinity and biomineral content. Bob Fenner>

RE: White Film on surface of water Hey Bob the readings that I get are: Ammonia: Not Detected Nitrate: Not Detected Nitrite: 20 PPM pH: 8.3 Calcium: 430 PPM Alk: 3.2 ml/g Temp: 81 Deg. F Salinity: 1.021 Phosphate:.5 ppm I hope I got the parameters correct. Should I perform a water change to get rid of the film? Thanks, David Garcia <Yes, I would... even using a water pitcher, or new/white/non-scented paper towel, siphon at the surface (tilted up) to remove the film. Bob Fenner>

Water problems Mr. Fenner. I am having a problem with my new tank and just cannot seem to figure it out by myself so here it goes. First off it is a 120 gallon system with a thirty gallon sump. A 34 inch downdraft skimmer, made by myself, two 400 watt MH Iwasaki bulbs and 4 VHO 03 URI bulbs. The actinics run 12 hours a day and the MH run 8 hours a day. The tank has 4 inch live sand bed and approx. 125 pounds of live rock. The system has been running since mid April of this year. The rock came from a previous tank so the cycle time was only a couple of weeks but I did put five damsels in it. I waited until the first week of june until I put the tangs and other fish in it. The tank water tested fine at the time I put the fish in, but we were waiting to get some more algea growth before we finally put them in. I might want to mention that the tank never went through an algea bloom during cycle. Okay now to the problem at first I had a temp. flux of about 5-6 degrees which brought out an ich problem. At the same time algea started to grow like mad. The temp problem is now fixed by the use of fans on my sump and running my skimmer opposite of the lights. Now the temp is 78 to 80 degrees. All the fish look much better and doing fine. The big problem is that the water is cloudy all the time and hair algea on the rocks and back wall of the tank. And I get this bright green algea on the glass. It removes very easy but seems to come back in an hour or so. The time between algea covering the glass is starting to become further apart but still have to clean it everyday when I get home. The water tests fine even phosphates, but the alkalinity is only 5.6 dkh and my calcium levels (if the test is right) are reading around 650 mg/l. <! have your "testers" tested> I don't know if this can be right but I have tested several times and even had other people test it and they get the same thing as I do. So I did some more reading and started to add buffer on a daily basis and also did a 30 gallon water change. Also added 16 trochus snails to help with the algea and there doing a good jog along with the tangs. One thing I might have been over feeding but have cut that out almost intirely so the tands will eat the algea and that seems to be working, but the cloudy water and the alk., and cal. readings are really confusing me. I have about 4-5 gallons of evaporation a day so I read that dosing kalkwasser would help increase the alk. <Not usually> and stabilize the ph which is about 8.4 to 8.5. I did that for a week and no changes. I also have two clams and an sps, toadstool which are all doing just fine so I am really confused. If my water parameters were that messed up would they show signs of suffering?  <Not necessarily> I also thought that if the cal. levels were that high would it cloud the water. <Again, these values are not directly related> Oh also want you to know that all of the water that was used to fill the tank even top off water goes through the KOLD STERIL unit I purchased form Poly-Bio Marine. <A great product> I am at a loss and my tank is not very attractive with the green algea growth and the cloudy water and advice you could give would be great!! Just if you need to know here is the bio load of the tank:Yellow Tang, Purple Tang, Hippo Tang, Disgardini Tang, Algea bleeny, 1 clown, 4 damsels, 2 cleaner shrimp, eng. goby, about 20 trochus snails, 20 hermits, 2 clams, 1 SPS, toadstool, and a buble coral. Hopefully you will have some info for me and I will be waiting to here from you. Thanks, Dave B. <Well, thanks for all the background information... a few things could be contributing to your cloudiness here... for the overall imbalance you're experiencing... It is easier, simpler to state a few "what I would do nows" then go into "what if" scenarios... Your system will stabilize... I would do a few things to speed all this along in addition to what you've done, are doing. For the alkalinity issue, start mixing in a few teaspoons (the amount is not that important) with some of the system water and distributing this daily... Hold off changing any water... don't add any more livestock... increase the "white lights" to about twelve hours a day and the actinics to fourteen (an hour before and after the others)... And leave the green algae going on all but the front, viewing panel/s for now. And try to be patient. Much more to relate, well, could be related here re theoretical speculation as to cause... I would go on the new WWM ChatForum and post your questions there for others input. Bob Fenner>

Re: Water problems Bob I increased my lights to what you recommened and added a few teaspoons of buffer (I figured thats what you ment)I use Kent dkh buffer. I will let that remedy go for a few days and retest and let you know how things are doing. What test kits do you recommend?  <Alkalinity, pH, calcium, nitrate, phosphate (if having problems with such)... and for anything you're adding as supplements otherwise> I am assuming that by increasing my alk. that will balance out the calcium levels and in turn clear my water? <Yes my friend. Thank you for asking for this clarification/example> I am the kind of person who likes to know the cause and effects of things. <Ah, I suspected as much. I am very much the same> Thanks again for your help I really hope we can figure this problem out. Dave B. <We can, and will. Your system should clear, stabilize in about a week. Bob Fenner>

Re: cloudy water Dear Bob, ty for the tips. I did manage to get the water clear in two days. <Ah, good> it cost me abuck but the fish look good. I went to a local pet store and bought 100.00 worth of rock and crushed coral out of there tanks. Then ask for three lg. bags of their salt water that was in use at the time. this made the water start to clear that very night . <Yes> The next day i bought a filter-rockskimmer combined , sale price 38.00. I am still cutting back on their feeding probably for another week. thanks for your support.PS I am dying for a clown trigger!  <Yikes... a beauty and a bruiser with age/growth...> What you got say around next month and can you give me a ball park fiqure on shipping ,and sm.to med clown trigger? SANDY <S/b about fifty to a hundred dollars or so... do keep reading, studying about these and other possibilities... Look over the "Trigger" materials and related "FAQs" sections posted on our site: www.WetWebMedia.com for more here. Bob Fenner>

General Reef tank questions Bob, Thanks for all your help with previous questions, but I've come up with more that I'm hoping you could answer: <I'll try> 1) I let a patch of macro algae (bubble calerpa) grow from a fist size to roughly 1 cubic foot in a 70 gal tank (wet dry filter) that I've kept pruned to 1 cu foot for about 3 mos. I was going to move it to my sump (your recommendation), but never got to it and decided to let my macro algae patch grow as an experiment. Prior to doing this, I had probs over 8 mos with cyanobacteria, diatoms, and other varieties of string/slime algae (nothing severe tho, just recurring probs). Well, the algae (tank is lit by 4 55 watt PCs) seems to have resulted in oxygen saturation, has eliminated all the cyano/diatom/slime/string algae probs (even after I've greatly increased the amount of food I feed my fish - roughly 3 to 4 times) and my PH stays at 8.0-8.4. My redox levels are now at 350 w/o ozone! Also, my protein skimmer has been down for 3 mos and my tank still looks perfect (corals/fish/coraline/snails/hermits). I've cut my water changes from 10% per week back to 10% per month. I've had people tell me its not the macro algae - it just my tank slowly maturing, but to me it seems like its the macro algae. <It's at least a good part the macroalgae> You've recommended the macro algae, but it seems like its too good to be true. Can I really attribute all the good results I've seen to the macro algae? (If so, seems like someone should start an infomercial: "MacroAlgae - the Ultimate Reef tank cure)! <Yes, join me> 2) With my macro algae, my ORP is always 350, so my ozonizer never kicks on. Should I force it on, or just count my blessings and let it stay off. Is this ORP level to be expected with 1 cu ft of macro algae in a 70 gal and heavy feeding of 6 fish (a red sea desjardini tang, a purple tang (yes, they get along - they do everything together), 2 GS maroon clowns, and a 3 inch wrasse)? I now feed these fish until they stop eating - usually takes five mins. <I would leave all as is... Not boost the ORP set point> 3) Would it be a good idea to replace bio-balls in a wet dry with either 'SIPORAX' or Seachem's MATRIX before setting it up for use in a new tank? Both prods claim to be able to remove ammonia/nitrite/NITRATE. Do you have any cmts/experience with either? <Both good products... along with Eheim's old EhfiMech> 4) I'm setting up a new tank (75 gal reef) and will use 4 65 watt PCs. What would you recommend for bulbs: A) two 10K and two 6700 Actinic or B) two 8800K and 2 6700 Actinic or C) other temp PC bulbs? <The latter over the former... actually any lamps over 5k...> 5) I'm also planning on setting up a large (180 gal) sps tank soon and am investigating MHs. Michael Paletta recently wrote an article on a web merchant's site where he recommended lighting large SPS tanks using combos of 6500K and 20000K bulbs for optimal viewing/coral health. My question for you is how would you recommend that a person 'pair' these bulbs. Would you alternate every two ft from 6500 to 20000? Or, would you put a 6500 and 20000 bulb side by side every two ft? <The last> 6) What's your opinion on the best lighting combo for sps (both in terms of viewing and coral growth/health). Mike Paletta's combo of 6500K/20000K bulbs or going exclusively with german ushio 10000k bulbs? <The combination> Thanks! <You're welcome. Bob Fenner>

My Chemistry is getting Wacky. Help !! Mr. Fenner, I have a 125G Reef which is about 6 months old started with cured live rock. Everything has been growing like crazy and healthy in general... The only additives I use are B-ionic 2 part solution added about once a week depending on Ca levels. <Sounds good, safe... safer than mixing, blending makes and models of supplements... blindly> Here are the general stat's as consistent over the last 4 months: Salinity: 1.024 pH: 8.4 Alk: 3.34 Ca: 380 (rising slowly over last two months) Ammonia: approx. 0.0 Nitrate: 5 <Okay> Over the last month or so, I've noticed my Fox Coral looking pale, a Lobo Brain receded from 70% coverage to about 50% of it's skeleton, my pulsing Xenia stopped spreading like crazy. Monthly chemistry testing showed nothing out of order. <Sounds like something is becoming rate-limiting/ed doesn't it? Or perhaps there's an allelopathogenic effect at play here? Or a combination?...> I didn't think much of this as this is my first Reef Tank. Then about 3 days ago I noticed that my unblemished Maze Brain had a small pale stop just off center in the mound. This spot enlarged to the size of a dime, then a nickel. The spot appears to be a deterioration through which I can see the creatures skeleton, I've also noticed a thin line, white and cottony in appearance around about half the base. At this point I again tested the chemistry of my tank again. What I found worried me: Salinity: 1.022 <Not good... do raise this back to at least 1.024, better 1.025... slowly> pH: 8.4 Alk: 3.66 Ca: 480 <This actually is a bit high... and may well be costing you alkalinity... I would be satisfied with something more like 400ppm> Ammonia: 0.25 <Worrisome... something is forestalling nitrification... and components/aspects of the biota in your system may be dying faster than living> Nitrate: 15.0 I immediately did a 15G water change, approx. 15% with displacement. In haste, I shut off the return pump and used the Sump to mix new salt and DI water. I let this water circulate, heat, and aerate for about 1.5 hours in the sump. When near the same temp as the tank, I turned back on the return pump. <Water change is a good idea... but do learn, practice pre-mixing the new water elsewhere... a good week in advance...> After making sure that the tank was functioning normally and fish appearing normal, I retired for the night. The next day everything appeared fine and normal. That evening I tested the chemistry again: Salinity: 1.024 <Too much change too quickly... about a half a thousandth per day is good...> pH: 8.4 Alk: 3.54 Ca: 500 + (my tester only goes to 500, I've interpolated it to be around 540) Ammonia: 0.25 Nitrate: 15.0 ?????? I don't understand why the water change didn't help, and actually made things worse... I'm concerned with all the horror stories I've heard about people loosing the entire tank due to an unrecoverable chemistry. Is this approaching? What should I do to stop it?? <Slow down... ten deep breaths... the new salt mix added (artificially) the new calcium (they're designed to do this), and the ammonia came about from hastening the dying/living coefficient from the too-new water... and nitrates are still accumulating from whatever is forestalling nitrification...> My Chem's have never been this out of line, could I have done something wrong..? <Just the new water> Can I stop/reverse the Maze Brain deterioration ? <Should stop on its own if all else is okay... Wouldn't move it as yet (to better lighting, maybe away from predatory influences... But do re-direct some better water flow to its vicinity (via a powerhead, other pumping mechanism> Hopefully I'm just over reacting as a new reef owner. Or for that matter, the Maze Brain and other corals problems and Nitrates in the water may not be linked. <Ah, likely> Thanks for the help. John Boiger <Do read over the Caryophyllid piece and FAQs page on the www.wetwebmedia.com site... Your faviid may be a candidate for a dip... but not yet. Bob Fenner>

testkits Bob are you familiar with fast test saltwater test kit made by instant ocean? If so is a 0.4 of nitrite to high for adding new fish? I just bought the testkit about a month ago because i didn't like drytabs kit. >> <Am quite familiar with these kits, and they're generally accurate enough... and 0.4ppm is too much nitrite for me... I would hold off till its about gone (undetectable) to add any livestock. Bob Fenner>

I have a question. I have a 29 gallon tank. With live rock and 2 triggers.(blueline and Clown) And when i turn on the light in the morning the water is clear. then i feed them and about an hour later the water get's foggy. Then i turn off the light for the rest of the day and then the next morning it is not foggy. And this has been going on for a while. Do you know what is wrong? >> A few real possibilities here. For one, triggerfishes are big eaters and consequently big mess-makers. Secondly, what sort of filtration do you have on this tank? You might think, "this is only two fishes, they couldn't be the cause of the cloudiness", but I assure you, they, along with the amount and kinds of foods you are using (some are much worse than others), along with inadequate filtration, circulation, are exactly the causes of the waters cloudiness. If it were my twenty nine, I'd trade the triggers in and re-start with more appropriate livestock for such a small system... or if you can, get a much larger tank (at least a fifty five... and this will only be big enough for several months) with much bigger filtration. You need at least a good outside power filter and protein skimmer to keep the current system clean and clear... When the water is going cloudy this is more than a nuisance... it is a warning sign of poor water quality that could claim your two triggers lives. Do look into one of these options: Improved filtration, trading them in, putting the triggers in a larger system. Bob Fenner

Water parameters I've got a couple questions about the chemical parameters of my tank. First the "problem" and then some background. The problem is that I cannot get PH, Calcium and Magnesium levels up to the "recommended" levels. Ph is stuck at a stable 8.0 Day and night. I tried to raise it to 8.3 using Kent brand ph buffer. I followed the instructions for a week, but ph never budged off 8.0. I am using the Salifert brand test kit and have crossed referanced it with Aquaruium Systems test. Same result. Calcium level is at 380 +/- 10 ppm. I use ESV 2-part calcium to maintain this level. I tried to raise it to around 450 using Kent brand Turbo Calcium, but again, after a week no change was noted. I thought the problem might be low magnesium. This level is hovering around 1190 and I tried to raise it using Epsom Salts (MgSO4). Maybe its not the right product for the job, but no change was noted. I dont know what the dKH is, but would suspect it is a little low and stable.  Here are my questions. Why cant I raise the levels to 8.3, 450ppm, and 1400 ppm respectively? Should I even worry about it? <You can't, won't be able to change the parameters you mention, due to the very compounds you've been introducing to your water as supplements... And yes to not worrying about them... 8.0 is fine for a pH... and anything in the upper 300's for ppm of calcium is fine... Your alkalinity... I would test, and bolster, simply and inexpensively with simple baking soda, aka sodium bicarbonate. Do leave off with the magnesium sulfate...> Here are some tank details. It is 75 gal with a 25 gallon sump. Water flow is at 600 GPH though the sump and two power heads in the tank. I have 85# of Fiji live rock and a 2' live sand bed. Livestock includes 7 fish, one large anenome, crabs and snails, and lots of tube worms. All animals are all doing fine. Lighting is provided by 2 VHO's and 2 40 watt lamps for a total of 300 watts. The tank has been running for 4 months. The coraline algae has been growing good and for the first two months, I had some rapid growth of Halimeda type marcoalgae. I'm at the point where I would like to start adding some corals but would like to settle the parameter problem first.  Thanks for your time and knowledge. I have enjoyed your book and articles. Scott >> <Ah, I do wish I were back teaching H.S. chemistry and physics... given some short while to explain the handful of reactions and their energetics which yield the results you cite... folks would save a bundle of money, and worry... Do take a look at the articles et al stored on marine pH, alkalinity, calcium... archived on the site: www.wetwebmedia.com, Bob Fenner>

Green Water Please can you help?? Our 75 gal. tank is totally green... all the tests are  good. The guy at the LFS says we have perfect water .. but the water is so  green we can't even see our fish. They all seem to be doing well...we catch  a glimpse of them once in a while when they swim in front of the glass. The  LFS says it's algae... there is no algae on anything in the tank rocks,  shells etc. It's been like this for a good 6 weeks now. >> Am very sure I can be of assistance... but need first to know more about your system... what type (fresh or marine...), filtration, history, livestock... those sorts of things... In the meanwhile... don't panic... we can straighten this out together... soon planktonic algae blooms will only be a laughable memory. Bob Fenner

New Tank I am very new to the salt-water aquariums so as you can imagine I have a lot  of questions. But just a couple today. The tank is 45 gallons with a Fluval 304 filter system, and a Rio600 BK-PK  Protein Skimmer. It is near the end of the first water cycle. I currently  have 3 Damsels. My first question is what types of fish would you recommend to start with?  The second question is I read somewhere that as the water evaporates in the  tank that it is not necessary to add salt-water back to the tank because the  salt did not evaporate, just add water, but yet there is salt collected at  the rim of the tank so is'nt this taking some salt out of the water? Just a  little confused. >> Welcome to the marine hobby! And let me invite you to spend a little time with the latest tool at ffexpress: in the way of archived questions and responses... along with reading, chatting with other hobbyists, do take a look through the information stored here. Starter fishes and non-fish livestock are many... my opinions on individual species/specimens and whole genera and families of organisms can be found archived at the url: www.wetwebmedia.com site... This "overlying theme"... The best livestock for captive use, has been my domain for decades of writing... see the many pieces/articles stored at this site... as there are huge differences in historical survivability, source location, size and condition at time of purchase... for individual species and specimens... There are "Selection" articles there both on reef and general marine livestock... read them carefully. Your second question is excellent: it turns out that there is a serious side to the "crystals" that accumulate on the edge of aquariums and gear... they are not a simple representation, proportional with what is in solution... Yes, the salts, other solids that build up on the rim are differentially soluble... and it is a very good idea to "knock them back down in the water" along with the replacement of freshwater lost to evaporation... This is a real source of trouble for many systems... and one of the very good reasons for performing frequent, partial water changes (i.e. to always be working back toward some "centered" mix of solutes in captive seawater...) Bob Fenner

Hi Bob, first let me say that I appreciate all of the time you spend answering my (and everyone else's) questions. I have some additive questions. A little background, I dose my 55 gal reef tank with Kent Essential Elements, Coral-Vite, Iodine, Stront & Moly, and Marine Buffer every week, as well as using Seachem's Reef Advantage and Reef Builder. I also "drip-dose" Kalkwasser throughout the week. I'm a big fan of Seachem's Reef products; but, they would have you believe that products like Kalkwasser actually work counter to theirs (and have a caustic ph). If so, I plan to stop using Kalkwasser, and to instead mix my make-up water with Reef Advantage and Reef Builder in alternating weeks.  So, my questons are: How do you feel about Seachem's products? Do you think Kalkwasser is as bad as they say it is? Do you think the plan for my make-up water is a viable solution? Should I be dosing Calcium in addition to the Reef Builder/Advantage? And, would I need to continue buffering in this situation?  Sorry there are so many questions, thanks for your time. >> Thank you... even for sticky questions about specific manufacturers. I know the folks at SeaChem and their product lines. They are amongst the best in the trade... and what they state re the miscibility of their reef additives and kalkwasser is so... and an issue I spout off like a Gray Whale (Eschrichtius robustus) every day (or so). Do give up on the kalk, and just use their or someone elses alkalinity and alkaline earth and trace elements preparations... a much better, less toxic by far approach at supplying needed materials to a boosted (brightly lit) reef system. Do try your replacement system as you state... and invest in and use alkalinity and calcium test kits. Take care to not become overly fixated on any one, or set of "measures" but strive to keep your calcium somewhere in the 350 to 450 (not higher than 500 ppm) range, Alkalinity 140-270 mg/l CaCO3, Carbonate hardness 8-15dKH... And, you're welcome... to the ever expanding universe of possiblities (love those infinite versus finite games, don't you?) Bob Fenner

Bob, a few weeks ago, you gave me great advice on my FO tank. I was losing angels only and on your advice placed some powersweep(s) for circulation in the corners at the bottom of my tank. I have since added a blue-face and emperor. Everything is going great and my original powder blue has not been stressed since the addition of those powerheads. In some of your replies you mention an in-sump denitrator for wet/dry's. I'm not really sure of what you are referring to. Even though I keep my total nitrates less than the 30-40 range using a plenum I would love to get them even lower. Exactly what device are you referring to?  Thanks Mike >> Ah, good news... thank you for writing further.  Denitrators are devices that in essence perform the reverse of the "forward reactions" termed nitrification (biological conversion of ammonia to nitrites to nitrates), with nitrate being de-converted if you will to innocuous gasses.  Purposeful (intentional) biological (because there are chemical and physical ones as well) denitrators are most everywhere in marine systems... low to no oxygen areas (because the microbes involved are classically anaerobic) in the gravel, mulm and live rock spaces that get little circulation... What I and others are talking about as NNRs (Natural Nitrate Reduction) systems are larger, more direct devices for lowering nitrate... in addition to what the hobbyist can/should be doing to keep nitrates low (careful feeding, skimming, water changes, photosynthesis...). Jaubert/Monaco/Plenum systems provide rich beds of anaerobiosis... and are best located outside the main system (IMO)... Berlin filters (live rock in a sump), "mud/muck" w/ Caulerpa, other macro-algae filtration methods are also NNRs... Is this of help? Denitrators are areas of hypoxic reduction of nitrates (and more) that are characterized by low circulation, hard substrate (for bacterial attachment), and a source of carbohydrate energy (usually adequately supplied by materials already present in system water). Bob Fenner

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