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FAQs on Marine Aquarium Maintenance/Operation 16

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

Related FAQs: Marine Aquarium Maintenance 1, Mar. Aq. Maint. FAQs 2Maint. FAQs 3Maint. FAQs 4Maint. FAQs 5, Maint. FAQs 6, Maint. FAQs 7, Maint. FAQs 8, Maint. 9, Maint 10, Maint. 11, Maint. 12, Maint. 13, Maint. 14, Maint. 15, Maint. 17, Reef Maintenance 1

Re: SW fish mortality... more GIGO, generalizations in, g out. Now water chg. %   7/27/17
Thanks bob. Always wished there were more hard science when it came to this, more in the direction of cat and dog understanding.
<Google the names Andrew Rhyne and Kathleen Wood. These two have been gathering such data>
I will throw one more in there, misinformation, taking ideas from others and thinking they will work for you.
Was just told by someone at a reputable online fish e-ticket that more than a 25 percent water change at a time is harmful and removed beneficial bacteria. I always thought and still believe organic build up in a fish only set up is bad, and the good bacteria existed on rock, sand tank, and very little in the water.
<Mmm; am leery of generalizations... Would require information on how the replacement water was made, how the old water was removed...>
Never heard of too big of a water change in a fish only set up, as long as temp, salinity and other spec param.s are close.
Thanks again Bob.

Substrate Vacuuming 36 Inch Deep Aquarium       10/17/16
I have a 350 gallon marine acrylic aquarium. It measures 3 feet top to bottom. I need a substrate vacuum that is long enough to reach the bottom and strong enough to do the job and not pull the live sand out. What product do you recommend?
<Mmm; If you don't have the time/inclination to make one of your own, the fine folks at Python Products make MUCH longer ones in varying lengths. See here: http://www.pythonproducts.com/products.html
<Bob Fenner>
Richard M. Jevack
Re: Substrate Vacuuming 36 Inch Deep Aquarium    10/18/16

Thank you for your assistance.
<Glad to help you Richard. BobF>

First timer... 10.5 megs... is there a full moon?        6/19/16
Hey guys my first time salt water owner here. I bought a salt water set up yesterday off a guy who has had it for 8 years. It has remora pro hang on skimmer, a CoraLife uv light cleaner. 2 in tank "water jets" I transported it successfully last night with 80% of his water and the few hermit crabs that were in there. He hadn't had fish in it for about 4 months. He lost his fish due to ick in his tank. I tested the specific gravity this morning after it had cleared up and read 1.034 too high from what I've read.
<Yes... 1.025- ... see WWM re>
Ammonia read 1.2.
<This too; deadly toxic>

And nitrite 0.1 these are the test kit I was given. What advise do can you give me.
<Get, read at least one good survey book on marine aquarium keeping. See WWM for suggestions.
Bob Fenner>
I've attached a few pics of what I've got.

Worm? ID?     6/27/15
Cant find anything close to this. Not sure if it is eggs, worm or poop
<My guess is on the last... What do you feed this system? Some sort of gelatin frozen/defrosted item/s?
Bob Fenner>


Re: Worm? ID?     6/27/15
I feed frozen mysis.
<A vote further in the direction of feces/faeces for the English! BobF>

Re: Quick question... Chatting; NOT using WWM     1/19/15
Sounds like a deal. Hopefully a week a sense from display is enough time to try reintroduction again? Naturally I put rock back in way different from what it was after he went into sump. So I'll have those two factors going, rearranged decor and time away from tank.
In the next few weeks I am going to try my hand in servicing tanks. I like doing it, to me it isn't work, and I could use the extra money.
If possible, any tips or suggestions for the modern day tank cleaning would be appreciated. I know one thing is I tend to spend more time than necessary when I clean my own tank. Spending 4 hours on something that takes others an hour isn't business savvy.
<See WWM Re>

What I would really like to do is start up tanks, explaining how thing work and theory behind the methods. As a former teacher, I live getting messages across in terms they understand (for instance the relationship between calcium and alkalinity, how cycling works, water changes and dilution etx)
After a ton of reading and first hand working with it, I feel I can relate what it does I almost anyone. If there ever is an opportunity to answer the basic questions on wwm, I would love to help.
After dealing with a lot of lfs owners, one thing I have is patience , and I don't mind taking the time out to explain the basic principles. Having taught math to kids with Aspergers, add, etx, I am used to reiterating and finding different medias to drive home answer.
I would no way feel confident about certain areas., zoological applications, sharks rays, sps, etc but setting up tanks, diseases
control, seahorses etx, I feel I could definitely Help people with basic concepts, turned into examples or metaphors the
layman can understand.
If the need ever arises, I would love to try out. (Sorry the old baseball adage)
Thanks bob

Maroon clown yellow tail damsels, adopted/abandoned sys.      5/21/12
First, thank you for keeping this site cannot believe how much I've learned.  Although my eyes are swimming in text and brain is suffering overload.
<Ah, you're alive>
Am about to be seriously long-winded ( my apologies).
<No worries. There is time>
In the middle of this month a coworker told me that he was moving and asked me if I would like his 72 gallon bowfront as he couldn't take it with him.
My understanding was that it had been a marine/failed reef tank. He told me that I had to come during the day as there was no power. It ended up being 9-10 days before I could get him to meet me. When I saw the tank was surprised that it was still setup with water (thought it would be broke down), then I noticed movement. He told me that there were still a few fish (1 maroon clown 4", 2 yellow tail damsels 1 inch and a half other roughly 1 inch), and several pounds of live rock. When he told me he was going to flush, I turned it into a rescue mission.
Was able to keep most of their water (had to replace roughly 17 gallons.
This rescue occurred this past Friday so I am guessing tank went without power for 9-10 day's.
Got everything set backup by Friday night. Picked out a lot of slimy red algae (looked black) and what I think was hair algae. Tank has lots of purple (coraline?) <Likely mostly> Also has a refugium that is based in sand and live rock.
Placed fish back in tank Saturday morning after sediment settled.  Took water sample to store and they told me everything was find but nitrates a little high. They sold me bacteria starter solution and said that should take care of problem.
That was the history and if you can't tell this is my first salt tank.
Thus problem is that when I got home this morning I couldn't sleep so I turned on the lights and saw that one of the damsels had a washed out appearance, and the clown has a white thread/string like thing coming out of each Gill and one off of his snout.  I have family issues out of town today so I'm worried about what I find when I get back.
The only things I've added is two emerald crabs
<Keep your eye on; predaceous w/ growth>
 and six snails. This morning ran tests and nitrates off charts but everything else is about perfect.  Please help.
<Mmm, likely best for you to ask around... a local marine/reef club (see the Net re your geography) and/or a tropical fish store for someone who can/will come by and check out, make sure your gear is all up and going...
Then, really, only a matter of your "easing" into the hobby by study, doing water changes, to slowly improve water quality. T'were it me, I'd read a good general marine aquarium handbook to overall guide your efforts, give you solace. Bob Fenner>
Re: Maroon clown yellow tail damsels     5/21/12
Had planned on at least a 20% water change this weekend but worried about white strings as they weren't there to start with. He gave me some medicine but it has copper in it so I cannot use with invertebrates.  Should I dip him?
<Not to worry... Change the water... No medicine or dipping suggested. The issues here are almost entirely environmental, not pathogenic. BobF>
Re: Maroon clown yellow tail damsels     5/21/12

Thank you for your time and patience with me.  Its nice to know you and your site is here.
<Ahh, service to you! B>

Red colour of a sudden in a SW sys.       5/17/12
I have a 1 month old 55 gal. saltwater tank that has live rock, live sand, clowns, damsels, and a shrimp in it. The problem that I have is that about 1 week ago the WATER color changed Kool-aid red.
<Mmm, what else is in, has been added to this system? Food/s? Decor?>
I took a sample to my local fish store and they said it tested fine. They told me to take out the fake plants that I had in the tank and change out 30% of the water. The plants only had a small amount of red on the base of them. They also gave me an extra filer (pad) to pick up extra particles. I do have a skimmer on the tank that is working fine. The fish are all acting normal
I made all the changes 3 days ago and still nothing.
Do you have any ideas on how to get rid of the red.
<Yes... I'd add a pad of PolyFilter to your filter/water circulation flow path... and change/add some good quality carbon (perhaps ChemiPure or such) in a Dacron bag there as well. Bob Fenner>

Very beginner caretaker for 7 Saltwater and 2 freshwater tanks, maint.    10/6.5/11
<Hi there>
I have recently found myself to be the caretaker of many aquatic animals at my job. The previous caretaker left her a position few months ago (she had a marine biology degree and had maintained relatively healthy tanks), and I must confess, I am rather lost in the upkeep and care of these aquariums. I have had no other experience caring for aquatic species other than a beta fish I had as a child. We cannot afford to have someone on staff to care just for these animals, and other staff members are just as inexperienced as I am. The tanks are as follows:
2 10 gallon tanks housing 11 crown conchs each
1 10 gallon tank housing several mud snails, very small hermits, and a very small stone crab
1 10 gallon tank housing several small hermit crabs and 2 lightening whelks
1 50 gallon tank housing 1 tomato clownfish, 1 pistol shrimp, and 6 medium hermits
1 30 gallon tank housing 1 eastern painted turtle
1 55 gallon tank housing 3 large hermits, 2 blennies and 1 smallish horseshoe crab (I know that this tank is entirely too small for this animal now)
1 55 gallon tank housing 1 striped Burrfish, 4 medium hermits, 2 small stone crabs, 2 sea cucumbers, 1 sea star, and oysters
1 40 gallon tank housing 1 red devil cichlid
The fresh water tanks really don't have many (if any) maintenance problems, but the salt water tanks have become a constant headache. The previous horseshoe crab we housed came down with some sort of gill infection that I have never seen before (his gill became very swollen and puffy, it looked like a giant blister), and I can only assume that it was some sort of bacterial infection.
<Almost always linked w/ environmental issues>
We sent several pictures out to horseshoe crab experts, but none were familiar with what he had and refused to see him in person should he spread the infection. The nitrates in the tank were also extremely high.
To be safe, we removed the other animals and tried to treat the water, but the infection never went away; when he died it had ruptured.
I did a complete water change-out and returned the animals, along with a new horseshoe. This one was smaller, but with barnacle growth and lots of scarring; he hadn't molted for some time, which was surprising due to his size. The nitrate levels went back to normal levels, and the other animals have been doing well in the tank. The new horseshoe was not eating at all though, and now (after reading your site) knowing that he starved to death makes sense. We feed the majority of our animals here frozen bay scallops that have been thawed and break them into small pieces when feeding. Should he eat something else?
<Other locally available, or frozen/defrosted meaty foods cut to size, pushed under its edge>
The striped Burrfish tank has had an almost constant battle with EXTREMELY high nitrates. I have done water change outs, cleaned the bio balls, and tried chemical nitrate reducers, but to no avail.
<These systems are much too small in volume, under-filtered....>
The levels will decrease for a day or two and then be back on the rise. I also read on your site that bio balls can cause problems with nitrate levels; should we have some other sort of filtration system in place?
<Yes. Do read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm
and the linked files above>
The echinoderms in this tank get fed PhytoPlex and the hermits, crabs, and Burrfish are fed bay scallops. We feed all of our animals 3 times a week, and are diligent about removing excess food.
The tomato clown fish tank does well; the animals in this tank live well together and are fed frozen baby brine shrimp.
<... need more than this>
I am just nearly at my wits end with the nitrates and unhealthy tanks. I don't know what else to do other than water change-outs and filter maintenance.
<Read where you've been referred above>
What are some basics that I can do? The resources we have for moving animals and cleaning tanks is very limited.
Any advice would be extremely helpful!
Thank you,
<Welcome. Do write back after reading re what steps you are considering. Bob Fenner>

Your thoughts please, power washing   3/27/11
Wet Web Media/Bob Fenner:
FYI. I have discovered what I believe to be a novel approach to control of hair algae and other undesirables. For about two years now, I have been removing all my live rock (300+ lbs.) from my 210 gal. almost reef tank and pressure washing it with saltwater.
It removes everything except coralline algae and well fastened Halimeda (sp?) algae. The coraline algae seems to thrive after the cleaning. Since I live on a saltwater bay, it works out good for my situation and it only needs to be done about every six months. I still keep my water parameters good, Do not know how long the pressure washer will last, but so far, no problems.
<Run some fresh through it, assuredly, through each marine use>
I also pressure washed an aquarium I take care of for a museum using the old water prior to changing (used a sump pump in the aquarium). This seems to have potential, and I would like Mr. Fenner's thoughts. Thanks for the good job you do. Jim in Florida
<Thank you for sharing Jim. I have a friend of the same name (Jim Stime, of Aquarium Fish Guy video fame) who tried to power wash an artificial coral construct in a tank, but underwater! It didn't work out quite as well.
Cheers! Bob Fenner>

Help identifying large clear bubbles on underside of LR 7/29/10
New to hobby. Learned a lot from your site, hope you can help me. My aquarium is about 30 days old. 100G, 120lbs LR, DSB, stocked with a few Nass snails and Turbos, dozen hermits, a yellow headed goby, a small clownfish, a small mandarin, a small loreto, one scarlet cleaner shrimp, 3 peppermint to deal with a few Aiptasia that came with LR.
<For browsers and you: I would have waited a few more weeks before stocking this, or most any system>
Water parameters have been very consistent for past 3 weeks and all within normal or typical ranges based on what I have read. Ammonia and Nitrite 0 (small nitrite spike that lasted 3 days), Nitrate 0 to 5 PPM based on color chart. Dealing with several manageable algae blooms which I understand are typical - some reddish brown fuzzy algae, some green hair/grassy algae. Nothing major thus far - most of it being handled by CUC. I am concerned with large clear bubbles that are about 0.5 to 1.5 centimeters across that are developing on my rock.
<Mmm, rather than developing, I'd state they're being "held up", trapped beneath it>
First there was one, now there are 10. They are clear - I can see live rock through bubble. They gently move with the current, so I assume they are covered with a thin membrane.
<Just the gas/liquid interface>
I can see a small dark strip inside.
<Reflected et al. light>
I am leaning towards these being eggs but I don't know which of my livestock would have laid these. They are stuck to the underside of one large piece of liverock (the highest piece - closest to the light). I am running actinic bulbs - blue ones. I have uploaded two pictures. Please help!
<Not to worry, this is just gas... organic in origin or not... that you can "brush away" with your hand or a tool when in the tank... Bob Fenner>

Re: Help identifying large clear bubbles on underside of LR 7/29/10
Thank you for your response. I was concerned that these may have been spores, eggs or some sort of algae.
On a separate but related not, now that I have started the initial stocking of my FOWLR, how long should I wait before I begin adding a few more fish?
My plan is one fish per month (after several weeks of quarantine for each), which I understand to be sufficient
time to observe water parameters, livestock, etc. I have had very consistent readings for three weeks. I have not experienced any noticeable "cycle" other than the nitrite spike in the first 3 days of my tank's existence.
<I'd wait a month or so...>
At first I thought my tank has not yet cycled but I have been told by several LFS that I have more than enough bio load and that because of my LR, my tank may have already be cycled. Don't know if this is correct or not.
<... then read re>
I was thinking of buying and quarantining a new fish end of next week, which would be the fourth week of consistent readings. With two weeks in quarantine, I will have been looking at six weeks of consistent readings
(unless something changes) before adding my next fish. In your opinion, is this a reasonable approach?
<Sure. B>

General Questions/Marine Set-Up 10/31/09
-Hello Team-
<Hello Mark. I've read your query, and before I go on, I would like to
know your water parameters, pH, dKH, salinity, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. James (Salty Dog)>
I have a 55 gallon saltwater tank with about 30 lbs. of live rock, a standard Aqueon filter and an aerator. I had this tank for about 9 months now. It's been a ride, to say the least, but one that I have enjoyed since deciding to go 'salt' after growing up watching dad maintain a 30 gallon freshwater tank.
I have a few general questions that may or may not have been answered on your site. Actually, I've done so much reading on your site over the past few months I'm probably confusing myself. lol
But anywho, here are the ?s
1-How many pounds of live rock are actually needed for a 55 gallon setup?
2-The livestock in my tank consist of a 4" Foxface, a 2" cinnamon clown, a 1" yellow-tailed damsel, a 2" pink pseudo, and a 3" orange-spotted goby.
How many more fish can I afford to add to this tank, as I would like to see as many species, colors, and variations as possible without overstocking.
3-considering the aforementioned question, I've had some deaths over the 9 months, and it seems that I cannot keep certain types of fish. I've had a raccoon butterflyfish, a hippo tang (that I REALLY wanted), a blue-eyed filefish (sorry I cant remember its specific name), a bi-color angel and a lemon angel that have all died in a similar manner over this time period.
They all seem to look fine for the first few days to a week. It then appears that they either aren't eating or stop eating. They become lethargic or they don't swim much, almost as if they are becoming antisocial, and then, death comes. What is the problem with all of these wonderfully-colored fish? I've been told at the shops that the fish that I have are just "hardy" unlike the ones that have died.
4-I've read on here that using tap water with a dechloraminator is a good way to maintain proper pH and KH....or should I be using the RO water that's being offered at the shops? I've been taking my water to a few local shops to have it tested, and they've all been saying the same thing - -that the KH level is not high enough. What seems to be the problem? Is this the reason for the livestock deaths that I already mentioned? FYI, I do a 9gal water change every two weeks, and when I add the saltwater back in I add marine buffer and a standard dechloraminator. Should I continue to add buffer on a weekly basis? or should I add buffer to the tank at all?
5-Is cleaning the glass of the algae and growth a good thing or no?
6-When I bought the setup, it came with a standard fluorescent bulb for the size of the tank. As a 'youngster' I recall that this is ok for freshwater species. Is this the case for saltwater? I'd rather have the 'cool look' that comes from the 'purplish tint' of the UV lighting I see at the shops.
How many hours should the light be on? I know consistency is the key with lighting.
7-I'd really like to expand and have a system with corals. Is this possible at this time? I know the lighting requirements are different, but what about compatibility issues with the livestock I already have in place, as well as any other issues? Please give me your critique.
8-the Foxface I has changes colors often (as I know that this is an indicator of its stress level, from what I have been told and read)...sometimes it's the nice yellow color that I see on the fish at the store, and other times it's the pale brownish-yellow color that seems to tell me it's stressed. At night, his whole body spikes up and he turns into a 'monster' (smile). Is this normal activity? What can I do to get the beautiful yellow color that I've seen at the shops at all times?
9-Do I need a powerhead and skimmer? I have a brownish algae (or something) that is covering the tops of the liverock, it looks undesirable, but I'm wondering is it just detritus or is there a circulation issue?
10-The temperature is around 76 degrees. . .I've read that an ideal temp.
for saltwater is between 75-80, so am I within the right parameters?
11-in terms of feeding, I've been using TetraMin flakes and frozen greens.
Is TetraMin better than the food that they are selling in these shops? It seems to give me clearer water, if nothing else.
*I've also attached three (3) pictures of the tank, all taken in the morning when the light was first turned on (hence the Foxfaces spotted colors [smile] )
Thanks again for all of your time answering these questions. I really appreciate all the work you guys do. I'm on a budget but I do know that most times you pay for what you get when it comes to maintaining a healthy aquarium. I know the questions are lengthy, but you guys appear to be the experts in the field, and I figure I'd better ask all the questions at once :)
-Mark, St. Louis, Missouri

I bet you haven't seen anything like this before!!!! SW sys. keeping in Egypt  -- 10/28/2009
Greetings crew, Abdo here
<Howdy Abdo!>
First, I just want to say that the shear amount of information and effort put into this single website truly astonishes me!!!! that's one hell of a remarkable job, and I have great amounts of respect for each and every one of you, true masters.
<Many hours, good friends make WWM the ongoing useful, evolving resource it is>
I have a 450L saltwater FO with a 70L sump, been running since August 2008, lightly stocked. I introduced some live sand and livestock, all of which I obtained locally (I live on the Egyptian north coast, obtained from the Mediterranean & the Red sea, nothing fancy).
<I have been to Alexandria...>
Now getting to the fun part, hope you guys aren't too shocked by this :)
Things here in Egypt are kind of tough for any one who sees an aquarium anything more than a glass box with water and goldfish, let alone have the slightest knowledge of saltwater aquariums :) I live in Alexandria, the 2nd largest city, population of 5 million+, and only 2 fish stores that deal with saltwater!!!! not to mention the painful lack of almost everything essential to run a tank and actually knowing what's going on in it.
<I live in San Diego, about 3.5 million people and we have three fish stores that principally deal in saltwater...>
Let me put it this way: it's been over a year now, I have measured PH, alkalinity, nitrates, any trace element or parameter ZERO times, the most sophisticated I got was specific gravity, with a hydrometer I truly doubt accurate. The only hopeful things are that I use Instant Ocean salt and I have a protein skimmer, besides the usual biological, chemical & mechanical filtration methods.
<Can work>
I've been going all this on guess work and anything I can observe, and one major thing also helping me keep everything intact is basically WWM <3 just reading so much and implementing what I can manage has made a huge difference I guess!!! :) THANK YOU
Thank God till now I've had very few casualties and many of the fish I have now have been with me from the start. How I deal with problems is very one sided, meaning that I just assume (for example) that I need more calcium concentration, so I crush up some shells and put them in the sump, or I assume DOCs are becoming too concentrated so I add carbon (I usually look across the tank and see how yellow it gets at the far end), and so on. What usually makes me aware of potential problems is WWM, again hero of the day.
I have 1 Monodactylus argenteus, 1 red tomato, 2 four banded damsels, 1 common Mediterranean goby, 1 Aidablennius sphynx, 1 Aphanias dispar, 2 Moringua edwadsii (maybe), 3 unidentified herbivores, several hermit crabs, a conch, several Nerite snails, several coastal shrimps, 8 mussels, one oyster and one hair worm.
<Sounds very nice indeed>
To sum up, from all I read about other systems on the FAQs I think I can safely say that I'm in saltwater hell :) The purpose of this horror story is to ask for advice regarding what to do in such harsh conditions (besides leaving the hobby of course), any crude methods of detection? any thing I Could be missing?? any time bombs I can't possibly hear ticking??
<Actually... given your current success, obvious conscientiousness, practices, I think you're fine here. I was about during the beginnings of the saltwater hobby, and we had about as much test gear, supplements as you have... And far less knowledge>
I know it's a very big thing to ask, that's why I came to the best. If you have any questions I'll be more than glad to answer.
Thank you so much, on behalf of everything living in my tank :)
<Thank you for sharing. Life to you Abdo. Bob Fenner>

I'm still at a loss... SW maintenance   10/22/09
Thank you for taking the time to try to help. You have helped me before 7 yrs ago when I started up the hobby. Ill try to be precise and attach a couple pics. I moved 2 months ago and am unemployed recently so I'm having a hard time keeping up with my tanks needs(buying cheaper salt..instant ocean) I have 135 gallon marine tank and a 10 gal refugium w a venturi skimmer which is collecting quite abit. When we set the tank back up, we seemed to loose all our frags and cleaner crew, but no fish.
<... this system seems a bit... unkempt>
I just did a 40 gal h20 change 5 days ago and will do another one (same amt) tonight. My halides are 6. Month old and I know my actinics need to be replaced. Also all my Caulerpa died. I have tons of brown algae and my fish all have cloudy eyes.
<... clean your skimmer... the contact chamber... save up and place a unit of Chemipure or equivalent...>
I have an orange shoulder tang, blue tang, six line and juv emperor angel..who seems like his color is blotchy and pale and is hiding a lot.
<Water quality...>
they all eat well (Nori and gel meaty foods) 2-3 times a day. I've had these guys for couple yrs and have moved 3 times w no problem. The sand has black slime and I just can't seem to get it right in there this time. salts
at 0.22 ,
<... too low>
dKH 10.0, cal 350, phosphate .02 and nitrates 15. No nitrites(checked just incase chemicals???) I hope this is enough info to steer me through this.
<My friend...>
I'd like to take sand out and replace or clean and can I scrub the rocks in a bucket of old salt water? (When I do the water change) and should I put fish in a 10 gal hypo salinity quarantine tank?thankyou and my email is XXX
<Where to start? Likely just simple maintenance:
Bob Fenner>

Re: Secondary Infection to Popeye  9/23/09
Oh My Gosh!!! Bob Fenner emailed me!! I couldn't be more excited if Tom Cruise came and had dinner with us! lol! I was very ecstatic to get your reply and called my friends (not fish tank owners) who really didn't get what the big deal was... If only they knew!!
<Now I feel like jumping up and down on a sofa... but don't think I'd let NicoleK go quite so stupidly...>
Seriously, I am so grateful to get your response and the links, which I have been doing my best to read through thoroughly (which can be hard-so much fun information, I get side tracked on all these other tangents...)
<I do wish there was some "easier way" to approach the mass of folks with so varying interest and ability levels with the subject material... We're thinking about more "introductory" areas, articles>
So interesting....I told you I have two test kits, from two different companies, right? Well, they both have nitrates in them, but I usually only use one set, because it is the kit that also has the pH test. Well, I had the other kit out and used their nitrate test-same exact bottles, same exact procedure, but gave a WAY different reading. So I did each one again, together, side by side, and sure enough, way different readings...
first (normally used kit) reading: Nitrates 80
second kit (not normally used) : Nitrates 20
HUGE difference, huh? So tomorrow, off I will go, make the 45 minute trek to my closest LSF and have them test with their kit. Will be interesting to see.
<Mmm, do check the "scales" of the two kits... I suspect one is Nitrogen as nitrate... the other total nitrate. See the Net for an explanation>
I'll feel much better if it is the 20. At least I can work with that number!
However, my Phos still reads at 5....
Which leads me to my next question...
What do you think of the-Coralife Super Skimmer 125 Protein Skimmer?
<Is an "okay" product... not as inefficient as a SeaClone, but not as good as an AquaC or many other line>
I can get a slightly used one for 75$. Would you recommend second hand?
<I'd look about...>
How to clean? Dilute bleach and then let sit?
<One approach... Better to soak in a vinegar solution first if there is a good deal of carbonaceous (whitish) material stuck on it... for hours... Rinse thoroughly, then the bleach...>
Obviously, there would be no warranty, but it doesn't seem that the manufacturers warranties they are all that long lived anyway...
My other question about a skimmer is that right now, I really am not ready to set up sump (maybe Santa?) but I do want a better skimmer now....so I need a hang one. (Do you like the Remora Pro?)
<Ah, yes>
Any way to convert it to an in-sump skimmer later, or is that just a silly question? So much to learn...
<Mmm, better by far to use an in-sump model>
Update on "Scout," my Clarkii Clown (or "our-friend-Scout" as my 2 year old daughter refers to him!)
Reading through the material you referred me too regarding unilateral exophthalmia. Definitely believe it started with trauma by me dropping the glass on him but then a secondary infection that he was more susceptible too due to poor water conditions and stress....But since it was not clearing up or healing, and continuing to ooze and not respond to antibiotics, I kept searching for a similar sounding case and found one that Anthony replied to and he recommended Fungus Eliminator (or Fungus Clear as it is now called) by Jungle. Called my LFS and talked to the same guy I discussed this with initially and he thought it sounded like a good plan since it has been almost 4 weeks and still not healed. I dropped the first tab in tonight (yeah, they sold it at PetSmart-very close to me). Here's hoping... And how long can these guys go with our really eating?
He will take a flake from me if I put in right in front of his mouth, but doesn't seem to see it floating around on the surface or in the tank. I know he can see with his good eye, but he just is not interested. I WISH he were a dog or a cat and I could just syringe feed him... (btw, I did try..he just spits it out!)
<Check water quality...>
I also am just beginning to piece together all the info on buffers and pH and alkalinity....There is a ton of info available on HIGH pH and LOW alkalinity, info on high alkalinity and low calcium...and ways to correct it...but I can't find reference to HIGH alkalinity and Low pH...is HIGH alkalinity really a problem?
<Can be, yes>
My Calcium levels remain pretty consistent in the normal range, so it's not affecting that. I have read you can drop your alkalinity by adding distilled water, but wouldn't that also drop my pH even lower?
<Better to use sufficiently buffered water, RO than distilled>
I can't get my pH to stay above 7.8. I switched to using Kent's Superbuffer-dKH for my water changes and top offs (I have a hood, so I don't have a lot of evaporation..is that bad?) It made no different compared to the previous product. Is there maybe another product that will raise just the pH but not the carbonate hardness???? May be a silly question that shows my true ignorance, but I got to figure this out, so any help..I would love!!
Oh, so much to learn, so little time!
<Take your time>
Thanks again, Bob and the whole crew at WWM! You are awesome!!
<Welcome. BobF>

Top water Scum 9/22/09
Hey Crew, Tommy here.
<Scott V. with you today.>
I have a 60 gallon with canister filter, saltwater, FOWLR setup. Ammonia at 0, Nitrites at 0, Nitrates around ten. HOB Aqua-C skimmer, a few powerheads, 1/4 inch deep of crushed coral substrate, and a twenty gallon refugium on the side that is above the 60 in position. Stocked with a small hippo tang, purple Firefish, African goby, and a maroon clown. 1 shrimp, snails, hermits. Up and running for 5 months now. My issue is the accumulation of the scum that floats at the top of the water. I seem to have a lot of this stuff. It builds up over 3-5 days after manually removing it, and I know it isn't healthy. First of all, what is it?
<DOCs the skimmer should be taking out.>
Second, how do you make it go away permanently?
<Skim it!>
Third, is there any equipment that will eliminate the task of manually removing this scum from the top? More skimming? Wet/Dry filter? Any help is appreciated.
<Your problem can easily be solved with a 20-30 dollar part from AquaC. It is the surface skimming box made to go with your skimmer. It will feed the skimmer this scum rather than the water below it.>
Thanks, Tommy.
<Welcome, Scott V.>

Re: Green Leather Polyp... still not reading...    8/27/09
Thanks so much for the information! As always, good instruction usually leads to more questions. First, thanks for the scientific name for my Coral (Alcyoniidae). This lead to some great information on your site. I have high hopes for this guy now! The stump did get really mushy and fall apart (I pulled that out, yuck!), but I left the little rocks in there since I really didn't know what to do with those. I have high hopes for this little guy now!
1. Since this is a Coral (yes, my fish salesman said it was a "plant" and not a "coral" and I believed him) and my Chocolate Chip Starfish hasn't eaten him or shown any interest, do you think it is safe to put more coral in my 37 gallon or do you think he's just not interested in eating that specific coral?
<I think you should read a bit more before proceeding period>
I know that soft corals are probably out, but what about the hard corals?
2. Would a Dwarf Blue Leg Hermit Crab (or any for that matter) eat Coral?
3. What about my Scooter Blenny is "ludicrous?" On advice, I bought him to help with the brown algae in my tank. I'm guessing that was a bad idea?
<... read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/mandsysfaq2.htm
and the linked files above>
Thank you so much! I'm trying to do better and you guys and your site is so helpful!
<... you show no evidence of using it... Please do so. BobF>

Help! tank overtaken by travel/laziness SW Maintenance, Caulerpa Control 8/25/2009
<Hi Keith.>
I have always loved your site and it is my number one place to visit when it comes to my tanks.
<Thank you for the kind words.>
I have had a 30 gallon semi reef tank (polyps, mushrooms, leather coral, anemone) with 50 pounds of live rock, a cardinal fish and a clown fish.
I have two 10 gallon sumps, one has a large protein skimmer and heater, and the other has enough Caulerpa to fill a gallon size milk jug or so.
I have been in and out of town and have had someone feed my tank each day. I have gotten behind on water changes and let's just say the tank isn't going to make the front of any magazine covers to say the least.
<No surprises there.>
Caulerpa has gotten into the main tank and over taken half the live rock.
<Daunting, but not insurmountable.>
I have more Aiptasia than I have ever had. There is probably 60 or 70 individual ones I can see when I look in.
<Several methods of getting rid of these>
To top it off, my 29 gallon main display tank developed a crack near the top I noticed a few hours ago. Luckily, I had a 29 gallon corner tank that was empty in a spare room.
<Just not your day is it?>
For the last few hours, I have slowly gotten all the contents moved to the new tank. Through the process, I washed about half the sand and kept the other half. I also added about 20 gallons of RO water and have
my salinity correct.
<By washing the sand, you likely damaged some of your biological filtration. Do keep an eye out for ammonia spikes.>
I am not really sure how I can get this tank back to a respectable aesthetic level?
<Time to roll up the sleeves.>
What steps should I take to fix this issue?
Just so I don't seem lazy, he is what I think I should do, but want to double check with you first.
1. I probably need to take out each piece of rock and brush it down with an old toothbrush in a bucket of salt water and then quickly dip it in some RO water and then put it back in the tank? I know it will not get rid of all the Aiptasia/Caulerpa, but it would be a start.
What is the best process of doing this? Should I dip it in RO water after brushing it and then put it back in the tank?
<For Caulerpa, the easiest thing to do is reach in and grab it out by the handful. Just get all of the green stuff out. The 'roots' are not roots, so they will not grow into more algae.>
2. Since I already have so much Aiptasia, I would think it is time for a Nudibranch, which should have a field day with the Aiptasia, but I know removing them can be a pain and it is a dangerous creature to have
in the tank if it starves. I know red leg hermit's are good, but I don't think they could make a dent in it. would a peppermint shrimp make a dent in it?
<Not a fan of Nudibranchs - only a few eat Aiptasia. Peppermint shrimp can help provided you actually get a peppermint shrimp.>
<I'm a fan of injecting them with Kalkwasser paste. It kills them quickly>
3. I know I need to get my water levels back to normal. How often should I do water changes in the next few weeks? I know from a previous article on your site, that two 5 percent changes per week is a good idea to go by. Should I double that up until I see some progress?
<10 - 20% water changes one a week works well. You can go to 30 - 40%  once per week as long as you split it into two water changes.>
From reading your Aiptasia page
I am definitely going to get a peppermint shrimp, but what else would you recommend?
<I'm a fan of the Kalkwasser method.>
Any other ideas or suggestions. Sorry for getting lazy, I know ya'll have taught me better than that J Keith

Re: My tank-update... keep reading, SW op.      8/19/09
Since I last wrote I lost 2 fish. The Sandperch just disappeared a few days after my previous email. The next day the blue Chromis
<The? Is a social species; won't live long or well solitarily>
was dead. I did not see anything wrong nor any aggression and both seemed to be eating ok so I don't know what caused their deaths.
The Gramma has been a pleasant surprise minding his own business and keeping his big mouth shut except at feeding time. I tried to sell the clown but at the time no one seemed to be interested so he is still there.
The citron goby is still not eating well.
<... live on live (mainly Acroporid) polyps in the wild...>
He seems to take a bite once in a while but he is really just wasting away. He has gotten more active and goes to the top once in a while during feeding but no enough.
I did some more reading as advised
and was surprised about the number of people having problems with the citron eating. I really did not order him, I ordered a yellow clown but they had a mix up.
<All Gobiodon spp. share similar husbandry>
In any case it is frustrating seeing him turn into skin and bones. He was so nice and plump when I got him.
He doesn't respond to newly hatched brine shrimp which all my others go after like it was the greatest thing on earth. I will try to catch him and see if I can put him in a tank by himself to see if I can get him to eat.
<Keep reading. B>
Re: Frenetic Fishkeeping - 7/16/09

Thanks Benjamin,
<No problem Deb, sorry it's taken me so long to respond; I was away from my computer too long!>
Will add carbon as you mentioned. I did check the water again, and everything is OK. Their is no indication of anything that is off in the tank.
<Then I suspect some sort of untestable menace here... are there any invertebrates, plants, etc in this aquarium?>
I did not use anything new or any type of chemical near the tank, will try another water change.
<Will almost certainly help>
Re: Frenetic Fishkeeping - 7/16/09

Should the carbon go into my Bio-wheel or the filter?
<Either place should work, although a canister or other filter where there is 'forced' flow through the carbon is optimal.>
Re: Frenetic Fishkeeping - 7/16/09

I followed your instructions, and I am happy to say that all my fish are doing well except for my NASO TANG.
<Glad to hear there is improvement>
She is swimming around OK and No heavy breathing but still will not eat at all. I put some flake in the tank with Garlic and she shows no interest, one fell into her mouth and she spit it back out. She has not eaten since last Wednesday. How can I get her to eat, or did whatever was in the tank mess her up for good. My husband and I feel so bad, is there anything we can do. Any advice would be so appreciated.
<I understand your feelings. Tangs tend to be especially sensitive, and sometimes they take a little longer to get over their shock than other fish. Since I'm writing this some time after your email: Is the tang eating now, or is it still showing no interest toward food? My hope, expectation is that the situation will have cleared itself now.>
<No problem, Benjamin>
Re: Frenetic Fishkeeping - 7/16/09  07/23/09

Hi Benjamin,
<Hello Deb!>
Thanks for getting back to me.
<No trouble, sorry for the delay!>
My Tang still shows no interest in her food.
I thought I saw her pick at the seaweed once today, but it may have been wishful thinking. She is still swimming strong, and looks good, but her behavior is a little off, she seems to not want to be bothered by the other fish, normally she is pretty social.
<May still be stressed, or still noticing something in the water. Their digestive organs are especially sensitive.>
She does not look sick at all, I am so stumped???? I hope like you, that maybe she needs more time, but how long
can she go on without eating, today is a week?
<Although it isn't 'good' for them they can easily go a month without eating- provided they were in good health to begin with. A week or two isn't likely to kill the fish, but it would be good to have it eating again. Have you tried fresh algae or other enticing foods? Perhaps a few more water changes, time...>
Thanks again for your
<Again, no trouble. Hope this clears up.>

Re: Frenetic Fishkeeping - 7/26/09
Hi Benjamin,
I have good news, my Tang is eating and back to her normal behavior. She is very hungry and is begging for food every time I go near the tank. Thanks for all your help it was greatly appreciated!
<Glad to hear everything worked out! Benjamin>

pH/Algae Issues =), SW op.    7/18/09
Hello to my Omniscient Fish Keepers!
<I wouldn't... didn't go this far... Heeeee!>
You all saved my fish (Red Hawk) months ago from a very persistent ich and very bad LFS advice, (Greenex) and now he's doing wonderfully in his 120 gallon fish palace. (He was the only survivor left) well, and the choc chip starfish. lol. But now I have a few other questions that I'm having issues with. Some I am in the process of correcting and want to make sure I am heading in the right direction.
I'm new to saltwater. And I'm battling a blue-green slimy monster. rawr!
=) It's not terrible yet, but quite the pain. A film develops over the glass within about 4 days and it's all over the rocks. Yesterday, some reddish bubble-like algae-like substance started appearing on the rock.
I've learned that my protein skimmer is a waste-of-plastic piece of crap that shouldn't even be allowed to be sold. lol. A SeaClone 150. After several months, I don't even think it's pulled a cup of skimmate from the water. So, yesterday I ordered the Remora Pro after some research and it should arrive in the next couple days. I'm hoping the results are as good as I read. Will the remora need any adjustments or just hang it and go?
<Mmm, not really... mainly a set and leave alone proposition>
With the tank being so lightly stocked, will it pull a cup each day, or should I expect every couple days for now until I restock?
<Will remove much more waste, nutrient>
(I want to correct any problems before adding any fish again) After installing the Remora, is there anything that I need to do in order to help eliminate this annoyance? The starfish tries to keep up, but he can only eat so much. (He actually does eat it)
<See WWM re BGA, general marine algae control>
I'm also having trouble maintaining a ph at the proper levels. It will be around 8.1-8.2 after a water change, but within a day, sometimes two, it falls back to around 7.8-7.9 and stays there.
<And pH and Alkalinity: http://wetwebmedia.com/marphalk.htm
and the linked files above>
My substrate, fine Aragonite, has fused in some places, so I know that it's falling possibly even lower than that and I just haven't caught it on a test yet. I use RO water for all my top off and water changes. I have recently purchased Kalkwasser after reading that it helps to raise and steady ph. (Have not started dosing yet) But I'm wondering if there is some underlying problem that I'm not aware of. I don't understand why it stays low when everything else in my water appears good?
<Read on!>
My water parameters are:
Temp: 81.5
SG: 1.026
PH: 7.7
<Too low>
Nitrate: 0
Nitrite: 0
Alkalinity: 4 mEq/L (Instant Ocean test kit shows 3.5 or higher is good?)
<Too low...>
Phosphate: 0 now (but there was a significant level, off the charts, about a month ago, learned it was most likely from frozen foods and not rinsing.
Purchased Rowaphos & rinse now and has been 0 since. suspect this might be cause of some algae as well.)
<And read re the use of chemical filtrants...>
I do a 5/gal water change per week and change the filter media (biochem, Rowaphos & filtration pads) about every 3-4 weeks. (Rena XP4) The tank is approximately 8 months old.
I don't overfeed, I think. I feed approx 1 tsp of brine shrimp to the hawk in the am. (Usually about 20 or so shrimp) He'd eat all day if I let him.
And a small pinch of flake in the afternoon/evening. I was reading about Mysis, will the hawk like that?
Sorry for being so long-winded. Thanks for your help! You guys rock!
<Read on! Bob Fenner>

What to tell my boss at work Bringing a 55 Gallon tank back. SW op. f'  6/28/2009
My boss has a 55 gal. that was setup a little over a year ago, by someone who claimed he knew what he was doing. This person was suppose to do routine maintenance and did so for a few months. Then he quit saying it was to far to travel, 45 miles each way.
So the tank went down. My boss asked me, since he knew I have a 40 gal.
goldfish tank, if I would help him with his tank.
I told him I did not know anything about saltwater, but would look into it.
<Fair enough.>
The tank setup is 55 gal. w/live rock on a 1" bed of sand. A Emperor 400 power filter. A Coralife 48" 260 watt light, a heater and 3 small fish.
<What kind of fish?>
For the past few weeks I have been searching the web to learn. Three weeks ago I tool my 5 in 1 dip test strips to test his water. It showed the nitrate was higher than the
strip would go. I also found a deep six hydrometer in his cabinet and checked the salinity. It too was higher than the scale would go.
The water level in the tank was very low. The live rock had some green/brown slime covered with air bubbles all over it.
<Cyanobacteria. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bluegralgae.htm >
So I started. First I found some Oceanic salt in the cabinet and mixed with 12 gal. distilled water and scrubbed the rock.
I then did a 30% water change with the same water/salt mix. The salinity is now 1.025. That's where we're at. Since I've been reading this and other sites it seems that he should invest in a RO or a RO/DI for the water.
<It does help, yes.>
He ask if he could just go to Wal-Mart and get the water from the Culligan machine.
<That will be fine.>
I told him I just don't know. Please help with this issue. He said he told the other guy that he
wanted some Coral in the tank but never received any.
<System is in no way ready for corals yet Will need more stable water parameters and a much more robust filtration system that what you have now..>
I am going to attach a picture so you will see what sad shape things are in.
<Picture did not go through.>
Any and all help, suggestions, will be greatly appreciated.
<The first thing is reading and learning. The tank has been neglected so it is going to take some work to get it right.
Either you, or have your boss start reading here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/marsetupindex1.htm and start
reading the articles that are relevant to your tank.>

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