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FAQs about Aquascaping Marine Systems 1

Related Articles: Marine Aquascaping, Live Rock, Placement, Marine SubstratesLive Rock,

Related FAQs: Marine Aquascaping 2, Marine SubstratesFaux CoralsFaux RockLive Rock,

A beautiful blue Acropora  pic by DianaF in N. Sulawesi.

Scaping in the Aqua >I have just bought a gorgeous, fully stocked 125 gallon reef aquarium. >>Ah, let the coolness ensue. >The tank is completely broken down. All the rock and livestock are being held in holding tanks. The tank contains mostly soft corals, leathers and mushrooms (tons of em!).  I am considering an idea for aquascaping that I would appreciate an opinion on. >>Alright, lay it on me. >My idea is to add  a 3/8 inch thick plate to the bottom of the tank with 1/2 inch diameter acrylic tubes sticking up vertically from the bottom. The front of the tank contains solid 3 1/2 rods that would be just covered in sand from the 4 inch sand bed. The middle of the tank would contain 4 1/2 inch high tubes that extend 1/2 inch high out of the sand. The back third of the tank would contain 5 1/2 inch high tubes. All of the tubes are spaced 1 1/2 inches apart. The bottom plate is  1/2 inch above the glass tank bottom. The idea is to create 3 plateaus to arrange the rocks on without the rocks having to either be buried in the sand or sitting on top of the sand. >>Ah yes.  I have a friend who simply made acrylic tube supports for the main pieces of rock in a manner similar to this.  His goal was to allow maximum flow with full support of the rockwork.  He did not use any plates, but did attach some vertical tubing with horizontal for stability, similar to scaffolding. >An additional advantage is that I could pump water under the entire unit so that the water emerges through the tubes creating a good water flow under all of the rocks. >>If there is a sandy substrate I wouldn't do that.  I think you'll experience pretty good flow simply forming the bracing for the rock.   >My current design is to use 2 300 GPH power heads for the water flow.  The total parts cost is about $150 + power heads. Could you give me an honest opinion on the merits of this design? >>It's a very good idea, try to keep it as simple as possible.  For simplicity's sake I wouldn't worry about adding flow through the substrate, though you can certainly give it a try if you think it won't blow it around too much, and I don't think it would hurt anything.  It's excellent in terms of safety for inhabitants and discouraging anaerobic areas underneath the rockwork.  In other words, give it a try, and document it photographically if you can!  Marina >thanks! Jim

- Aquascaping - Thank you very much, your answers is brief and sharp. <Glad I could be of help.> FYI, I've chosen to jump into this tedious hobby rather than collecting stamp (wish me good luck ^_^), <Indeed, good luck.> I have just completely setup my system yesterday and in the midst of cycling. Everything work smoothly (2DSB/plenum, refugium, manifold return, auto-top off and auto water change system, etc.). However, I have a problem on landscaping for my FOWLR tank. Do you have any good URL to refer me to? <Here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/aquascaping.htm > I have 110 lbs of live rocks which take me 3 hours to decorate it but failed to make an impressive look (as what I compared from most of the tanks in gallery). I wonder if there is any tips or step-by-step or reference for the landscaping. <Give that article a read... it's not exactly easy... well, it's easy to put a stack of rock into the tank. It's not so easy to make it look appealing. If I were you, I'd try to think like a fish... are there places to hide?> Hope you can help me as this is really the toughest task for in the whole setup process (I'm good in plumbing, carpenter and electrical job but I am dumb with decorating/artist job). <Well... because the tank is still in the cycle mode, you actually have plenty of time to experiment, move things around and see what results.> Best rgds, PJ <Cheers, J -- >

Painting a Background I am tired of removing the background on my FOWLR aquarium for cleaning the glass, and was wondering if I could safely paint the outside back panel of my aquarium. What do you think? Is glass slightly porous, especially to gasses?   Happy New Year, -Todd B. <Happy New Year, Todd!  Yes, painting a background is easy.  Just use Rustoleum, paint it on with a brush.  Make sure that the glass is perfectly clean and dry before beginning, and then give it 2-3 coats.  Let it dry 2-3 days, and then give it a rinsing.  You're all set!  Best of luck! Ryan>  

Lace Rock and Algae Questions (12/26/2003) I was wondering if it is acceptable to mix lace rock with Lalo live rock in a fish only with live rock aquarium. <Lalo is nice live rock. I bought some from http://www. Liveaquaria.com and am very satisfied. Just be sure to cure it properly. As for lace rock, opinion is divided. It may well contain toxic metals. Base rock is better. I suggest you go to http:// www.wetwebfotos.com and start a thread asking about how to economize on rock in the Live Rock/Live Sand forum. You should get some good ideas.> And if it is a fish only aquarium then how does one maintain the live rock so it does not overgrow with "bad" algae. <The way to avoid "bad algae" is to practice proper nutrient control. Nuisance algae are really only a problem for people with overstocked or overfed tanks. Believe me, hair algae grows just as well on glass and substrate as it does on live rock. There are a number of snails and some hermit crabs and some fishes that may help with control. Do read the books I suggested and you will understand.> Thanks for your help. -Bryan <You're welcome. Steve Allen>

Aquascaping with live rock - 12/21/03 Bob or Crew, I will soon be aquascaping a 140 gallon tank and I have some questions that I could not find answered on your FAQs.  In your website article on aquascaping, you write to leave an open space around the inside perimeter of the aquarium.  Many of the aquarium pictures I see in books and on the Web have the live rock stacked against the back of the aquarium with no apparent open space between the rock and the back wall of the tank.  Is this OK in your opinion? <Some of the reasons for space between rock and wall is for glass cleaning and siphoning chores, water flow, as well as for reducing scratch opportunities>  Also, my tank will have one overflow that pulls from the bottom as well as the top.  Should I keep an open space between the overflow and the live rock or will the porosity of Fiji live rock allow sufficient water flow to the bottom and top of the overflow even with live rock stacked against it? <Yes, I would keep a little space between the overflow and the live rock.> On buying live rock, is it OK to mix live rock from different geographic locations from around the World? <Well, some say it is no problem to intermix live rock, but I like to keep them at the very least, geographically similar>  It would seem that mixing live rock from different regions and/or oceans and seas would increase biodiversity and create a more interesting aquarium, <Could> BUT, it might also introduce competitors for resources and result in catastrophe <Yes!!!> (at least for some of the fauna).  I like the idea of mixing live rock.  Should I do it? <Give it a try. Couldn't hurt. Is it cheaper to do so? Record you findings and share with us here at wetwebmedia. Happy Holidays! ~Paul> Thank you, Joseph Rouse

Red lava rock Hello WWM Crew! I have a question concerning the use of red lava rock in the sump of my 135 gal FO (no live rock) tank.  I am planning on adding a refugium of sorts with Southdown play sand (if I can find it) or Aragonite and ~some~ live rock and possibly some macro algae later. My plan is to pump water from my sump into a Rubbermaid tub and have it gravity drain back into the sump.  My goal in this addition is to gain greater bio capacity and eventually remove the bio balls from my wet/dry. I would like to use a mixture of 10% live rock and 90% base rock that will eventually become 'live'.  I have read on several web pages and in one of the Moe books that  red lava rocks are an ideal media to grow Bio beneficial bacteria and judging by the shape and porosity of them it seems there aren't many other structures with the same TSA.  The Reef Aquarium Aquaculture  Products Testing Laboratory even says lava rocks were the best tested base rock for coralline growth. <Am surprised at this statement. Lava/volcanic rock is largely siliceous, based on silicates... IMO carbonaceous rock, based on carbonates is most useful for coralline growth, rock use in captive marine systems> But I have also seen several pages in the FAQs at WWM condemning the use of lava rock due to leeching of minerals, etc.  Is there a difference in the lava rock?  <Yes... this is not a "consistent product"> Are there 'good' sources or is the stuff sold for BBQ's and landscaping the same thing? <Some of these are manufactured... but I would still not use them> It sure would be nice since you can get a cubic foot for about a buck.  What are the dangers and concerns for using this type of rock and does the same go for Tufa?  Can it be made safe by boiling/bleaching? <Maybe. I would at least "do a bio-assay" with this material... set-up a smaller (less-expensive) system and try the rock, some of the cooled/boiled water from the same, on a few damsels, perhaps an invertebrate species or two> Sorry the question got so winded and thank you so much for all the help your website has given.  Kirk <Thank you for writing. It's possible that a "quality assurance laboratory" might be able to test the subject rock for its make-up... perhaps give you an idea of its expected solubility for specific constituents (e.g. iron). Bob Fenner>

RE: Red lava rock Thank you so much for the quick response!  I was also surprised by the labs claim on lava rock...maybe they never tested carbonaceous rock.  Here is the link http://www.athiel.com/lib5/save.htm#rock if you are interested. <Umm, this isn't a "lab"... it's Albert Thiel's infomercial site... not many folks will agree with the ratings given to "rock" presented here.> I think from your reply that using the rock is not worth the risk or trouble.  Are there other inexpensive rocks that can be seeded with live rock and have relatively the same bio capacity?  What about regular shells off the beach? <Mmm, time to send you to http://www.wetwebmedia.com . There is a search tool on the bottom left on the homepage... read on re collecting, using such materials> I live in Texas and could easily get them from South Padre.  What if I brought them home in sea water and used them?  Wouldn't they already be teeming with beneficial bacteria? <And more> Again thanks for all the help.  You and your website have made this hobby interesting again instead of frustrating.  Thanks a 1,000,000!  Kirk <You are welcome in kind and number. Collecting ones own materials from the wild can be done... there are a few caveats (the law, curing, doing so in less-polluted areas) and protocols (bleaching, rinsing, letting air dry...). But, can be done. Bob Fenner>

Keep up the good work fellas!!  Workin' Your Wood.. >Hi there, >>Well hi there yourself. >Firstly, the website is excellent and helped me out loads. There is a question I couldn't find the answer to though. >>Alright, let's have it. >I have brought 3 largish pieces of driftwood from a small supplier who said that it was safe to put in my 42 gallon marine tank.   >>Mmm.. a marine tank? >Another supplier said don't put any wood at all. >>Well.. it's unusual, for SURE. >What are your thoughts? >>There are certain considerations with salt, mostly leaching of chemicals/minerals, etc., that don't necessarily happen in freshwater.  I honestly wouldn't recommend it, but I think you might be able to experiment with a small bit and some very inexpensive fish.   >Many thanks.   >>Most welcome. >Best wishes, Marcus Lonsdale >>As well.  Marina

- Low pH Problems, Follow-up - Hi I have also got 2 inches of aragonite sand - lots of Ocean/Texas Holey rock and lava rock. <Interesting... is quite possible the lava rock is what's pulling your pH down - is not really a suitable marine decor.> The magnesium level is low and according to the LFS that will keep the calcium and pH down - it reads as 1000 ppm. <I don't agree with that.> So I'm adding Techm made by Kent marine to raise the magnesium - could this be it or am I is the wool being pulled over my eyes? <I think the store is trying to sell you supplements - you should get all the magnesium you need from regular water changes with a reputable salt.> I will also try baking soda as suggested. <And do consider losing the lava rock.> regards, Meirion <Cheers, J -- >

- Background Options - for the Tank - Hello, I hope things are well with you all! <They are, thanks for asking...> Due to some custom construction specs (three overflow boxes built onto the outside of the tank, etc.), I cannot apply a background of any sort to the back of my tank. <Pardon me for asking the stupid question but if this is a 'custom' tank... why not ask the customizer to tint the back glass?> I must utilize the inside of the back glass only. <I don't like the sound of that.> That said, it seems I have two options. I could either paint the side of the tank with a tub and tile paint (":baby safe" is what your site suggests), <Uhh... that's not an option, it's a recipe for disaster.> or I could obtain a very thin sheet of plastic/acrylic/type material and silicone it in place along the back wall. <I don't like this idea much either, but it's better than painting the inside of the tank.> What would you suggest is my best option? <Either skip the background altogether or consider getting the people building the tank to help you out - it is your money after all.> Thanks for your help! <Cheers, J -- >

-Rock types for aquaculture- hey guys, a friend and myself were driving and seen in the building of a housing addition some rock that appears to be limestone. is this safe for aquaculturing? <If it is truly limestone, it would be great> also could you give me a list on rock that is NOT safe to use for this purpose? <Well, since there's far too many rocks to list, here's a little blurb Bob wrote about using different rock types: 'Be extremely leery of putting just anything you've picked up in your system, including 'treasures' from seashore excursions, or freshwater decorations. Everything that goes in must either be chemically inert (non-reactive) or, if soluble, benefit the water chemistry. Be suspicious of even (gulp) what you see offered at XYZ Fish Store; some petrified woods, volcanic and other "rocks" are not safe for marine use.' That said you'll want to use calcium based material like limestone or properly cured "Aragocrete" type cement rocks. I hope this helps! -Kevin> than for any help that you can give.  Sam

Unpredictable Lava - 8/13/03 What kind of problems do you refer to when you say these things liberates it?  I have had it in my tank for 3 months now. <it cannot be know or said definitely... please remember that these igneous rock are formed by volcanic activity. The exact nature and composition of the rock at the time of formation varies considerably with whatever is literally bubbling up from the earths crust. I cannot say that your rock is safe or unsafe. Just that I do not recommend it when there are much better choices of rock for marine aquaria. Anthony>

Tear Down The Wall! Hey Bob, <Scott F. in for Bob today!> Take a look at this picture if you can see it well enough.. I was wondering do you think I have too much rock? I was thinking that maybe I have too much and it may be impeding my water flow. What do you think? <Well, I like the "long and low" look, myself, as it provides more swimming room for fishes. Your arrangement is not at all what I'd call unattractive. However, as you suspect, I think that the rock is arranged a bit too much like- well- a wall, for optimum water flow! Too tight. Try stacking the pieces a bit more loosely to allow more circulation. It might look a bit goofy at first, but the corals, etc, will grow to fill things in nicely, and you won't have to be concerned about dead spots in the rockwork...Be creative. Tear down the wall! Have fun! Regards, Scott F>

Lava rock Another question on a different subject.  I have several pieces of large lava rock in my tank.<I would remove the lava rock post haste...compounds can be released into the water. killing fish>  My substrate is crushed coral about 1/2" deep.  Do I need to actually move these rocks and vacuum under them each time I clean the substrate?<Personally I would>  Should they be sitting on something other than the substrate? <No but I would choose different rocks> My filter seems to do a good job of circulating water in the tank but I don't have a UG filter.<the UG filter isn't necessary>  Thanks again <good luck, IanB>

Re: lava rock I was told by the LFS where I bought the rock that it was made safe for fish. <Its up to you, if you want to risk losing all your fish.. so be it. If it was me I would remove the rock. Good Luck, IanB>

Lava Rock - 8/12/03 thank you, another question please.  if lava rock is going to cause problems will it be immediate or will it take a while? <it cannot be known with certainty. In some cases yes... but in others, it does not occur, if ever, until a dynamic of chemistry (water quality or secretions from organisms) liberates it. Overall... it is generally safe. But I must admit that I rarely recommend using it in seawater as it invites nuisance algae growth. Anthony>

WATER SEALANTS Hello, hope you guys are doing good. Recently when I was in Myrtle Beach I picked up a baby alligator head from a souvenir shop. The alligator was real. It had some type of sealant already applied to it. I want to place it inside my aquarium because it will look so cool. Is there any special kind of water sealant that I can use to spray over the alligator head? and will not harm my fish if I put the alligator head in the aquarium?  Please advise. Thanks. <Nothing as far as I'm aware will prevent the further degrading of the tissue under it. Bob Fenner>

Re: WATER SEALANTS Okay, So there is no need to apply any type of water sealant to the head? <Sorry for the confusion. No, there is no SENSE applying a sealant. It will not work. I would NOT place this animal head in a biological aquatic system. Bob Fenner> Danny Torres

Lava rock Hello - I've just bought and read Fenner's TCMA. I'm concerned about the possible slow leaching of various 'bad' things from some kinds of lava that he mentions could cause slow, chronic poisoning of my reef critters. <yes, have heard of this before> Great. I read this just after I used about 15 lbs of a very porous, rough pumice-like 'bowl rock' as a foundation for my Fiji Live Rock. The LFS staff insisted that it was safe for salt water usage...but you know how that can go sometimes.  Can you tell me (please) a.) what exactly leaches into the water with this problem, and b.) how to test for it?<Personally I do not know exactly what elements, etc "leach" out from the live rock. But I have heard that this does occur.>  I almost yanked this entire lava foundation out of the tank as soon as I read this ... but if you knew just how long I spent getting all the Fiji LR to balance on this lava, and having the whole thing look very sharp indeed (not to mention very stable for a non-epoxied or otherwise secured arrangement), you would understand that I don't want to impulsively do this.   <I agree, I know how long it takes to aquascape an aquarium. Try aquascaping a 180 gal aquarium with 200-300lbs of LR. takes hours to do :(> Any further advice would be most appreciated.<If it were me I would remove this lava rock post-haste to be on the safe side. Wouldn't want all of your livestock to mysteriously die one day because of a few pieces of rock. IanB> Cheers, SLC

Lava rock Ian or WWM Crew - Thanks for the response. However, I am getting an abundance of conflicting info on this topic from my LFS, the WWM website, and the various books that talk about this topic. In the true multi-opinion-gathering spirit of reef-keeping, I really would like to know how lava rock can poison a reef, and what to check for, and to use the right test kits before I do a major tank tear-apart to get the lava rock foundation out. From what I can tell so far, iron and other metallic elements leaching out are the cause of this chronic poisoning, and these are usually easily tested for. Since my reef is still going through it's start-up cycle, I feel I have some lee-way in researching this topic more.<Found this link on the lava rock topic http://www.netpets.com/fish/reference/thielbook/thielbook8d.html Hope the link helps, IanB> Cheers,  SLC

Lava Rock Thanks Ian, I appreciate this link. Will provide feedback to WWM as to the results of suggested tests.<glad to help, IanB>  Reefing Away,  SLC

Seashells I went to the beach and picked up some really cute seashells.  Can I put them in my saltwater aquarium?  Do I have to boil them or something? Thanks grant <I would just watch them really well with a bleach solution. Just make sure you rinse them very very very well with water afterwards. (you don't want bleach remnants in your aquarium water!), Good Luck, IanB>

Painting ornaments My search is to find an aquarium safe paint decorations from Top Fin that I've purchased form various pet stores. The paint on the decorations only last about a year with regular cleaning. I have some very nice mermaids that can't be found for replacement, so I would like to repaint them with a nontoxic paint that's safe for the aquarium.    Thanks Cindy <Water based latex and epoxy paints are fine here. Bob Fenner>

When good heaters go bad! OR..... Aquascaping anyone? - 4/15/03 Salutations to all, Well, My Tank is nearing its completion. <Glad to hear and congratulations! A very rewarding adventure is about to be had. Paul at your service.>  55 Gal bow front corner tank 20 High sump DSB and Fiji live rock.  I have a four inch sand bed and now that the live rock (60 lbs) is curing in a trash can I need to know how to support it in the tank.  That is a lot of rock!  Should I make pvc supports or just sit it on the sand bed? <Either way. Most times though, with that much rock and depending on how high you build your structure, you will probably need to glue them together or employ a PVC frame. Anthony Calfo has a great book that broaches this subject and many many more. Check it out. http://www.readingtrees.com  >  Is there any consensus on which is preferable? <Aesthetic symmetry is the key. What would look better to you? See here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/aquascaping.htm> The second question is about heaters.  If I put two heaters in the sump, how will I know when one is bad? <Well, that is a good question. Sometimes damage is obvious (physical), sometimes the light will stay on for hours, and hours turn to days so the temp slowly rises. Sometimes there will be no light on at all for days while the other heater light may be on frequently to adjust for the lack of heat output from the other heater. Wow, good question! I never put much thought into that, as I have never had one go bad. (cross my fingers)> I can foresee one breaking and not being noticed and then the other breaking and then I'm out of luck. <Could happen> How is this better than using one heater? <The other thought process is having the total wattage of the tank's heating needs spread out over two to three heaters in that they all work in conjunction when heating to the set tank temperature, but if one were to go bad, it would be only a third of the total wattage for the tank's heating requirement. Therefore it would only be able to slightly affect the temperature as it is way underpowered in its heating ability by itself.> Should I set them at slightly different temperatures and then if one goes I would notice the temp difference? Any thoughts? <Not necessarily. See the above thought> Thanks again for a great website, You do realize that I could be finishing my bathroom remodeling project, but instead I am always reading on this website or at least that is what my wife is always yelling LOL <Heheheheh> Bryan Flanigan <Thanks Bryan.>

- Talc Rock - Can anyone tell me if talc is safe for use in a marine tank? <I'm guessing we're talking about Tufa Rock here? This would be safe in relative terms, but not well-favored. You'd be much better off with harvested/cultivated live rock from the ocean. Cheers, J -- >

Live rock aquascaping - 3/24/03 hey <Paul here again> great info on site except for live rock can you tell me the best method of arranging live rock like big rocks first or all to the back or all to the front  basically on reef scaping thanks JM <Are you sure? Check here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/biotope.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/aquascaping.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/lrplacingfaqs.htm>

Aquascaping Bob, <Craig here today...> Where to get plans/material lists/ideas for aquascaping a 135 long? >Anywhere U can think of that consolidates the most info on this on the web?  I guess I can just stack rock myself....I was looking more for how to use PVC piping and the like.... I can't get a mental picture of drilling holes in rock and attaching it to the pipe with ties....in my mind it looks like it'd just hang off the pipe...??  Thanks <Picture PVC stands with rock slipping over the top.... I don't know about on the web, except WWM, but Anthony's book has a section on aquascaping as do several other good books out there. I would check out some of the better books for good ideas. My own thing lately is Kaelini coral heads set on PVC frames to make upright coral heads with *flat* tops and natural looking overhangs. Be creative, it's more than stacking, it's structural!  Craig>

- Tank Painting - Hello to all! <And hello to you - JasonC here...> I would like to paint the back of my aquarium the blue color that i see many fish stores and individuals have.  What kind of paint do i need to purchase for this and do you know where it is available?    <Water-based enamel is your best bet. Should be able to find it just about anywhere that carries paints.> Thanks, Jason-Surfs up! <Cheers, J -- >

Shells from Seashore Safe? - 2/17/03 Will it cause problems if I put shells I found at the beach in my salt water tank?  I boiled them for 10 minutes before placing them at the bottom.  The tank has been running for about 5 days. Thanks, Michelle <it is not uncommon for shells to carry a disease (even after dry for years... some parasites encyst) or simply be saturated with contaminants from the shore. Most references cite boiling shells for an hour or more to leach potential harms. Best regards, Anthony>

Collected shells Will it cause problems if I put shells I found at the beach in my salt water tank?  I boiled them for 10 minutes before placing them at the bottom.  The tank has been running for about 5 days. Thanks, Michelle <Hey Michelle, it is always risky to add things from the wild into your tank.  The only way to know for sure would be to put the items into a separate container, heat and aerate the water, and test the water for harmful substances. Best Regards, Gage>   

Collected shells Specifically, what should I test for? I am new to all this.  All the usual tests come out fine....salinity, temperature, pH, alkalinity, ammonia, nitrite.  3 out of 5 of my damsels died within 48 hours.  This is a 75 gallon tank; a friend gave us lots of his gravel (and fish poo) to get the cycle started and everything seemed fine, so it makes me think there is something with the shells...what do you think??? Thanks so much for your help. < If all of the usual tests are showing up fine, it is possible that some sort of potential biotoxin or pollution is coming from inside of the shell. Perhaps some residual tissue from the former 'resident" of the shell... or maybe some pollution, unrelated to the boiling of the shell. Many of the beaches on the mainland have high counts of mercury, arsenic, and/or other potential toxic materials. These materials may leach into the water regardless of whether or not the shell was boiled...In the end, it's just not a good idea to use locally collected shells and rocks in our aquariums.  Best Regards, Gage >

Re: live rock/base rock Good Afternoon,   Is it OK to use a base rock product( such as the one offered by Carib-Sea) under live rock. The base rock, which is supposed to be calcium based, would be seeded by the live rock and save me the expense of purchasing all live rock. Are there any negative aspects to this approach? <Some folks consider the use of base rock (both raw/non-living calcium carbonate and old, not-so live live rock) to be a source of nuisance algae problems. I do not. Just cover over the base rock with good live and you should be fine. Bob Fenner> Thanks, John Jordan

Re: non toxic paint for aquarium interior? I've just completed a homemade tank using plans in book "Simplified Reefkeeping". Planning to use it as a large holding tank, but belatedly decided I should have tinted epoxy in case I decide to turn it into a display tank. Can you suggest a safe paint for the epoxy coated interior. The boating store has only 2 part urethanes, no epoxy paint. As always, thank you.  Paul <Mmm, you've about said it all here. If you can't secure a suitable epoxy paint I would use the two part urethane. Bob Fenner>

Re: background Hello! I'd like to make a blue background for my anemones tank. How can I do it. (paint glass from dry side with blue paint, add foil). What's the best way to obtain it. I'd love to have very bright blue background. Is there any way to do background that would illuminate under Tl03 to make it brighter Best regards; Adam <A few possibilities here. There are very bright, metallic foils sold for aquarium background use (in the aquarium trade, plastic coated) that you can tape on... or paint (water-based enamel) might be more to your liking... Or even blue reflectorized material like that made for mirrored wardrobe/closet doors can be had, cut to size... Bob Fenner>

Realistic aquarium backgrounds and collecting in Mexico I'm not sure if this is the correct email address to send my questions to but they are: 1) Are you aware of anyone in North America who manufactures realistic three dimensional backgrounds for aquariums? I saw the Swedish "Back to Nature" backgrounds while in Europe but they are all sized in cm and not inches.  <Walt Smith International is importing these backgrounds. You can contact them or have your supplier do so here: PAFarms@earthlink.com > 2) I just returned from a holiday in Mexico's Yucatan and while there saw thousands of wild bright orange and green Sailfin mollies and some sort of a pupfish (Yucatan flatfish I think) while snorkeling in a mangrove area. As an avid keeper of livebearers and killies I would love to collect some on my next visit. What paperwork and collecting methods would be involved in this undertaking?  Thanks.  Alex Jones <Mmm, to do this absolutely legally requires money, and lots of time... to apply for collecting, export licensing from Mexico City (count on months) and U.S. import documentation. If you're interested in but few organisms for "personal consumption" you might consider simply packing them back sans permits. More on this here:  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/collmarsdvg.htm  Though this is a marine oriented article, the same principles and government bureaucracy are involved. Bob Fenner>

Blue aquarium equipment? Does anyone out there make blue colored "anything" for tanks? <Yes. Blue backgrounds are common> I mean...why is everything black? <Makes the aquarium look like deep water and it's a universal color so it will help when the wife wants to "make it match the living room furniture."> Most tank backs are blue in color, yet all accessories mounted to tank glass (pumps, power heads, tubing, filter tubes, pvc pipes, etc) are usually black in color.  Isn't there anyone that manufactures in blue? <Equipment should blend in not stand out. Picture a blue powerhead on a black background> I am in need of a few blue colored power heads.   <Tell the wife it just won't work! hehehhehe> Is there a way I may be able to buy a black one and use that blue rubberized dip they use to dip tool handles into to make em easier to grip? <You're joking right? No...I wouldn't do this> I was just thinking that maybe I'd be onto something that may work, and could pass this on to members of your forum.  Regards, Steve <Post on WetWebFotos for many opinions. David Dowless>

Corny tank decorations... Hi guys, <Hello!> I was given a small little plastic "treasure chest" (complete with air hose tubing) as a present from my little niece.  It has some fake pearls and jewels on the inside and I was just wondering if this type of ornament would be safe (if not humiliating for my fish!) to put in my saltwater tank.  And if so, how should I clean it first.  On the package it shows both freshwater and marine fishes, but I'm still a bit leery.  And it is kinda cool, even if my fish won't think so.  Thanks bunches! Maureen <Maureen, it should be fine. Wash it good with cold water only then rub it with a white cloth and see if the paint comes off. In fact I might would even place it in a cup of saltwater for a week and then rub it. Honestly though...I can't imagine that this item isn't safe. I think it will be fine to add. David Dowless>

- Using Styrenes in Aquaria - Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to the WWM Crew, all your family, friends and WWM visitors.  <Thank you, and you as well.> I am at my Dad's today and was telling him about some of my DIY fish tank projects..... a seahorse feeding station and an in tank nursery.  He is a model railroader and showed me all sorts of interesting plastic pieces that could possibly be used.... from flat sheets and square piping, to all sorts of other shapes.  Have any of you perhaps used any of these plastic products made for use in the model RR, car, airplane, or dollhouse hobby, for DIY fish tank projects? Do you know whether or not these Styrene based plastic products would be considered fish tank safe? <Most certainly... is an excellent 'plastic' for these uses; quite strong.> If not do you have any idea where I could obtain such information? The material is apparently very toxic in it's liquid and vapor forms, but is used to make many plastics including food and medical grade plastics. <That's right... very useful stuff when it's solid.> Thanks so much!  Happy Holidays and best in the New Year to you all. Leslie <Cheers, J -- >

Re: fresh to salt Steve you're a genius man. <Oh, I don't know about that.> I didn't think about doing that. I happen to have a mag pump too so that'll work out great. <Supreme Mag-Drives are one of my favorites, so cheap and versatile.> So if I wanted to use my lava rock as base rock, it could work? <It depends on your situation.> Is there anyway thing that I can do to the rock to make sure it is safe to use, like soaking it in water or bake in the sun or something? <No> I just hate wasting all this good rock when I could be growing coralline algae on it. <One of the drawbacks of using lava rock is coralline does not grow on it very well.> But, then again, I don't want to risk losing livestock because of it either. Thanks again, Jason <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Decorations I've had my Cleaner Shrimp for a little over two weeks... he is very active.  In the last day, I have noticed some black spots on him.  Is this the beginning stage of  the molting process, or is this something I should be worried about.  The spots kinda look like this dash... except half the size... --->   -  There are about four in around the tail area... and a couple around the midsection. Second question...  I bought a oyster shell from Big Al's.  It was sitting in a bin at the front desk.  I'm not sure if they are treated with any sort of chemicals or preserves... but it was rather clean and shiny.  I figured if Big Al's was selling it, it would be safe...   Anyhow, it was sitting in my tank for 4 weeks... This morning I noticed that it had very tiny green, purple, and reddish spots (mold, fungus, ????) growing on it.  As well, some of the shell had chipped away.  I removed it immediately from the tank.  Do you think this would be a good bacteria growth or a harmful one?   At the moment I have only live sand and live rock... no other decor...  Are these shells safe??? Anything for me to watch for?  What is your opinion on nick knack's like the scuba diver figures, roman forum statues, etc... that you can put in tanks.  Would any of this stuff harm or effect my water??  Dave  Have a good weekend guys! <Okay Dave, let's see if we can't give you a hand. Your shrimp are fine. They go through a few minute changes every few weeks and then molt. I have some with a rather distinct marking and some without. Your shell is probably fine. From the mention of live sand and rock this must be a marine system which indicates after four weeks what was growing on the shell was probably coralline algae which will grow on other surfaces in the aquarium and is desired on rock on some other surfaces by most aquarists. If this stuff turned white when you removed it from the aquarium it was coralline. Now, my opinion on nick-knacks. divers, treasure chests, roman forums....this is just my opinion, but they suck. If I even thought of it my fish would write to Jeff Foxworthy and turn me in.  Well, for that and the car on jacks on the front "lawn" and the old sofa on the porch.  They won't hurt your water, just your fish' pride and fashion sense.  Have fun anyway! Craig>

DSB/Eel Biotope Hey again... I am having issues deciding something. <Well- let's see if I can help- Scott F. here this afternoon> I am in the midst of getting this beast up and running but have some aquascaping issues. Here is a link to a pic of the custom 3D background I made for my tank when it was used for cichlids. It is made of styrene and fully sealed with clear marine epoxy.  http://www.duf.net/zmclan/background.jpg ) Can I use this in my eel tank or do you think it is out of place in a marine setup? <Shouldn't be a problem, unless it bothers your own aesthetic sensibilities...> The issue is getting brown rock that is marine safe that will pull it all together. Live rock looks out of place up against it. Any thoughts? Thanks!  Tim <Well, Tim- again I guess it's a subjective thing...You may be able to build up some live rock to hide the background if it really bugs you...The other thought is to encourage the growth of coralline algae to help "mask" some of the color. Other than that, it's strictly your call! No real right or wrong here. Just do what you feel will look the best...Good luck! Scott F.

Lace Rock Hi friends, <Hello!> Four years ago when I set up my 55 gallon reef, I put in (3) 10 lb. pieces of lace rock and stacked live rock on/around it. It has become totally encrusted with coralline algae, lots of fan worms, mushrooms, sponges, etc. This weekend I will be transferring everything into a new 75 gallon and I am wondering if I should keep the lace rock, or replace with equal amount of Fiji LR. <I would probably leave it now. I would not recommend anyone to purchase this over liverock, but you already have it and it is doing well. It would seem wasteful to get rid of it.> A second question, my refugium will have 4-5" of aragonite sand with macro algae. I  purchased crushed coral/aragonite for the main tank, but am having second thoughts and considering switching to sand. Is the sand a little better, or a lot better? <I strongly prefer fine sand to coarser grades.> On page 74 of TCMA the close up of Live Sand looks a lot like the Carib-Sea aragonite crushed coral I bought?! Please enlighten me! <I have something very similar. It works just fine for denitrification and would be ok for your macroalgae, too. The only problem is it does not seem to provide a good home for many small animals; worms, crustaceans, etc. The sugar fine grade sand is better all around. BTW, you do not see any worms tracks in the picture on page 74, either.> Thanks, Scott <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Pots in Saltwater? Dear Mr. Fenner, <Steven Pro, part of the www.WetWebMedia.com crew, here this morning.> I wondered if it is safe to use a terra cotta pot in a saltwater aquarium? <Fine> I know many freshwater aquariums use them (ponds for example). Would it be ok to use in saltwater or would it be corrosive? <Perfectly acceptable for spawning caves and the like.> Any help or advice will be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Matthew <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Re: Aquascaping Thanks for your response! I never thought of it that way. Ok, so making my own live rock is not such a hot idea. So which live rock is best for a reef tank?  <depends on your goals and livestock> From what I've read rock collected from the Fiji Islands seems to be ideal because of its high porosity, low density and irregular shapes.  <agreed that it is one of the most consistent and useful grades/locales> So the question is where is the best place to buy it? <it all comes from the same place and it all needs to be cured for about 2 weeks with a skimmer and water changes in a separate tank (garbage can, etc). Find the cheapest source. If you choose Walt Smith product, e-mail them asking for a good national or local dealer for you. You can say we referred you if you like. I like his products because he is professional, has been around longer than anybody else (over 20 years!) and he is very reliable. Just my opinion. You can find them at: http://www.pacificaquafarms.com/ Best regards, Anthony Calfo>

Lace Rock Bob, I am starting a 55 gallon saltwater tank. I have been told from 2 Aquarium shops in Denver that I can use Lace Rock that has been aged for over a year in my African Cichlid tank as a base for Live Rock. Any harmful things will be out of it by now.  <I believe that it was likely safe from contaminants from Go, and if it did have contaminants that they are actually still there. Ore deposits don't just dissolve so easily. My bigger concern is that dead uncolonized rock of any kind is a magnet for nuisance algae if you do not have very strict nutrient control (like a good skimmer that produces dark skimmate every day and regular water changes> I did see some purple coralline algae on some in the store. I just would like your expert opinion. I have it in my tank with 45 lbs of live rock for a few days now. I am just getting the tank started. Is it OK to leave this rock in my tank? Chet <For a fish only marine display I suspect it is very fine. I am disinclined to use it for invertebrates though. Best regards, Anthony>

Re: Lace Rock Thanks Anthony.. I will be using a Bak-Pak 2 skimmer.  <OK> I have 2 more questions. 1. Why wouldn't you recommend using a base of Lace rock with live rock EX: <most tanks are not skimmed well enough or have some other nutrient control issues that afford measurable nuisance algae. With dead rock... the chance of a horrendous plague of algae is quite possible on this uncolonized rock. So bad it gets for many that they leave the bobby in frustration. Furthermore... the porosity of natural live rock is more conducive to anoxic and alternate microbial faculties (better denitrification, etc). And lastly... contrary to wishful hopes and thinking... dead rock takes years (like 3-5 on the low end) to become even remotely comparable to live rock in filtrate ability. It lack burrowing mussels, peanut worms, and various other filter feeders and detritivores that will never settle in it. It simply doesn't compare on any level. Now with that said... for a tank with common hardy fishes only, I see no problem using the lace rock. However, top get the natural plankton needed for challenging fishes (mandarins, butterflies, some angels, seahorses, etc) and reef invertebrates... the extra money spent on live rock fully can make the difference between success and failure. If you choose to use the dead rock... I strongly suggest that you plumb a fishless refugium in line with live rock and deep sand to try to compensate> cleaner shrimp? (invertebrates) got my live rock from my local store. It is Fiji rock with the purple coralline algae. I recently saw a few tiny white snails on the front of my tank. Very small like 1/16th of an inch small. I am a very paranoid person and was reading and researching snails on the net and I am hoping these are algae snails and not cone snails.  <I don't know of a single person in over ten years that has even seen a cone snail imported with their live rock. Besides... they are unmistakably patterned> I didn't notice any color other than white.  <many harmless snails are imported this way> I don't want to die from a snail.  <worry about your car instead my friend... > They looked very similar to the freshwater snails that I once had on the glass of my tank. I used snail- -a-cide on them. Is there anything that kills snails in saltwater?<please refrain from such knee-jerk reactions. It is the beauty of live rock... so many undescribed worms, clams, snails, crustaceans, etc. Any chemical that you use to kill snails in saltwater will destroy your live rock and so many other good things with it. Snail-a-cide in FW is copper. If you use this unregulated on your marine tank you will kill your fishes too> I also used loaches in my freshwater tanks. Do carnivorous snails attach themselves to the front of the tank glass?  <if you are still concerned about the snails my friend, put them in a sump or refugium and let them grow out for a photo to ID. Still... if this bothers you... perhaps you would be too stressed to keep live rock at all ;) Kindly, Anthony> I appreciate your time in answering my questions.

Aquascaping Hello master reefers!  <cheers> I recently purchased a manual on EBay entitled "How to Build Aquarium Live Rock and Caves" by William B. Heil and was wondering what you thought about it.  <sounds interesting, haven't read it> The ingredients are Caribbean Play Sand, Portland Cement, crushed oyster shells and water. The procedure for molding the rock is simple and the author suggests a "curing" period that consists of keeping one's rock sculptures under fresh water for 6 weeks with 50% weekly water changes.  <sounds reasonable... the ultimate test is to monitor between water changes for the cessation of pH increases (alkaline leaching)> Then all you have to do is seed the rock! As a conscientious aquarist I was wondering if this would actually work for a reef tank.  <yes... but inferior for its density and lack of porosity> Apart from saving a lot of $$, it seems like a great way to slow down the damage done by live rock collection from natural reefs. What do you think? <there is little damage to reefs from live rock collection, my friend. Live rock is not collected on reef proper... and live rock is a renewable resource: it is storm damaged overgrowth (stonies) that get washed down a reef slope. Aquarium collections of live rock are a grain of sand in a desert. The statistics don't lie.... the global collection of live rock for aquariums doesn't equal the amount of scleractinian product harvested by one of the smallest of thousands of companies worldwide making lime/cement from reef products. Furthermore... the cement that you use to make these forms... guess where that comes from: STTZRCLBDXRQBGJSNBOHMKHJYFMYXOEAIJJPHSC RTNHGSWZIDREXCAXZOWCONEUQZAAFXISHJEXX IMQZUIVOTQNQEMSFDULHPQQWOYIYZUNNYCGPKYLEJG Heehee... one could easily make the argument that cement products are a far greater impact on non-renewable resources than carbonate reef harvests>  Gerardo Gomez <Betcha didn't expect the global economy lesson :) Thanks for listening my friend. Anthony>

Building a tank (particularly coloring the back/ground) To WWM crew, I am planning on building a large tank, by my standards, (at least a 8x2x2). I was planning on building it with plywood. More than anything else I was concerned about how I should paint the inside of the tank. I was thinking about an epoxy based paint, I am really not sure which one would be safe to do this with. I would like to use the tank either as planted freshwater tank or a saltwater shark tank. In the case of the saltwater tank I am even more concerned about the material that I can use to build the tank. I do realize that I have to have no metal in the construction of the tank if I want a shark in it. But I am not sure how to put the tank together without the screws being made of metal. My other concern is the metal in the lighting system how would that effect a shark. I would appreciate any input you may have. <I would skip on using any sort of paint here. Instead, look into the colors that can be added to resins... and coat the inside (and maybe out) with a good quality of laminating type... along with placement, lapping of fiberglass cloth stripping in all corners/joints. Bob Fenner> Thank You Ali

Lava Rock and other stuff. Hello guys, how are you today? <very well, my friend... I hope you are well too!> I'm setting up a 60 Gallon Marine Tank. It will measure 123 Cm. x 51 Cm. x 36 Cm. I will put two 40 watt bulbs (1 actinic and 1 daylight) and I'm planning on making my own sump instead of buying a Tidepool 2. The pump I will be using is a MagDrive 1250GPH. ( I think this will be enough) <indeed enough water flow but perhaps add more daylight tubes in the future for light> I found two bags of lava rocks in my house, you know, those used for the charbroilers? I already boiled them in water and now I have them in a plastic box with salt water, an air diffuser and some Stress Zyme each day, to colonize the bacteria on them. <whoa!... don't put them in the tank and don't bother buying such enzyme products at all... rather a waster of money for most> Today, a friend told me that lava rocks are the worst for marine aquariums, because they have heavy metals and toxins. Is this true?  <yes... it may very well be true. Indeed some risk involved here since lava is volcanically formed. I would never recommend it. Carbonate material is always better> I even have a very good book that tells me that they are the best.  <I wouldn't be surprised if it is the CIG series... a poor and inaccurate reference> I'm only planning to put them in one of the media bays in the sump, because in the aquarium I'm planning to put normal live rock. What should I do? What is the best biological filter for the sump? <if you use it... I don't think it is likely to kill animals, but may impart nutrients for a terrible nuisance algae bloom> What can you tell me about the bed? What kind of sand should I use and how deep? <less than 1/2" if just for aesthetics, 4+inches of sugar fine aragonite sand if you want denitrification> Is the SEACLONE skimmer good?  <it has a BAD reputation with aquarists> I live in Venezuela, and stuff here is very expensive. This skimmer that in the US costs $99, here costs $230.  <my goodness! Many folks here wouldn't even take it for free let alone pay good money for it! What other brands are available to you?> Is it possible to put it in the sump? <there are many models that can go in the sump> My LFS tells me that keeping the salinity at 1.019 will keep the Ich off and other parasites and the fish live happy. Is this OK???  <it is OK but not exactly true... the lower salinity is more favorable to the fishes and less favorable to the parasites, but there is no guarantee that it will prevent Ich. My friend, you really must have a small quarantine tank to all new fish, rock and invertebrates in first. Please read through our WetWebMedia site for advice on QT protocol... it is critical to success. Please never put a new animal directly into your tank from a LFS or anywhere!> what are your suggestions? Thank you very much for your time. Julio Grossmann <with kind regards, Anthony>

Rocks for marine tanks Hi guys. What types of rock can I add to my reef tank? (in addition to live rock) I would like to make some cool shapes and structures using glue and cable ties etc. I don't want to keep shelling out bucks for live rock when I already have an established tank. Besides, I don't have any really bad critters that I know of.  <there is always a concern with foreign/terrestrial rocks of deposits and contaminants... any rock ideally should be pure carbonate limestone> Is Tufa rock a myth? <It's fine as a limestone... but all "dead" live rocks are also invitations to nuisance algae too. Be sure to have wicked good nutrient export processes (careful feedings, dual skimmers, etc) during break in period for rock. I favor mostly live rock. I really like the creative approach with drilling and stitching too! Do share a picture when done :) Best regards, Anthony> Thanks, Becky

Live Rock Hi again, sorry for disturbing. I just want to explain more. I have got these live rocks from my friend. He is an expert in fish keeping. However, he took normal rocks <I have no idea what "normal rocks" are. Hopefully, these are saltwater safe.> and put them in large tank that is full of sea water and he turned on the light. He kept doing that for 6 months until coralline algae appears. Then, he sells them. They should be cured. Right? <Yes, should be cured.> and he told me today they are fully cured. But how come there is an ammonia reading? <I have no idea what you have done.> He said its OK since his SG is much higher then mine. His SG is about 1.032 in the other hand my SG is about 1.021. <I would prefer true saltwater concentrations, 1.025.> Would that really matter? <Maybe> And would that kill the bacteria in the rocks? <Possible> Once again, I am really sorry for disturbing. Thanks Bob, Steven, Anthony <No worries. You just have confused me. I swear you said earlier you collected your own liverock. -Steven Pro>

Lace Rock I'll be moving my 65 gallon reef tank this Friday. Its about 1/3 to 1/2 full with live rock. I feeling more confident as the move date gets closer. Thanks for all the information in the LR FAQs! The local tropical fish store has suggested that I can add some lace rock to my existing live rock. I'm hesitant to add anything that's not calcium based and doesn't come from the ocean. What's your opinion on lace rock? ~Catherine <I would stick to liverock. -Steven Pro>

Cleansing of porous rock for reef use Hi friends, I have some great old porous river rock that has been in my yard for years. I want to place a nice size piece in my reef display tank so that it becomes encrusted with all the goodies and eventually is live rock. My question is how can I safely/properly clean this rock from any substances it may have from the outside, so when I do place it in my tank I shouldn't have any worries of toxins etc.. ? Thank you, Paul <I would boil, do a bioassay with some of this rock. Please read through our site: WetWebMedia.com re rock ornament use. Bob Fenner>

Artificial Corals Hi Guys! <Howdy> Not a fishy question this time! I was wondering if you could tell me where I might get some nice artificial corals. I have tried contacting Living Color but get no response from them. Also, I'd need somewhere that ships to the UK. The only ones I can find over here are tacky plastic ones. <Some real nice ones are due out from Pacific Aquafarms soon. They will likely be picked up for distribution by TMC (Tropic Marine Centre) in the UK... I would keep your eye on the advert.s in the hobby magazines and mention your desires to your local retailers. PA's new website is due to launch in a few days/weeks... keep looking for it. Both businesses we have some background on WetWebMedia.com Bob Fenner> Many thanks. PS pygmy puffers now have a wide variety of food items to choose from -thank you! Lesley

Aquascaping in a Fish-Only Tank As usual you are doing a great job. <Thank you kindly.> I have a couple quick questions that I have searched the site for that I can't find addressed: I have a 72 gal fish only setup with one 4' 40watt 10,000k light, a 30 gal wet/dry, Berlin skimmer, UV light. My tank is stocked with a blue tang, yellow tang, Picasso trigger, porcupine puffer, and an emperor angel (all five fish are youngsters; I realize they will outgrow the tank). <Agreed, start looking into that 180 soon.> My questions: 1) I would like to change my crushed coral bed and bleached coral / lava rock aquascaping to a sand bed and live rock. Can I have live rock with predatory fish? <Sure> What about a sand bed with the messy feeding that takes place? <I would use a thin layer of sand in the main display. Maybe a DSB in the sump/refugium after some prefiltering.> My tank is reef ready (overflow) so all waste is skimmed off the top of the water; you can't vacuum sand I assume? <You should not need to if you feed properly and have a healthy population of critters to clean the sand.> 2) Do I change out all the bed and aquascaping at the same time or seed it with the crushed coral? <I would remove all the crushed coral at once.> 3) I currently have 40watts of light, should I add more lighting for (live) sand or the live rock? <For the rock, yes.> I own an unused 96watt power compact (two blue, two white) that I can throw on if needed? <Sounds good.> I appreciate you time in answering our questions on a daily basis. Thank you, Mark Hill <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Substance safety in tanks Dear Anyone: If you wish to use more creative substances in a reef tank, whether for artistic or financial reasons, how can you ascertain their safety? <Practically... by "bio-assay"... perhaps boiling the item/s in water, or just letting them soak, trying out various types of sensitive life in the made up water to see if it is toxic... Brine shrimp nauplii are one fave test organism in the sciences...> I'm thinking of glass, plastics, and ceramics. Can you coat with anything to make them impervious to seawater? <Some, yes... latex paints, epoxies... Most glass, plastics used for human consumption, ceramics are fine in captive aquatic systems> Dead fish don't do much for art. <But can "tell some tales". Bob Fenner> Thanks! Pam S.

Fish Only I have just started a salt water fish only (72gal) tank. I am trying to aquascape it with several different types of dead dried up corals nothing synthetic. <Synthetic is much better for the world's reefs and considerably easier/safer to clean.> I am having a hard finding white pieces especially white - clean looking white pieces. The ones I do find are on the internet and they seem to have lots of ugly brownish tints to them or have brown rusty marks on them. <Strange, almost all are pure white after the tissue is dead and the "skeleton" is exposed. Some are covered in a colored epoxy; yellow, blue, red, etc. All get diatoms (brown) and algae (green, pinks, etc.) growing on them after one month in your aquarium and require bleaching to maintain the white appearance.> Why am I having such a hard time finding good pieces? <Looking in the wrong places?> I am not sure about this but I think I heard of people beaching their coral pieces so that the are white without any brown marks. Have you heard of this and would recommend doing something like that to clean up these pieces? <Yes, most do bleach the corals. You can read about the procedure here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/clnornart.htm> Is the there something SAFE I could use to clean them with? Or do you think I should just return them? Is there any retailers on the web you would recommend?- Thanks for your time- Ron <Not too many people are carrying these type of decorations anymore. Most aquarium keepers are moving towards the liverock pseudo-reef look now. -Steven Pro>

Unruly Fish Hi guys! I have a question regarding the behavior of my salt water fish. They are picking up each other's bad habits. It started with the Clarkii digging in the sand with his tail around his anemone. He dug out a huge pit. Then he started digging under the live rock resulting in a large hollow cave under one of the larger base rocks. Then a damsel starting at the other end of the tank carrying sand in its mouth and spitting it in a corner. It too, dug out a large pit under a base rock. Now the Sailfin tang and even the scooter blennies are joining in. Talk about "monkey see, monkey do"! They go to quite a bit of trouble to make sure the piles of sand are far away from the entrances to their holes. There are caves and tunnels under all the rocks. I have already had one "rock slide" and had to rearrange rocks and shore others up. When I put the sand back in place, the fish just go right back to digging it out again. I've had the tank a year and a half. The fish have been together for several months now and there isn't much squabbling. They all had their hiding/sleeping places before the digging party began. What's up? Any way to get them to stop before everything topples over? I have several soft corals strategically placed and am dreading the day I find everything in a jumble and smashed or damaged. Any suggestions? Other than the above mentioned problem, everything is thriving. Thanks for your valued advice. <an inconvenience... but necessary only one time: remove all rocks and bury a piece of egg crate just below the surface (will not impede natural processes of diffusion through the substrate). You can just push it under an inch or so... then stack rocks back on top. Again, you'll only have to do it once.. it will stop the digging and dangerous rockslides.> Janice in Austin <best regards, Anthony>

Inquiry about Clear Coat for Aquarium Rocks <<JasonC here, filling in for Bob while he is away diving.>> This is somewhat of a technical question. I'm trying to find a clear coat substance to coat aquarium rocks with that would be safe for fish. Like the epoxy coatings that they use on gravel. Can someone please tell me what would be safe. <<this is a great question, but I'm drawing a blank. Bob will return 12/7 and you can ask then OR you might post on the WetWebDiscussion Forum - many people there with varied experience. My apologies, every day I realize there's less and less that I know.>> Thank you, don <<Cheers, J -- >>

Painting the Overflow HI <<Hi, JasonC here, filling in for Bob while he's out diving.>> Can I spray paint the inside of my over flow box ? Thanx Mark <<I would not recommend it. Cheers, J -- >>

Where to Buy Base Rock (Tufa/Lace) For Marine Aquariums I would like to purchase base rock for my marine tank, in addition to the live rock I have, but I am unsure as to what types of places sell rock like that. I was thinking Home Depot or something... Where's a good place to get Reef Compatible rock at a good price? I live in NYC area; but perhaps you might point me in the right general direction as to what types of businesses I should be looking for if you are not familiar with that area... Do landscaping places carry this stuff? <I would not recommend putting this stuff in your tank. If you wish to lift your liverock up, try using inert materials such as PVC pipe (drill a bunch of holes in it to minimize stagnation), milk crates, egg crate light grid, etc. Many people have used these type of items to build structures to place liverock on and avoid having a giant pile of rock. -Steven Pro> Thanks a lot.

Turf algae - aquascaping Mr. Fenner just completed the "Conscientious Marine Aquarist". Excellent read. <Ah, glad you found it of use, interest> I am attempting a concept tank (first marine) using macro algae as a sort of cross over from my main hobby - fw aquatic plants. (www.aquaticlounge.aquariumplants.cx) (to remind or catch you up:) <Ah, yes. Have split up the Links Pages on WWM, need to make the one on Planted Systems "real"...> I have a 3.5 gal eclipse - no added filtration or lighting (no plan to add). fert Kent's essential elements once wkly, feed DTs twice weekly and feed sole inhab (V. puellaris) goby every 2nd or 3rd day with variety. Question: I would like to use turf algae (which I have) as a sort of substrate covering - sim to Amano style planted tanks using Riccia. I have searched your site and reefcentral concerning both turf algae and nylon and most comments ref to turf algae as nuisances. I want it, so most don't apply. <I understand, and agree> I was wondering if I could wrap small rocks in turf algae using nylon mesh (will this be safe for fish?- <Yes> I've had prob.s before) or should I use a plastic mesh instead. Or, on other hand would fishing line tightly secured be best choice. <Either one will work, be fine... the algae will grow on to the hard substrate in a matter of days to weeks> I plan to wrap 2 or 3 rocks and place in a stair step design and add cup Caulerpa to display. Ideas, comments, warnings? Thanks again, Joe Anderson Oklahoma City, <Sounds like a worthy project... and a challenge in such a small volume> BTW, I would also like to know what it would take (cost, details, scheduling) to get you to OK sometime next year. There are three clubs in the OKC/Tulsa area that would be interested in pooling resources. My club is fairly new, so we've never brought anybody in. Curious as to the process, costs. Do you usually suggest that we get sponsorship? Any preferences/etc.? <Good questions. No cost to me specifically (i.e. I don't require, request stipends), inexpensive flights, some place to stay (spare rooms are fine). If people in the clubs have time to show me about (stores, their tanks) I am much-interested in chatting with them, making photographs. Time frame is mainly dependent on if I have a trip scheduled out elsewhere (don't have a "day job"). Bob Fenner>

Gluing rocks together <Anthony Calfo in your service> Hi, I was just curious if you have any experience using aquarium grade silicone to join live rock.  <yes... a very poor long term solution> I have tried the green clay type epoxy in the past, but I was not very impressed.  <too expensive even if it did work> Maybe I didn't have the rock dry enough, etc. Would the silicone work as well, at least, or should I give the epoxy another try.  <neither...most of the big displays use masonry bits and plastic cable ties to stitch rock together... it is fast, very sturdy and very inexpensive. I wrote and illustrated this simple technique for building rockscaped arched and caves in my recent Book of Coral Propagation> Thanks immensely, for all your help and knowledge. Nathan <with kind regards, Anthony Calfo>

Greenery for marine system Hello there, I have a long-horned cowfish in a 75-gallon tank, and I'm looking for something to "spice-up" the tank. Since I cannot keep polyps or coral, I was considering planting some sea grass. What are your thoughts on this? Where can I find sea grass? What is the scientific name of the most commonly encountered type? Thanks! <I would get some Caulerpa. It is not a true plant, but a macroalgae. Seagrasses require deep sand beds over 6" and are considerably more delicate to ship and get to root. Take a look here for more info http://www.wetwebmedia.com/caulerpaalg.htm -Steven Pro> Sam

Compatibility (rocks, marine systems) How is the world treating you Bob? I'm sorry to trouble you again but I need your advice. I have a 300g tank with coral sand 2 G. permistus, 2 Horseshoe crabs 2 Lion fish hermits and damsels as a live food source and 100 pounds of live rock. I use a w/d filter and L/R for filtration. My question is regarding aquascaping. I have been sown the local market and there is a large selection of rocks for sale there. I think the rocks are quartz or very similar. They contain no flecks of metal like granite and have natural holes running through them. I would like to know if it is safe to put these rocks in my tank with the L/R? <Perhaps so... but they may prove deleterious in another way. Your Morays are actually quite clumsy... and even Lionfishes have cut themselves on such sharp material...> If not Could you recommend a type of rock that is safe, besides rock from the sea. Thanks again for your time and troubles hope the rest of the day treats you well. Craig <Do place some of this material in a "test tank" with a few damsels to give it a bit of bioassay... if they show no signs of distress after a month or more, it can likely be trusted. Bob Fenner>

Lace Rock in a Marine Aquarium Bob / Anthony / Steve, I really enjoy this site!  <very glad to hear it. Anthony> It has cleared up several issues already like..... "2" substrate should be under 1/2" or over 3" and you MUST have a quarantine tank" and my favorite "bristle worms will not come out of the tank at night and kill you in your sleep" ;-]  <actually, that last one really isn't true... I've never seen bristleworms kill anything larger than a Chihuahua... and it didn't impress me... I don't even like Mexican fast-food> However, I now know that I would like a bigger tank, large sump, refugium, etc.... Down to business: FOWLR - 40 gal tank, Eclipse 3 filtration, 15lbs live rock, temp 76, PH 8.3, Ammonia 0 - 0.2 (hard to tell the difference), Nitrite 0, Nitrate 0-5 (again difficult to tell the difference), phosphates came down from 1.0 to 0.5 on its own had 1.0ppm phosphate in the tap water). I'm using an in tank Coralife protein skimmer 3(only one that fits without modifying the hood) that gets about 8oz. skimmate every two days (dark green tea color).  <excellent> I have done a 10% water change at the two week mark.  <future reference...10%weekly or 15-20% biweekly would be better> Currently, I'm using a Hagen powerhead 402 with a quick filter attachment loaded with Phosphate sponge to pull down the Phosphates to 0. There are two Allen Damsels, <gorgeous fish> 1 Humbug damsel, 9 small hermit crabs blue leg and black/white, <a herd or crabs...or is it a gaggle, maybe even a flock> 6 snails (turbo), and 1 emerald crab. All seem healthy. The live rock is loaded with white brittle stars, a couple of brown button polyps, spaghetti worms, coralline algae, and some Caulerpa. I just got the quarantine tank today and plan to seed it with water and 1/2" substrate from the display tank. I have been aging my water for at least a week and plan to use the QuickFilter to take out the phosphate before it gets into the tank (so I don't have that huge filter and powerhead in my tank too). I went to my LFS to pickup some more LR. They were very picked over so I thought about getting some rock that was dead and big to hide the heater and filter intake. They had a perfect piece of lace rock. I added it to the tank 8 days ago. All appears to be well except I went to a different LFS and they had a huge sign that said lace rock $2/lb FRESHWATER ONLY! Upon questioning, they said that the lace rock contains metals which would poison a marine tank. Have I seriously screwed up? Even though my tank is FOWLR I may upgrade the lighting and add some inverts down the road. Is lace rock poisonous to everything, fish only, or inverts only?  <very tough to say...although harmful mineral deposits are possible. The snails could be one of the first to show it if it was> Of course after looking at the appearance of the lace rock, I wish I would have just added several pieces of base (coral) rock and built it up, however, hindsight is 20/20. Also, there are tiny 1/32" long white things crawling on the lace rock and the glass near it. Any thoughts as to what they may be? Are they harmful? helpful? <likely helpful...send a picture if possible> Since Christmas when I received the aquarium as a gift, I have learned a ton from Bob's book The Conscientious Marine Aquarist and this site. Unfortunately, I found the site and got the book after I had the aquarium up and running or I would have gone a different route from the start. However, the aquarium looks good where it is and now is a challenge to keep everything alive without the sump, refugium, UV, ozone, etc.....I do plan to add a 55watt PC in about four months once I'm done tinkering with the aquascape so the coralline and future toadstool leather coral will do ok. Thanks for the help and the great reading. Kinzie <zuppa! Anthony>

Synthetic Coral Manufacturers Bryan again. I have a 75 gal FO. I have been searching the links for makers/sellers of either synthetic corals or coral skeletons only place one is sort of what I'm looking for (Acme Reef). Any suggestions. Thanks Bryan. <The company Coralife/Energy Savers makes some fairly inexpensive synthetic corals that should be widely available at various pet stores nationwide. Look here http://www.esuweb.com/new_site/ -Steven Pro>

Building a Cool Rockscape <Hi, John... Anthony Calfo here answering Bob's mail while he is out getting fitted for a full length, latex Batman costume (personal reasons)> I have a question concerning aquascaping. I am in the process of setting up a marine aquarium. I used pvc pipe for a framework for my rock work. <very cool...I love it already> Next I used Epoxy Putty (which is made for aquarium use) to glue the rock work to the frames.  <Holy bejesus! I wish I had talked to you before you spent your child's college fund on underwater epoxy> I am not happy with the results, the rocks are not as secure as I would like. My question is would there be any problem using aquarium silicon to glue the rocks together for more support? <wouldn't hurt or work any better in the long run. Public aquaria and aquarists creating displays as you desire have a remarkably simple, durable and inexpensive solution to this problem. Its so cheap it will make you nauseous... you might even toss a kidney. A five dollar fistful of plastic cable ties and a three dollar masonry drill bit will take care of rock for a two hundred gallon display if you own an electric drill. Pick select rocks to cover the structure like a veneer and drill holes through the rock to fit the cable ties through for tying off to the frame. You may want to even tie some of the rocks to each other. I mention this style of aquascaping (building caves and arches) in displays in my Book of Coral Propagation. But don't buy the book for that...hehe. There's not much more so say about it. Give it a try with a few pieces and write back if you have anymore questions. Best of luck to you, Anthony> Thank You

Foam Mr. Fenner- I'm not terribly versed in the world of aquaria but I would like to set up a freshwater tank, 55 gal. <Help is available> I saw in a local pet store a 3D backdrop made out of a soft foam. The prices were ridiculous so I'm thinking of trying to do one myself. Would you have any idea what type of foam is okay in a freshwater tank? <Actually... outside. I've tried to make such dioramas myself over the years... Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/aquascaping.htm ... you can make some really neat ones with mirrors, fiberglass/resin... or melted down Styrofoam... painted, lighted. There are some chemically inert internal backgrounds that are absolutely gorgeous for larger tanks... some are quite pricey. Please give the Freshwater Index of our site a read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWtopicsHP.htm and... we'll be chatting. Bob Fenner> Thank you for your help. -Shelley

My new 25 gal tank. (lava rock in a marine system) hi I am only 14 and I have a 25 gal tank and I am waiting for a full cycle to happen . I have only three damsels, crushed coral, and lava rocks. people tell me I should remove the lava rocks is that true? <Maybe... some lava rock has a good deal of iron to it... any staining evident on your gravel? There are free iron test kits (to gauge how much is in your water)... Otherwise lava rock can be too sharp for your livestock... But I have used lava rock in our stores, in my tanks over the years that was okay as well...> my ammonia seems to be ok but my nitrites have been at 5.0 for 2.5 weeks now. do you think that I am doing something wrong? <Could be... Please read over this part of our site: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm for ideas on how to establish cycling... But it could be that just more time needs to go by> I always add cycle in the tank but it doesn't seem to help. oh and I have a lot of bubble rocks in my tank, is that bad.  <Hmm, don't know what you mean by "bubble rocks".> well I hope this isn't too much to answer. THANKS <Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

Paints for coral skeletons Hello, can someone please help me. I need to know if I can paint the coral skeletons in my marine tank and if so what brands of paint are safe. thank you  <Can be coated/painted with resins (easy to colorize) or epoxy, rubber paints (like the ones used in the spa, pool business). Follow directions explicitly, cure elsewhere. Bob Fenner>

Aquarium decor Hi Bob I'll take your advice and wait another couple weeks before introducing the Flame Hawkfish. For a fish only tank what decor do you recommend? Are these acceptable: artificial coral, artificial sea fan, base rock any other rocks that are not live?) <These and so much more> It seems most stores try to promote the live rock I can't seem find just plain rocks for Marine aquariums. <This is often sold as "base rock"> Any drawbacks with artificial corals? <Hmm, they won't help with the overall chemistry of the system (by melting, contributing to the biomineral and alkaline content)> Is dead coral ok, will it last long or leach any harmful compounds in the water? <Dead coral is fine... often used as crushed material, substrates> I've read that dead coral helps maintain the Ph. <Yes> Are Rainbow rock safe for saltwater? <Some... but not in general...> I need ideas, because I know the hawkfish likes to perch and I want to provide an adequate environment for it. <Agreed. Keep "researching", dreaming. You will know.> Thanks again Kam P.s. I've known the Wet web for 2 days now and found it to be the most helpful website compared to previous ones. <Thank you for this. Be chatting my friend. Bob Fenner>

Paints and plastics Bob, How are you today? <Fine my friend. Hope, trust the day finds you well> I have a couple questions.. What paints are aquarium safe?  <Hmm, have found latexes (water based) to be fine around systems> And what rubber products? If one was planning on making some artificial corals etc, what would be safest to use? <Hmm, Polyurethanes that are UV resistant... not rubbers per se> Also, what is best for mounting coral? A plastic product like PVC piping or something like stainless steel? <No metal... best really to just use "gravity" (never let me down... ok, always lets me down...)... pinning corals as in frags?... if necessary gel type "super-glues". Bob Fenner> Thanks Chris

Re: paints and plastics Thanks Bob are there any plasters or stone substitutes that can be used in the aquarium safely? <Hmm, yes... calcium silicates (like mortars, cements) have been/are used as well as calcium sulfate (Plaster of Paris)... with various adjuncts... Might I ask what you hope to do?> Have there been any successful attempts at re-creating some of the reef life forms? If so, are they available for purchase...? <All sorts of models... of various materials, qualities, costs... and yes, available> Last question for now... what is the best skimmer for a large aquarium, (200gal) <Depends on the purpose... my fave carte blanche is the Euroreef... with Eheim pumps. Bob Fenner> Cheers Chris

Re: paints and plastics Bob, Well, I am tempted to make my own artificial coral, and was thinking of possibly trying to even model an anemone, out of some type of pourable/paintable flexible plastic... <Great project> So many of the artificial corals etc that I have seen are fairly unattractive, and do not look live whatsoever. <Agreed> If you know of any that aren't, I would love to be directed towards them. <Go to the WWM Links page, and search through the Walt Smith site... he's starting to offer a European line of artificial cnidarians that is absolutely spectacular.> Also, is it wise to have a DSB in an aquarium with triggers/puffers and the sort? <Sure> or would it be best to just have this in the sump, and use something with a larger particle size in the display tank...? <A sump is almost always preferable... for manipulation and discounting the potential downsides of deep sandbeds, plenums. But can be done in either/both. Bob Fenner>

Re: paints and plastics Bob, Another couple questions for the day... I searched through the Walt Smith site, and could not find any artificial decorations...oh well. <Hmm, they're distributing these through their L.A. business, Pacific Aquafarms... will be putting these imports on their new site I guess. 310-406-1235 is the number there> I have some sun-bleached and dried starfish and sand dollars...are these tank safe, or is it advisable to make some kind of replication of these? <Not the starfish... the sand dollars might be okay... can be problematic if the water gets "too stale" inside them in a tank... often break> I am assuming of course that the real thing cannot be put with Triggers... <Actually... very individualistic... maybe okay> hope you have a good day.. cheers Chris <Ditto. Bob Fenner>

Software (aquascaping input) Bob, Hey, how goes? I was wondering if there was any software that allows for modeling of an aquarium. Like the software that is available for virtual landscaping? <Yes, have seen some such... offered in the hobby magazines> If not...are there any resources for aquascaping? I love the look of this setup. http://www.substr8.com/images/sample_marine.jpg <Wow, very nice, clean... with some very hard to keep species... not a "real" display... this mix, positioning of organisms won't live as this...> And I would love to see some other options to the 'wall-o-reef' look <Time to go diving, check out underwater coffee table books... and develop your own notions of "how to do it" (aquascaping wise). Bob Fenner> Cheers Willy

Re: software Bob, Thanks for the reply... After reading your site I knew that your replies were speedy, but I thought that meant a matter of days...not minutes! <I key quickly... though some folks at times think I'm a device.> Out of curiosity, what stops that dank from being a 'real' display, and why wouldn't the organisms live? <The Neptheid corals don't live like they're displayed... actually, rarely live in captivity at all... and the anemones stacked the way they are... and much more... this is a whole bunch of differing life forms from all over the planet, different "micro"-environments... that are chemically and physically incompatible... a temporary display (weeks), though beautiful, striking> Ever wondering Willy <I as well. Bob Fenner>

Metal Decorations I was wondering if a brass decoration in my live reef setup will do any harm? Thanks Dave Smith <Absolutely. Real Trouble... will dissolve... an alloy of... copper and zinc... both very toxic to aquatic life. Bob Fenner>

Painting acrylic tank/stocking list Hi Bob, First off, thanks again for all of your help. It still amazes me that you would set aside so much of your personal time to help all of us out.  <You're welcome, and it/this is "my life"... amongst my daily agenda (sorry to only a small extent for this digression/explanation, but want to be clear with you and others: In my day to day experience I try to "accomplish" five things: 1) something to improve my mind. 2) something to make a little money (this IS an exchange economy) 3) something for exercise. 4) something to stay on good terms with others. 5) something to improve the planet. "This" venue grants me four of the five, some days all five (as in when lifting fish tanks!)> Well, I have three questions: 1) I wanted to paint the back of my acrylic tank black. Have you had any experiences with rollers/spray paints? Your recommendations? <Yes, use water-based latex. Apply with a small roller. Tape the sides, edges to discount spills> 2) FFE has Walt Smith Fiji LR and Na Moli <you mean Hapai?> LR. Have you seen these? Is one better than the other? How about half of each? <Do know of these. Both are good. Mixing them would be fine> 3) Once the LR cures, would the following stocking plan be ok for a 36"x30"x20" tank with 20gal sump with sand/LR/Caulerpa (maybe plenum???), Eheim pump for return, Knop skimmer, 2 Rio 800 for circulation, 90lbs LR, 2" sand bed, 200watts PC, hopefully with some mushrooms and soft corals: <Okay so far> 10-20 snails, 3-4 hermit crabs, 2 Lysmata amboinensis, 2 Lysmata wurdemanni <A bit crowded for two species of Lysmata...> 1 V. puellaris 1 O. aurifrons (with 4" sand bed in one corner of tank for him) 1 P. hexataenia 1 N. magnifica <Nemateleotris? Best kept in pairs... for much larger systems, groups> 1 A. frenatus 1 A. percula <Would just go with one species of Amphiprion> 1 Z. flavescens 1 A. japonicus (Scott Michael's "Marine Fish" noted that A. Nigricans was better?) <I hope not on the latter reference... nope, I see in my copy on p.377 he does state this! Incredible, and I suspect this to be a simple error... I am of the exact opposite opinion... At any length, no to either in this size system... just go with the Zebrasoma listed, or sub a small Ctenochaetus for it> 1 C. loricula <This tank will be full... as in no more fishes> Would this stocking list be ok for my current setup? I would add small specimens, spaced 2-3 weeks apart, in the order listed (after 2 wk quarantine, AFTER tank cycles course). If so, is this about the max, or would I be able to add a smaller fish or two in the future?  <No mas> I realize the tangs might need a little more room once they get bigger, but was hoping you'd think it was ok. <One tang, solamente uno> Again, thanks for all of your help and advice, and sorry about the length of the email. After months of reading and researching, it's pretty exciting to move past the planning phase!  <I'll say! And no worries> I'm building the stand and canopy now, and am waiting for the tank. Thanks again! <Be chatting my friend. Bob Fenner>

Tank Safe (determining which materials are) Bob, As you well know, I'm very new to all this reef "life-style". I have a question about how to determine if something is safe to place in the aquarium. <Okay> At times, I need to use an item that was not purchased at a fish store to accomplish some task in my sump or aquarium. For example, I'm getting a new circulation pump and have heard that if I place the pump on a soft pad it will make less noise. Of course, soft pads can be made of all sorts of materials--plastic, foam, rubber, carpeting, etc. <Yes> How do I determine whether a material is safe to place in an aquarium or sump? My thoughts are these: 1. Some materials can breakdown and pollute the tank. 2. Some materials can trap debris and foster unhealthy bacteria. 3. Some materials can breakdown and put millions of tiny particles in the water. Can you give me your criteria for determining whether a material is tank safe? Best regards, Michael Rivera <Sure. The best, really only viable method involves "bioassay", that is, use of the material in a hopefully controlled and limited fashion to assess its usefulness, potential toxicity. Here we're generally talking soaking, trying the material out in a small set-up and seeing if it outright kills some test organisms. Practically speaking, some materials are considered reef-safe from years of use: polyethylene, PVC, Dacron/polyester... among others... and I would look for these compounds in choosing stuff to go in and around your systems. Hope this helps. Bob Fenner>

Reef wall Hi Bob, Mike again, and I was wondering if I could get your opinion on something. Recently I was looking over Advanced Tidal Systems COSA (computer operated surge aquarium) and at their designs. I'm pretty sure it's out of my league as far as prices go (I got the feeling it's an "if you have to ask, you can't afford" operation, especially if they're sending their tech out to inspect your unit on a frequent basis <3 times a week at startup> ), here's the url if you're curious: http://www.advancedTidalSystems.com/ <Nice site... the COSA units come with a generator in case of power failures? Wowzah> At any rate (done rambling, for now :) ), I had an idea. How practical would it be to build a reef wall similar to what they use? <Easy enough> I was thinking of using the dual island design from Paletta's "The New Marine Aquarium" for my live rock: two peaks with a clear channel between, the peaks being in the middle of the tank. My idea was to use GARF's Aragocrete mix and some dry rock (purchased or created) to put a reef like backing on the tank. This would create about 11 sq/ft (I've talked the wife into letting me get a 300g tank, assuming there's room of course) of colonizing area for various plants and animals, not including protruding rock volume. Best guess is between 1.0" - 1.5" thick, with some thin rocks for shelves and/or hollow rocks for caves. So now we adding between .9 to 1.375 cu/ft or Aragocrete to the back of the tank, compared to weight of the water and live rock, effects should be minimal, but it might pay to have a thicker than standard grade of acrylic (decided to go w/acrylic for the tank) to add structural integrity. <Wouldn't hurt, except the ole' pocketbook> Part of my thinking on this was that after looking at numerous tanks on the web one thing kept popping into my head: look at all that empty space going unused on the back (I guess being an engineer really has changed the way I think, :) ). So, to got back to the beginning, do you think this is a practical idea? Would it improve the quality of life of my someday-to-be aquatic guests? <Do think this is a great project, practical, and the more swimming space, as long as there is room to get away out of eye-shot, the better> As always, your thoughts and time are appreciated, Mike <Keep planning, dreaming. Bob Fenner>

Safe Paint for Aquarium  One other question--my tank was delivered yesterday. Through some confusion on all sides, the back of the tank was not painted black! :( It didn't even dawn on me until I got home from work last night and was working on the plumbing. I think the LFS will come and paint it for me, but if I end up having to paint it myself, what kind of paint is appropriate, and is there anything that could be rolled on as opposed to sprayed on (so I could do it with the tank in place and not have to move it away from the wall)? BTW--it's an Oceanic glass aquarium. TIA! --jd <Yikes... yes, use flat black water-based enamel... and a "mini-roller" (like those used for oil-based paints on doors...)... and likely an extension pole! Bob Fenner>

Skittish fish  We have a 75 gallon reef maybe 2mo. old with a smattering of  fish, Chromis, damsels, Firefish and a coral beauty. All seems normal be when  we do routine maint. like water changes the fish do a jitter dance in the  corners like they are about to be eaten. So my question is: could I put some  mirror film on the outside of the tank with the mirror facing the fish so  they wont be disturbed? The tank sits in the corner with minimal foot traffic, so what gives?  <Umm, if I understand you here... the new water is likely not "ready to be  used" as you've prepared it (it's toxic in some way/s)... do read over the  "Seawater Use" section and FAQs posted on the www.WetWebMedia.com site...  you may need to get a R.O. device (for your cooking, drinking use as well),  and pre-mix and store your new/change water for a week or so ahead of use...  Don't use a reflective material on the outside of your tank... this will  cause your livestock harm, and won't look good to you in any length. Bob Fenner>

RO Unit and more Thank you so much for answering me back, you are incredible! I do have a RO unit, but I haven't been letting the water sit except in the storage tank{50 gal.}, but I will from now on! Thanks for the Heads up on the reflective material, good to know. thanks again! Mike McDonough. <Ahh, glad to be appreciated for ones efforts. Press on my friend. Bob Fenner>

Backgrounds I would like to know if it is possible to print backgrounds on my computer printer, and then just add them to the back of my 55 Gal Hex tank. And if so, do you think that you might have a link for a site that has some to offer? >> <Good idea and question... do suspect that if you have the printing capacity, characteristics you might be able to do this... and have helped a friend with providing and trying to make images to put such together (ala the composite image's) for the Sprung re-written reef book covers)... but don't know expressly where you could lift such work. Bob Fenner>

Beware of dead spots Hi Bob, I'm spending hours reading your articles and FAQs at FFexpress & your wetwebmedia.com web site. What a great service you provide! You have already helped me tremendously through previous emails, and I have always been amazed with your timely and courteous answers, despite how stupid my questions must seem. <Never my friend> I was just reading your article on aquascaping (excellent BTW - great inspiration), and noticed: "Beware of dead spots; provide for total flow-through circulation by way of pumps, airstones." Does this mean to make sure that the live rock is sitting above the substrate, instead of on or in it? <Not necessarily... as long as there is some space around such structures and the substrate not too thick, made of too small particles, with much mulm allowed to accumulate amongst it... no problems... typically you can/will see (blackened areas, bubbles coming out in the vicinity) or even smell (sort of like rotten eggs, hydrogen sulfide) such problems developing... Live rock does not need to be elevated, just water circulated around and through it.> Thanks, John <You're welcome. Bob Fenner>

Arranging live rock I'm just getting my first (small load) of live rock - 22lbs to add to my recently matured 60 gallon aquarium - could you point me to any good articles on how to arrange it in the tank?? Thanks >> Gosh, wish I could.... the subject of "how to" arrange decor hasn't been broached for quite a while in the hobby press (back to eighties by James DeBernardo in FAMA...) My best advice is actually to "take a walk" (no insult implied), around your neighborhood's wilds and look at the placement of natural elements there... and/or glance through "nature books" of underwater places... what do you see? Not symmetry... not total exposure of hardscape... place your rock accordingly, step back... move it about... Bob Fenner

Hey Bob, thanks for the help I've gotten from you in the past. I've been considering renovating my 30 gallon tank and do everything right from the start. I have an idea for a low impact reef aquarium, and I wanted to run it by you before in case there was a problem I overlooked. My idea was to buy a synthetic rock such as aragonite instead of live rock and cut pieces in half so that they would all have a flat side. After planning the arrangement, I would use silicone or another sealant to attach the rock to the glass, mostly in the back. I figured this would allow me to maximize space and create a very strong rock wall. I would probably buy some coralline algae fragments to get the rock some nice color and use crushed coral for the substrate (I would like to build a small sump and put the live sand and rubble I have now in there to start the bacteria culture). I plan on using only cultured corals, as well as a pair of tank raised clowns and three captive bred regal tangs (in my opinion one of the most beautiful reef fishes). As for the lighting, I was considering a compact fluorescent retrofit kit and was wondering how many watts and what combination of daylight, actinic, and metal halide bulbs you would suggest that would allow me to keep any corals and an anemone healthy. Would you recommend a small acrylic sump underneath or would just a UV sterilizer and a protein skimmer suffice once the bacteria was established? Also, will the synthetic rock eventually provide filtration as well as live rock would?. I know there are a lot of questions here, I've had some experience and learned from my mistakes and I would like to set this tank up right from the start and let it mature into a great reef. Thank you very much for your help and any advice you can offer me. >> Hmm, sounds like a nice plan/tank... I do like the idea of cutting the rock... but strongly advise you against siliconing it in... real troubles with not being able to get around it... and you will want to take it out, move it about some day... Trust me... If you feel you need to anchor it somehow, drill and acrylic dowel/pin together the principal pieces. Captive bred Regal Tangs? Really? Think you mean something else... and not this species for such a small tank. Lighting for a thirty gallon? Maybe a Metal Halide 175w and twin 28w CF set up... with a muffin fan or "chimney" arrangement to vent the extra heat. At least one of the CF "pairs" I'd make an actinic. I would use a sump, acrylic or other chemically inert material, though you could get by w/o one... it will/would increase your holding capacity, margins for errors.  No to the ersatz rock providing the same types or amounts of biological filtration... You could skip the real live rock, but I wouldn't entirely... Thanks for writing!
Bob Fenner

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