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FAQs on Marine Environmental Disease: Physiological Issues; Metabolites, Toxins, Venoms, Allelopathy, Stinging...

Related Articles: Environmental Disease, Establishing Nutrient Cycling, Marine Water Quality, Maintenance,

Related FAQs: Environmental Disease 1, Marine Environmental Disease 2, Marine Env. Disease 3, Marine Env. Disease 4, Marine Env. Disease 5, Marine Env. Disease 6, Marine Env. Disease 7, Marine Env. Disease 8, Marine Env. Disease 9, Marine Env. Disease 10, Marine Env. Disease 11, Marine Env. Disease 12, Marine Env. Disease 13, & FAQs on Environmental Disease By Cause/Types: Environmental Deficiencies, Oxygen/Gas Problems, Poisoning, Mis-stocking: Psychological Challenges, ( Aggressive Behavior, Territoriality, ), & Troubleshooting/Fixing,

Got a plan? Know what you're doing? Don't we wish we could package "patience" and sell it in a bottle? Few good things happen quickly with aquatic systems... When, where in doubt, wait.

The list of stinging, venomous, poisonous livestock... is VERY long... study, know your livestock.

Overt troubles? Water changes as a rule are a good idea. Real overt troubles? Moving expensive livestock immediately if not sooner.

Salt water fish tank problems; cycling/env.       12/14/19
My name is Mason,
<Hello Mason, Wil here.>
I have a salt water fish tank that has been problematic from the start (July 2019) despite everything we have tried to fix it, but our fish keep getting sick and die.
<Did you cycle this tank?>
We started with a 29 gallon bio-cube tank some live rock, sand and salt water from one specific store.
<Live, cured?>
We then found another store where we had gotten a watchman gobi <Y> and a royal gramma to start our tank.
<These fish are not adequate to cycle a tank>
About 10 days later the gramma passed away.
<Did you quarantine the fish?>
After further water testing trace amounts of copper was found in the water. We then called the original store and found out that their live rock supply is mostly from broken down tanks.
<Mmm… I see>
We immediately removed the old rock and treated the tank with Triton Detox (recommended from the new fish store) and a poly filter for after treatment. We have had weekly to bi-weekly water testing all of which the parameters have been good.
<Could you please send us the current test readings?>
We do bi-weekly water changes and test the salinity often, we have a protein skimmer and heater in the tank that is set to 79.3 degrees. The problem that is still occurring is that fish keep passing away. The watchman gobi is still alive but since the first royal gramma we have lost 2 more and 2 bi-colored blennies, 2 peppermint shrimp, 1 tail spot blend, 1 carpenter wrasse, 1 cleaner shrimp, 1 coral beauty and countless Nerite snails all of which have lasted for 3 weeks then perished. We had a Banggai cardinal fish that was returned to the store because we thought maybe he was being a bully and put in a Talbots damsel. The damsel we have now is currently growing some kind of fungus on it and we really can not figure out what is happening to the tank, the parameters are always good the salinity is fine, no one is being a bully. Our current tank occupants are the watchman gobi, pistol shrimp, Talbots damsel, 2 turbo snails hermit crabs and Nerite snails. We also have coral that is doing fine, growing and flourishing. Basically we are at an impasse and have invested a lot of time and money into this tank and its been stressful and we are about ready to give up.
<You should have invested more in reading ahead of buying fish.>
We recently tried General Cure by API but there is no change. We have a carbon filter and a poly filter in the tank currently. I have attached a photo of the damsel. If there is anything else that we can do please let us know
<I recommend you stop adding new livestock and do a good reading, please start with the following links and related http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm
Thank you
Mason Truelove
<You are welcome. Wil.>

Thermal shock symptoms      12/5/19
Hey bob,
Could you tell me what some of the symptoms of temp shock are?
<Most often, fishes (and invertebrates) "sink" to the bottom, low to in-active, fins clamped... give up eating>
Did a water change on my quarantine tank last night. About 75 percent on 20 gallons to get meds out.
In my new water , I had heater in there set for same temp, and did water change. (78)
After I did change, my tank temp dropped from 78 to 72,turns out I never had heater plugged in and assumed it was on and close to temp.
I have a bellus angel laying on ground, and a watanabei swimming vertically. Does that sound like temp shock, and if so is it too far gone at this point?
Thanks, Bobby
<Mmm; I would not give up. This degree of change does occur in the wild at times. Bob Fenner>
Re: Thermal shock symptoms      12/5/19

Thanks bob. Just to clarify, the new water change water must have been in the 60s, because my display tank instantly went from 78 to 72, 6 degree drop in a matter of 20-30 seconds.
<Yeah; have been out diving when very much colder water flowed out of rivers, lagoons... happens>
Looking now I doubt the bellus has a chance, laying in side hasn’t moved really and gills are moving. The watanabei will go from completely upright at the surface , swim fine for a few minutes, and head back the vertical position.
<These shocks take a while (days, weeks) to correct. I like a model of impairment of protein/enzyme function... >
I’ve had far worst luck with quarantine then the days of dipping and dropping display .
<Patience. BobF>
Thanks again.
Re: Thermal shock symptoms      12/5/19

Hey bob, sad to report both fish did not make it. Came home from work and they were dead on the bottom.
Is it safe to blame the temp drop? My fear is something else was a miss, ad this just out the nail in the coffin. Or could it very well be some fish just can’t handle the drop?
<As previously stated/postulated, the thermal drop/stress is likely a complimentary negative influence here; along w/ some other factor/s; this did likely lead to their loss. Bob Fenner>

Elegance coral, dying in/comp.     11/18/18
My Elegance Coral died so I removed it and did a water change. Same night I lost 80% of snails then 5 days later 2 clowns and a blenny started to act funny then passed. Do you think the Elegance dying could have created that or a chemical. (all crabs and shrimps not affected)
<Almost certainly it was caused by toxins released by your Elegance coral dying; do a large water change,40-50% and use a Polyfilter pad combined with a high grade activate carbon or ChemiPure, a couple of days later try adding some "test" fishes like bluetail Damsels (Chrysiptera sp). Please keep us posted on how it goes. Wil>

Question about transferring marine fish      11/15/18
Dear Crew:
I read your website and questions and answers all the time.
I think you folks are fantastic.
<Well, Thanks!>
I have just one question, and I have read a lot of conflicting information about it.
<Will do my best to dispel any doubt>
I don’t have any tanks set up at this time, but after many years of freshwater experience and breeding cichlids, I am starting to set up a saltwater aquarium. This is my question: regarding marine fish, if you have to transfer a fish from one tank to another or from the bag he/she came in to a tank, and you’re in a hurry (let’s just say the sky is falling) what parameter is the most important to match between the water you’re moving from and the water you’re moving to? Is it the salinity or the pH or both or temperature or something else?
<The three of them are very important, but I would say Ph adjustment is the most critical, since this parameter is the one that causes stress shock in newly acquired/acclimated fish; secondly I will put salinity, fish are reasonably tolerant to slight variations. And lastly, water temperature; this one may be a bit different (preferably warmer) than the water containing the fish.>
Thanks very much,
Cynthia White Vancouver Island
<Welcome. Wil>

Mushroom killing bacteria?      8/21/17
Hi Crew! I am at a total loss, I need help.
I run 2 tanks, my main 75 gallon display tank (established 3.5 years) and a newer (7/8 mth) 55 gallon 'frag tank'.
I am a big mushroom enthusiast, but also keep a variety of other soft corals, Zoanthids, lps and a couple small easy sps (birdsnests, montis).
<Mmm; you likely have heard/read that Zoas and Shrooms often "fight" chemically; more than most stony corals>
You'll hate to hear this but I have never been big on testing, I simply rely on frequent small water changes via drip, and constant observation for anything looking 'off'. I have a low fish stock in both (maroon clown, starry blenny, azure damsel, pink spotted watchmen and an unknown Anthias in the 75, and a small clarkii clown and azure in 55).
<I'm of the same "practice">
Up until recently both tanks have thrived, very minimal coral or fish loss over the past few years. Everything has always seemed very stable and well balanced, no issues with algae and in fact immediately before my current
issue my display tank looked the best it ever had.
But we all make mistakes, and I always learn from them, but in this case I think it's too late. I know I should have been quarantining everything and I have learned and now have a quarantine tank set up but as I said, too late.
So on to my issue. A few months ago I purchased the coral contents of a fellow reefers tank with plans of fragging and reselling the corals. The vast majority were Euphyllia (torches, hammers, frogspawn, as well as a favia, large brain and some others) I placed them all in my frag tank, except one large plate that I didn't have space for that went into my display.
<The Euphyllias rank near the top for allelopathy amongst Scleractinians...
Oh how I wish you'd slowly acclimated the new to the established as gone over here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/cnidcompppt.htm
Within 24 hours the brain and plate both looked ill
<Losers to the mentioned combatants; classical>

and eventually started melting, and were covered in the dreaded brown jelly. Never having dealt with brown jelly before it was a great learning experience. I promptly removed both corals but the brown jelly didn't take long to affect the other Euphyllia (i suppose since they were not well established and under stress). I saw no ill effects on any corals in my main tank, assuming because they were well established and healthy. My attempts at fragging off dying pieces, treating in a separate tank with furan 2, dips with revive, rinsing in fw etc all failed. In the end i lost
the vast majority of Euphyllia that I had purchased, aside from the frogspawn which never seemed effected.
<More reading: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/envdisphysiof.htm
A few weeks later and all the Euphyllia in the frag tank were gone besides the frogspawn, and everything seemed back to normal, so I resumed my normal practices. I fragged some Rhodactis mushrooms in the frag tank,
<... Yeeikes; not in the tank; not this soon>

and to my surprise they melted. I have never had issues with fragging any mushrooms in the past. At the time I did not think it could be related, (and am still not sure it is) maybe I had just 'butchered' them or they weren't well established, so I simply decided to hold off on any fragging for a while. At some point I moved some mushrooms into my display, considering them quarantined and healthy. Weeks went by with no issues, now the nightmare starts.
A few weeks ago I lost one of my prize Rhodactis in my display. It had been doing amazing and was growing rapidly, and then didn't open fully for a couple days, then suddenly melted within hours. Since then many healthy
mushrooms (some that I have had for at least 3 years) have just suddenly melted away.
<A familiar "cascade" event>
Some first detach from the rock then disappear, some start expelling their guts then begin oozing from their mouths till they melt away, the odd one simply begins oozing from an outside edge then melts. These are healthy mushrooms, not recently fragged or damaged in any way. I have learned to syphon them out now as soon as i see it beginning, but I need to find a way to stop this!
<For now; just time going by: NO CHANGES>
So far it has only affected Rhodactis and Discosoma, I haven't lost a single Ricordea, or any other type of coral for that matter. The mushrooms that die are all in random places in the tank, it doesn't necessarily travel from one and then directly to it's neighbour. I even accidentally damaged a hammer coral while moving it (it and an anemone were getting dangerously close to each other ) and it has recovered quickly and without incident.
I've done large water changes and added carbon with no luck, just in case it was allelopathy.
<Ah, good>
I apologize for the long story, but I feel all details are necessary.
<They are; no worries>
Please help guide me, what steps should I take next? I have spent 3.5 years building my mushroom collection, this is devastating to me. I am normally very good at researching and problem solving on my own, but I feel I have
hit a dead end.
<IF you have other well-established systems to move some stock to, I would.
Otherwise, no further additions or fragging here for a few months>
The last thing I would like to note is that the only other major change I had made around the time this started was that I began feeding Reef Roids to the tank, although I am sure this is merely coincidental.
<Agreed. Bob Fenner>

Green Hairy Mushroom blues...
Hi gang,
I've got a 225 gallon reef, with lots of (probably too many) LPS and softies... the latter mainly zooanthids and pulsing xenia.
<Yikes... very allelopathogenic groups>

 Down on the bottom of the tank, I've had a horde of green hairy (frilly?) mushrooms
<Yowzah! The triumvirate!>
that have been bent-on-world-domination for a while.
I trade them in at my LFS in batches... when they get out of control... which has been a regular occurrence two or three times a year.
No issue until last week... when I couldn't pay attention to the reef for a few days. Suddenly... all my green hairy mushrooms were shrunken and pale... down to maybe 10% of their normal size... and looked like they were dying.
I did a quick water change...
<And activated carbon...>
I've admittedly been negligent lately...
dosed some iodine... strontium... and later magnesium. The green frillies seem to have stabilized... and when I pull one up, it's got only its normal -- slightly noxious -- smell. They're still firm to the touch, and none are dissolving into moosh. All other corals look fine. For now...
The mushrooms seem to have stabilized... are firm to the touch, and some have begun to regain a bit of their normal color, and extend bits-of-frilliness outward again.
I've got another batch of water prepped... and will do a few more changes in the short run.
My question is this:
Since they all declined so rapidly, is this likely to be a coral-chemistry allelopathy issue... or a lack of trace-elements... with some critical element suddenly in short supply?
<My bet is the first>
I've admittedly got an awful lot of purple tip frogspawn and grape coral in this tank... plus lots of xenia.
The only other thing I can think of is I've been giving my tangs quite a bit of blanched spinach lately... since they'd been on a dried nori diet for too long, and fresh seaweed has become unavailable at the LFS's lately... I know for humans spinach is considered a decent dietary source of copper, and wonder if this could be the problem.
Thanks in advance for any help on this...
<Whatever the trigger... am glad you appear to have arrested this "cascade event". Do see here re others experience:
Bob Fenner>

Stkg. FOWLR..., thermal stress losses       4/11/13
Hi Bob, I hope you're well.
<Thank you Peter; yes>
I still miss my Condylactis, but the aquarium today was at 88F which, from my reading, it would not have tolerated. I can usually keep it below 90F by closing the window sash. The Cardinals, damsels, and clowns have tolerated it well over the years. I think I lost a couple of coral beauties to the temperature before I realized it was a problem.
Can you recommend any invertebrates for a tank that gets warm?
<Only ones... species, specimens you might find/collect in a tropical lagoonal setting/environments where it does get this warm>
Also, is there a resource for what species of fish tolerate higher temperatures?
<A good idea; I don't know of any though>
I got a green scat to replace a blue devil who appeared to have been crushed by a falling piece of coral. He's fun, and I think he'll handle the temperature,
<Yes; Scatophagids are often found in highly variable water conditions... including temp., pollution, salinity>
though I'm keeping the salinity high. I understand it keeps his colors vibrant, although he prefers brackish water. He seems quite happy.
<Can be kept in near full strength seawater continuously; no problem>I also got a watchman goby, but he disappeared into the coral and I have only seen him while cleaning the tank. I also got three common Atlantic snails who help control algae. I assume they'll be okay.
<Likely so>
Anything you'd suggest?
<To keep searching.>
Best regards to you.
<And you, BobF>
Thanks, Peter

New sump setup     1/13/13
Dear WWM
I have an Sps Reef system that have been running for 6 months with only 4 small fish inside.
37G display and 29G sump. 2 days ago i decided to re-do the sump.
After plugging everything up yesterday, i noticed the corals are dying and there is a foul smell in that room.
<... bad>
The water test i did did not help (ammo-nitrite-nitrate) my test must be out of date.
I added 25g ro/di new mix water slowly in the display until the sump was full.
The skimmer is going crazy and i cannot figure out what is wrong!
<Protein, possibly other, extraction... some life in your system dying, decomposing>
The silicone was cured for 24h in a dry room.
Here is the mistake i did. In the old sump, i had a small clay pot with 6 inch of sand topped with macro.
In the new sump, i took a 3g aquarium that i filled with sand, miracle mud in the middle and topped everything with 1inch of the old sand :(
So, last night i did another w/c, added carbon, Phos-remover and poly-filter.
Should i remove the 3g and hope for the best with another 5-10g w/c?
<Worth trying. I would>
Should i place every coral in a 10G with new water until the system has cycled?
<If I had one that was stable, I would>
Other important information: i been dosing vodka since the beginning and i did not dose the main tank for 2 days.
<Fine; I wouldn't>
Thank you
From someone who should of known better
<Now you've got the Beatles song/refrain going through my/me he/ad... And I do, yeah yeah yeah, and I do... Bob Fenner>

Clownfish eye problems      6/26/12
Hello Mr. Fenner,
I have an ocellaris clown that is having some troubles with it's eyes that first started 5 days ago.  I noticed a white pimple like bump on the right eye of the fish with some slight cloudiness.  This bump stuck out noticeably when looking from the front or top of the fish.  After reading on your site I figured this was an injury since it was only on one side of the fish, so I did a %15 water change and waited it out.  The eye cleared up on its own after 3 days which made the injury theory seem more likely.  However on the 3rd day I noticed the same type of white pimple looking bump on the fishes left side about half way down below the second dorsal fin.  I have seen Ich and Oodinium before and this looked much larger and stuck out noticeably from the fishes side.  The white part of the bump was gone the next day with just a slightly raised area left however there was another bump right next to it on the side.  This one also cleared to only a small raised area in about 12 hours.  Then this morning I woke up to find both the eyes have this same white bump with the right eye cloudy and the
left eye clear.  I am now confused as to what this might be.
<I agree closely w/ your observations and speculations thus far...>
 I wanted to get your advice before I start any treatment.  The reappearance of this makes me think it isn't just an injury and that there is something else in play here.
<Might be... what else is in this tank?>
  I have had this fish and its female mate for over a year now.  They both went through a quarantine as well as all my other fish and corals
 and I have added nothing to my tank for over 3 months and about 6 month since the last new fish.  All other fish have no signs of any problems and the tank parameters check out good.  Nitrite and ammonia undetectable, nitrate around 1 ppm.  I have a wide range medications on hand but am hesitant to treat anything unnecessarily.  Could this be coming from the
torch coral that the clowns host in?
<Oh yes>
 Or just some sort of injury?
<The same in this case... a sting, burn to the eyes by the Euphyllia>

 Or is this more likely an infection of some sort?  I have attached a few pictures of the eyes so you can see what I am referring to.  In the picture you can
also see a little bit of a damaged pectoral fin.  Could this be part of the same problem?
<VERY nice images>
  Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
<Mmm, well, I would move these clowns to another established system if you had one... but otherwise, the eyes should clear up on their own in time; as the clown and host "get to know each other better".>
  Thank you for your help.
P.S.  I really enjoyed your talk a few months back at the Southern California Reef Keepers meeting.  I hope they get you to come back to talk to us again sometime.
<Ahh, I as well. Cheers, Bob Fenner> 

Cloudy water, BTA closed      6/25/12
Thank you for all you do!  I have a 6x2x2 tank that has been set up about 6 months.  The setup includes a lot of live rock, a 55 gallon sump with skimmer and a 20 gallon refugium.  All fish are currently in a QT tank due to an Ich outbreak.  I am on week 8 of the 10 week fallow period.  The occupants of the DT are multiple hermit crabs, a couple cleaner shrimp, a BTA and the following corals:  Hammer coral (Euphyllia parancora), Torch coral (Euphyllia glabrescens), Tooth coral (Galaxea)
<These three rank near the top in terms of allelopathogenic "strength"... Winners... see WWM re>

 and a Tree coral (Paralemnalia).  Since these corals are pretty aggressive there is plenty of room between them.  Everything was looking good and healthy on Saturday night.  I dosed calcium, iodide and an alkali buffer
<Mmm... depending on the make up of the first and third... trouble>

 due to my pH getting around 8.0 (have a pH probe for constant readings). 
Usually I don't dose all of these at once.  On Sunday when my lights turned on the tank was cloudy and BTA was completely closed up, all corals looked good and open.  The pH had dropped to 7.9 (confirmed with pen style pH meter and pH buffers) so I dosed more alkali buffer
<Don't as in Do Not add this directly to your system; instead, mix-into new water to be used as change out>
 and took water quality tests: Ammonia = 0, Nitrite = 0, Nitrate = 30 (I know this is high but I have never been able to get my nitrates low, even with no fish and very light feeding of the shrimp and crabs. 
Any ideas on this?),
<Yes: See WWM re... the search tool, indices>
 Calcium = 400, kH = 10.  I did a search on WWM and saw a post where the cloudy water was coming from dosing calcium and buffer at the same time.
<Not uncommon>
 I figured I'd leave it for a day to see if it cleared up.  Today (Monday) the tank is still cloudy, the BTA is still closed tight, and now my Torch coral is looking shriveled up.  The pH is still 7.9.  I did a 20% water change a week ago and will need a day to make RO water and mix the salt before I can do a another water change.  Am I missing something here? 
<Likely (my fave term) a "cascade event"; with a chemical/physical challenge to your Cnidarians; their in-turn reacting, poisoning/fighting each other...>
Any other steps I can take?
<Start mixing water for a massive change out... looking for established space to move/separate them>
  One more thing, my pH has always been around the 8.1  range and I can't seem to keep it higher consistently.  Any ideas on this? 
<... the usual ref. to having you, others search, read, use WWM... No sense myself, the rest of the Crew re-writing, revisiting, reiterating... the 30-40k people per day who use the site... join them>
Thank you!
<Welcome. Bob Fenner> 

Substrate, SW, olde tank syndrome   6/25/12
I think I'm experiencing "old tank syndrome" Is there such a thing?
<Ah yes...
substrates losing solubility (and its beneficial effects), accumulating metabolites, "heavy water", low RedOx...>
My fowlr tank has been experiencing higher nitrates & we can't figure why?(40+ ppms )
<Mmm, read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm
and the linked files above>
Its a 300 gal w/ 100 gal sump.  I' m guessing we have 500-600 pd.s of rock
<How olde? Some of this should be traded out every six months or so>
 & 2-3 inch sandbed. 10 fish (smallish) & 1 eel. I only feed 1 a day, maybe every other?(eel 1 a week) We've had the tank 6-7 yrs. Filtration/ 2 proteinskimmers-3g & 4 gx, sedras, overflow in tank , sock & circulation. 
Water changes/ 2 monthly @ 100 gals total. We stir & suck up the sandbed every other time. I always use stability with the changes. My LFS guy suggested "new" sandbed.
<Would help; yes>
 Take all the old out & all new in?
<May be>
He also said we  should remove some of the rock, about 1/3.
<This too>
 I'm also thinking some macro & microalgae? Help???.....
Renee Jones
<Search on WWM re Ozone use... for this volume... I would definitely be using... Inexpensive means of preserving water (and system) quality. Bob Fenner>

Mysterious death, Hawk, un-rinsed new sand 1/20/12
So, I have had my 60 gallon drilled acrylic tank up and running with fish and corals doing fine for 5 months. I FINALLY got around to adding the sump underneath.
I poured in that sugar fine sand
<Ohh, needs to be rinsed first>
you can get at Petco (says no need to rinse)
<I disagree>

and added water to pull the volume up (obviously I added SALT water). I get the system going, and notice there are a lot of micro bubbles, which I took care of.....
So this morning (tank now using sump/refugium 20 long for about 24 hours) I noticed my pixie Hawkfish sitting in the corner, which is odd for him (OH... ( DID remove about 20 lbs of live rock, still have plenty in the tank to a QT tank for some new fish I ordered). Anyhow, the Hawkfish died about an hour ago, and I found the body of my royal gramma.... no decay as of yet at ALL. What the heck?
<Mmm, likely this loss is related to the sand addition...>
The refugium had had about 2 days to cure (silicone II).
<Mmm, should be fine>

My ammonia is 0, Nitrites, 0, and Nitrates maybe 5 to 10.
<What re pH and alkalinity? Ca and Mg? These may have been "thrown off" by rapidly/soluble parts of the new sand>
I put in SeaGel and Polyfilter.
<These as well>
ALL my corals are closed, including the Zoanthids. I have a 10 gallon that I have had up and running with the same parameters that I may put my corals in.
<Oh! These may well have been "challenged" by the new substrate, reacted chemically (allelopathy) and poisoned the Hawk>
My Picasso pair and mocha clown pairs are sort of okay, not really happy, and will eat the Mysis a little. I wonder if I should take them out and put them in another tank.
<I would move them . NOW, if you have another established system>
I just have NO CLUE... I am guessing maybe the silicone?
<Not likely the sealant. I have used it/this many times, allowing only a day or two to cure... w/ impunity>

If so, any suggestions or thoughts.
<Please do move your fishes, and read here:
for a general review of allelopathic phenomena; and here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/envdisphysiof.htm
for some accounts of such "cascade events". Bob Fenner>
Re: Mysterious death, now asserted Silastic issue? 1/20/12

First.... Silicone must be cured for 2 weeks or it will poison the tank....
<What reference do you have for this? Again, I've used the GE, Dow-Corning products for decades and had no such problem>

Read on, that sentence is for people looking for a quick answer that maybe not want to read all of this! I know what happened. First, my ph, Alk, etc were fine, I didn't mention those since I didn't feel it was important.
I have a friend who owns oceanpro aquatics, mike has been in the biz a long time and he has built many a refugium with glass tanks and glass dividers like this one I built. After consulting with him, I believe it is the sealant.
This was not aquarium designed silicone, just from home depot.
He told me the ammonia that is released from the silicone would not register on the test since it is a different compound or type of ammonia.
I am assuming he meant not from rotting bodies but a chemical. It did have a strong smell. Now, if I had not caught the problem, then the resulting deaths would have produced the type of ammonia that would register!
<? See your statement below (now above, posted on WWM); you state the NH3/NH4OH was 0>

out of desperation I still put in a product that eliminates ammonia nitrate and nitrates, and that actually seemed to help the problem. Thend clowns looked better and started acting better. I still moved my Picasso pair and my corals to another tank that I had set up.
He said they would wait 2 weeks before using any tank that was used for a refugium. They also would rinse it 4 times. He also thought maybe the sand as well but I told him that there were absolutely no particles floating around or getting into the gills, plus that would affect the clowns in the same ways, but being damsels, well they toughed it through.
I have actually used this same sand in the past without rinsing it with no problems to an established tank.
Ammonia from the silicone caulk makes sense, since with every tank problem like this, usually it is the clown fish that survive! I have to sadly admit that I recalled another time I did the exact same thing with another tank years ago and had a few fish die before I caught it. That situation I used rinsed sand and it was not sugar fine.
Lesson is...... Do not use a freshly silicone tank unless it is 2 weeks old or it is aquarium tank silicone. I do a lot of reading and this tidbit of information was not stumbled upon! I feel like a fool for this, yet I suppose we all have made mistakes when attempting a new venture.
It kills me to admit this, but if this helps someone else from the same problem, I'm all 4 people knowing about it.
<Thank you for sharing. Will accrue. BobF>
re: Mysterious death 1/20/12

Please try reading thoroughly before putting in commentary. The ammonia WAS 0, again chemically it would not register.
<... there is no such thing as "other ammonia"
... See the net, textbooks re basic aquarium water chemistry. I taught H.S. chemistry, physics and bio...
Re: Mysterious death... Silicone? 1/20/2012

Sorry, I meant to simplify, and used an incorrect analogy. Correct, there is only one ammonia. Point was the chemical released from the uncured silicone causes death, which would not register as ammonia, would kill, which would cause ammonia from dying creatures.
<Stop this nonsense. READ the manufacturer's recommendation for using, curing their product. It's been used for decades, by myself since the late 1960's... >
I am sorry I am not a chemist and insultingly correcting me on the main point is not professional.
<... are you being charged for these corrections, input?>
You could have easily stated, "although the silicone didn't produce ammonia, the poison could have killed weaker fish, which would have lead to it if unchecked". BUT, why dis adding a product like prime help
the situation? So maybe I speculated, so reason to be rude. I put this on to warn others, against my better judgment, so next time I will not bother you with my stupidity.
<READ where you were first referred. The likelihood here is that the Zoanthids were "disturbed" period, and the "cascade event" led to poisoning of your system. B>

Mass loss after 3 successful years 1/17/12
This first part was written a week ago in a forum so I copied and pasted, then below the last line is the current situation.
I have a 75 gallon with a 20 gallon sump, skimmer, ~75lbs live rock, some coral, and 5 fish. All has been running fine for 3 years, and the last two without any changes in fish or corals. Everything has been very healthy.
Torch coral growing huge, Anemone split twice and is now 3.
<Some question of allelopathy here>
Coral banded shrimp molted several times. Everything doing good.
About 1 month ago I noticed a lot of hair algae starting, and my sand was starting to grow a layer on it faster than my hermits could clean it. I figured my RO system was due for filters so I planned to change them out but hadn't done it yet. About 2 weeks ago I noticed the anemone and the corals were not opening like normal and the algae had really taken off to the point it was trying to plug my overflow box.
Thinking my phosphates were probably high, and I had some water already mixed in my QT tank, I did my normal water change. (consists of mixing 10 gallons of RO saltwater
<What brand?>
in my QT tank with nothing in it. Let it circulate for a week or so, then drain 10 gallons out of the main, put this back in and all is good.)
The exception this time is the water had been circulating in the QT for 3 weeks. Nothing else in it, just water, salt, and a HOB filter to circulate it. When I shut my system down to do the water change, the main pump didn't restart like normal, but it had done this once before and did restart about an hour later. This time it went all night without restarting. By morning I had lost one clown and the rest were looking stressed. I did a quick check of water temp and tried to get the pump going, but had to get to work so I hung the HOB filter on the side to create some movement.
When I got home, the other two clowns were at the top of the tank and not looking good. The tang and the angel looked stressed, but was acting fine.
I checked my water parameters and all was at or near 0 and well within range.
I did another 10 gallon water change to try and minimize anything I was not seeing, got the pump working correctly and tried to clean some of the algae from the sand bed and sides. Thinking with all of this, it would help things out.
I got up this morning, and 3 more fish were gone. I don't understand what went wrong with this water change as I have done plenty of changes this same way.
<The root problem is not the water, changes>
The ONLY thing I know that was different was that my mixed water was circulating in the QT for 3 weeks instead of my normal 1 week. Would this cause my issues, or was it more the hair algae and phosphates getting out of control more of the issue?
<Most likely a "cascade event" w/ the conditions worsening, algal proliferation (possible toxicity here), then the pump being out... triggering a chemical duel twixt the Euphyllia and Anemones: the aforementioned allelopathy. Read here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/cnidcompppt.htm
and the linked files above, particularly for the species involved here>
I don't check my water parameters often as I do not add any chemicals. I monitor appearance, and check parameters occasionally if something looks off. Every time I do check them, everything is right where I want it, so I don't disturb anything by adding stuff. Everything normally looks great, is clean, healthy and growing. I do slack on my water changes and have went several months without any, but within the last year I have been doing better with one every 4-6 weeks. Still, all looked good until a month ago when the hair algae started growing, and within the last week or two was beginning to get out of control. It's a 3 year old tank, with no changes in the last year at all.
As of last night, I have lost everything (3 clowns, 1 keyhole angel, 1 yellow tang, small frogspawn, 2 anemones, 1 large (8-10") torch coral, hundreds of mushrooms, several snails and hermits) except 1 tiny anemone, 1 large snail and a large coral banded shrimp that was my first ever tank mate that is almost 4 years old now and was large when I got it. Amazing it has survived this long.
2 questions: 1. Would the water change be the factor, or was something else like an anemone starting to die and releasing toxins causing problems?
<The latter more likely>
At what point does the anemone release toxins when they die?
<Do so when stressed period, much more so on decomposing>
2. Now that almost everything is gone, would I be better letting it set fallow for a month or two and do some water changes before I try adding any fish, or would it be better to drain the water, clean everything and refill fresh?
<I'd drain, bleach-wash all; start completely over>
I am limited on space to keep the live rock during this, but I think I could manage. I really wouldn't look forward to that task, but if that is best then I will.
<I see.... then I'd drain, gravel vacuum, refill and leave fallow for a month or more. "Test" w/ a bio-assay organism ahead of re-stocking>
Thanks in advance, this really bothers me that everything was so good for so long and then all of a sudden everything is gone.
<Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Re: Mass loss after 3 successful years
Thank you very much,,,,, I think you are right about what happened, and I will definitely take action quicker next time, as well as try to eliminate the issues ahead of time. I have replied to your responses in brackets [*response*].
<I see. Thank you for this follow-up. BobF>
Thank you again!
Subject: Mass loss after 3 successful years This first part was written a week ago in a forum so I copied and pasted, then below the last line is the current situation.
I have a 75 gallon with a 20 gallon sump, skimmer, ~75lbs live rock, some coral, and 5 fish. All has been running fine for 3 years, and the last two without any changes in fish or corals. Everything has been very healthy.
Torch coral growing huge, Anemone split twice and is now 3.
<Some question of allelopathy here>[I think you may be right about this. Since it was the same anemone that split, I figured they would get along, and all 3 remained close to each other.]
Coral banded shrimp molted several times. Everything doing good.
About 1 month ago I noticed a lot of hair algae starting, and my sand was starting to grow a layer on it faster than my hermits could clean it. I figured my RO system was due for filters so I planned to change them out but hadn't done it yet. About 2 weeks ago I noticed the anemone and the corals were not opening like normal and the algae had really taken off to the point it was trying to plug my overflow box.
<React!>[I did, but it was too little too late. I didn't realize algae was creating a chemical issue, I figured it was mostly a cosmetic issue.]
Thinking my phosphates were probably high, and I had some water already mixed in my QT tank, I did my normal water change. (consists of mixing 10 gallons of RO saltwater <What brand?> [Instant Ocean brand is the 5 gallon bucket. Is there a better option I should look into?] in my QT tank with nothing in it. Let it circulate for a week or so, then drain 10 gallons out of the main, put this back in and all is good.) The exception this time is the water had been circulating in the QT for 3 weeks. Nothing else in it, just water, salt, and a HOB filter to circulate it. When I shut my system down to do the water change, the main pump didn't restart like normal, but it had done this once before and did restart about an hour later. This time it went all night without restarting. By morning I had lost one clown and the rest were looking stressed. I did a quick check of water temp and tried to get the pump going, but had to get to work so I hung the HOB filter on the side to create some movement.
When I got home, the other two clowns were at the top of the tank and not looking good. The tang and the angel looked stressed, but was acting fine.
I checked my water parameters and all was at or near 0 and well within range.
I did another 10 gallon water change to try and minimize anything I was not seeing, got the pump working correctly and tried to clean some of the algae from the sand bed and sides. Thinking with all of this, it would help things out.
I got up this morning, and 3 more fish were gone. I don't understand what went wrong with this water change as I have done plenty of changes this same way.
<The root problem is not the water, changes>
The ONLY thing I know that was different was that my mixed water was circulating in the QT for 3 weeks instead of my normal 1 week. Would this cause my issues, or was it more the hair algae and phosphates getting out of control more of the issue?
<Most likely a "cascade event" w/ the conditions worsening, algal proliferation (possible toxicity here), then the pump being out... triggering a chemical duel twixt the Euphyllia and Anemones: the aforementioned allelopathy. Read here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/cnidcompppt.htm
and the linked files above, particularly for the species involved here> [I think you nailed it with this. It all makes sense and matches the timeline of what happened.] I don't check my water parameters often as I do not add any chemicals. I monitor appearance, and check parameters occasionally if something looks off. Every time I do check them, everything is right where I want it, so I don't disturb anything by adding stuff. Everything normally looks great, is clean, healthy and growing. I do slack on my water changes and have went several months without any, but within the last year I have been doing better with one every 4-6 weeks. Still, all looked good until a month ago when the hair algae started growing, and within the last week or two was beginning to get out of control. It's a 3 year old tank, with no changes in the last year at all.
As of last night, I have lost everything (3 clowns, 1 keyhole angel, 1 yellow tang, small frogspawn, 2 anemones, 1 large (8-10") torch coral, hundreds of mushrooms, several snails and hermits) except 1 tiny anemone,
1 large snail and a large coral banded shrimp that was my first ever tank mate that is almost 4 years old now and was large when I got it. Amazing it has survived this long.
2 questions: 1. Would the water change be the factor, or was something else like an anemone starting to die and releasing toxins causing problems?
<The latter more likely>
At what point does the anemone release toxins when they die?
<Do so when stressed period, much more so on decomposing>
2. Now that almost everything is gone, would I be better letting it set fallow for a month or two and do some water changes before I try adding any fish, or would it be better to drain the water, clean everything and refill fresh?
<I'd drain, bleach-wash all; start completely over>
I am limited on space to keep the live rock during this, but I think I could manage. I really wouldn't look forward to that task, but if that is best then I will.
<I see.... then I'd drain, gravel vacuum, refill and leave fallow for a month or more. "Test" w/ a bio-assay organism ahead of re-stocking> [This is likely what I will go for. I need to build a sort of vacuum that I can use to clean my sump since it sets on the floor anyway. This will be a good time to do it.] Thanks in advance, this really bothers me that everything was so good for so long and then all of a sudden everything is gone.
<Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Re: Sump/Refugium Question. Now chilled reef 1/17/12
Hello Mr. Fenner,
<Msieu Dai>
Last weekend, I had the crew from the LFS came over and transferred the new 210 gallon tank to the living room to replace the old 130 gallon one.
<Good to have competent (and strong!) help>
I was concerned about the cold water but before I could say something, they had transferred all my fish to the new tank with the water temperature of 65 degrees! (We had a cold front coming through the night before). Needless to say all the fish were stressed and I have been keeping my fingers crossed since then. Yesterday (24 hours later), the flame angel went into hiding but he did perk in and out of the rocks for few seconds. I would like to know if this is due to fright or being sick from such drastic, no acclimation introduction. The pajama cardinal did the same thing. When the bristle worm was brought into this condition, it immediately died on the spot! I am very concerned for my fish because I hate to lose them after they have been thriving in my tank for the past four years. Is there anything I can do now to help them out at all?
<I see this below... I would have pre-warmed the water of course>
Currently, the temperature is at constant 78 degrees.
My Powder blue, hippo tank, fox face, 4 tomato clowns, 8 damsels are doing well at this time. Thank you for your time. Very worried DP.
<Only time can/will tell here Phan. Hang in there. BobF>

Woke up to my reef at 90 degrees -- 1/3/12
Hi, I did some maintenance on my tank last night and must have accidentally bumped the heater on my reef up to 90 degrees. Woke up this morning and my tank looked horrible. The tank has dropped to around 81 since, but some of my corals look pretty bad. The worst ones are my Xenia and finger leather.
Also, my bubble coral seems to be releasing something into the tank. What should I do?
<Pre-mix and store as much water as you can... Anticipate at least one large change-out... Also see WWM re Chemical Filtrants>
What are the chances of my tank making a full comeback?
<Hard to say... could be 100%>
Thank you guys/gals for your expertise!
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Help with a few fish, SW env. issues 3/30/11
Thanks for the great site and all of the time you spend answering questions and providing information for this hobby.
I own an aquarium maintenance company as a side job and recently had a customer that decided to leave the hobby.
After a few weeks of not being able to sell his tank, he offered it to me at a very discount rate so I took it off his hands.
He had always kept it overstocked against my advice so before I ever moved it I sold 4 fish out of it to someone who had
a bigger tank. That left 5 fish in a 210, which is much better than 9. The remaining 5 include a large Golden Puffer, a Naso Tang, a Magnificent Foxface, a Humu Trigger, and a Koran Angel. All of the fish are pretty large with the two smallest being the angel and the trigger at about 4". The fish have been together for at least two years and have shown no signs of disease although I know they had been being tortured by a large Clown Tang. I moved the tank last week (quite a task) and noticed a rise in Ammonia (.25 ppm) for about two days after moving it, no Nitrites, Nitrates have always been high due to overstocking/feeding. I did a couple of 50 gallon water changes and now the Ammonia reads 0. I hope to continue this and get the Nitrates in a more reasonable range soon.
The reason for the email is that I have noticed some cloudiness on the eyes and fins of the Humu, Foxface, and Naso, and even "fuzzy" lips on the Naso as well.
<I see all this in your images>
The Foxface seems to have some small bumps on his side, they don't look like ich in person but in the photo they do, spots look dark in color in person. The main reason for not thinking that it is ich is that the fish were in a much more stressful environment prior to the move, it seems like if ich were present it would have manifested then. Just wondering if you had any idea what
<Mmm, not Ich/Crypt... but environmental of some sort/s>
could be going on, if this was likely related to the Ammonia spike and would possibly go away with time, or if you recommended action now.
Would a dip do any good?
I would rather not move them to a QT due to the size of the fish (I only have a 40 breeder to do this with). Also, <Nor moving these fishes to quarantine. Their "world" needs to be improved... Some new/fresh live rock, activated carbon, better food/s (Spectrum pellets is what I recommend)... Do you have an Ozonizer that could be applied here?>
the Puffer hasn't eaten since the move. He is very fat though so I am hopeful he will come around. Any suggestions there?
Any advice would be appreciated.
<Bob Fenner>

Re: Help with a few fish, SW, env. dis.... rdg. 4/1/11
Thanks for the reply. I have done another water change and the Nitrates now test at 40 ppm,
<Still about twice as high as I'd allow. See WWM re NO3 control>
they had been well over a hundred for a couple of years. The fish don't seem to be any better.
<Recovery from such environmental stress/disease takes weeks, months>
I have noticed a few of them "scratching" and "twitching" (makes me worry of Ich),
<Not likely... where would this come from?>
at times they appear "dusty", but they are still eating well. The puffer still hasn't eaten and it has been a week since I moved the tank.
<Not to worry>
I know he can go a while without food but I would feel better if he were eating, he seems to have a "dusty" look on some of his fins as well. I am attaching a couple pictures of his mouth to see if you think it may look swollen, could it be possible he was stung by the Foxface?
<Would probably be dead if so>
He shows no interest in shrimp on a feeding stick
<... see Tetraodont feeding on WWM...>
. These fish have way less stress/aggression and better water quality than they have seen since the ocean so it puzzles me why all of this is happening now. I don't have an ozonizer but I will continue to try and improve water quality and keep them eating. I feed the spectrum pellets as you have recommended.
Thanks for all of your help, I know you are a busy man.
<Keep reading. BobF>

My Pearly Jawfish has something sticking out of its side! (resent) 3/27/11
Hi guys - I have replaced the 100.2k photo that was attached in case that is what caused the original email to be not answered. I have resized the photo which of course caused loss of detail, but it now meets the 300pixel requirement. The link at the bottom of the original email (below) is to the high resolution photo of the protrusion.
<I see this...>
It's now been 5 or 6 days since I noticed the original discolored area & bump and 3 days since it appeared that there was something sticking out of it. Not much change from then. There does still appear to be something sticking out from the area, and it kinda looks like an Aiptasia even though that makes no sense to me.
<Does look something like a child's "jack" as in the four pointed toy one picks up in quantity while bouncing a ball>
Typically one of the jawfish will get a little bruise & it will go away in a day or 2, so I'm very concerned for this fish. He still acts okay & is eating & swimming normally. If there is anything I can do to help him, please let me know. Thanks again!
<Mmm, t'were it me, mine, I just might carefully net this fish out and try to grasp this object, pull it out. Bob Fenner>
[Original email]
Subject: My Pearly Jawfish has something sticking out of its side!
Date: Fri, 25 Mar 2011 22:36:49 -0500
It's been quite a long time since I've had to write in with an issue & will thank you in advance for your help - you guys do an amazing job here! My system is generally quite healthy, and that is due in large part to your wealth of information.
My system consists of 150g & 75g display tanks, each with closed loops & 2-3 Koralias, a 55g sump/refugium, approx 225g total water volume, approx 250# live rock, a DIY algae scrubber, Aqua C Urchin Pro skimmer, 2LF Phosban reactor containing RowaPhos, 3 heaters, chiller, T5 lighting (except on scrubber). The 150 is set up as a jawfish species tank with a 6-7" dsb, 6 jawfish that are 1 year old, a Dartfish, a neon goby & a six-line wrasse (moved about a month ago from the 75 to eat flatworms in the 150), a dozen or so Ricordeas, yellow polyps, button polyps, gsp, 2 small & 1 large serpent starfish, 2 scarlet hermits, about 15 Nassarius snails, 12 Astrea snails, Stomatellas, micro stars, a bunch of flatworms & Aiptasia. There may also be some Berghia Nudibranchs in the tank. Other system inhabitants are 2 ocellaris clowns, another neon goby, 2 blood shrimp, a brown urchin, a flametail blenny, mushrooms, a toadstool, some anthelia, Halimeda & Chaeto. Parameters are: PH 7.99, ammonia & nitrite 0, nitrate between 0 & 5, phosphate between 0 & .25, spg 1.026, dkH 6, calcium 400. I typically feed them NLS flakes or pellets (including Thera-A), but occasionally they get frozen mysis & bloodworms (& yes I overfeed, hence the Aiptasia & flatworms, but we're working on getting them eradicated). We do about a 10% water change weekly & use Instant Ocean.
Several weeks ago we had an issue with our skimmer which resulted in the salinity dropping to around 1.022, but we added saltwater instead of fresh for make-up & so it slowly moved back up to 1.026 & has been there for the past week or so.
A couple days ago, I noticed a brown spot on the lower left side of one of my jawfish. I figured it was a bruise & didn't think much more about it, as occasionally one or two of the jawfish will pop up with a small injury that heals in a couple days. Today, it appears that there is something protruding from that area - almost looks like a little Aiptasia - I'm attaching a photo that is about as good as I can get (he simply won't hold still & pose for me ;) - plus the injured area is only a couple mm wide).
He acts healthy, eats, covers his hole at night, etc. After their dinner this evening, it looked as though the area was flat & not protruding any more. Can you offer any suggestions as to what this might be? I'd really like to hope that it's just a bruise & a flap of skin/scales that will heal on its own - I can't imagine trying to get any of these fish out, since they dart in their holes & stay there if you are doing anything in the tank
(except feeding them!), but if it's a parasite or something that can be healed/fixed with a special food or something, I'd really like to keep Jeffrey Jawfish alive & healthy!
Thank you so much for your help! Lillian
(FYI - if it would be helpful to you, there is a much higher resolution photo here:


Re: My Pearly Jawfish has something sticking out of its side! (resent) 3/29/11
Update: I got your response but don't feel confident about netting the fish - I'm afraid I would hurt it more in the process.
I added some Epsom salts to our regular water change yesterday in hopes of encouraging some healing, since yesterday the area looked the same as in the photos I took last Friday. I became quite concerned this morning because there was no sign of activity at Jeffrey's burrow, but was later relieved to find that he has just moved, as he is now hovering over another fish's burrow on the other side of the tank. The injured area now looks more like an open sore with a bit of a bump, but nothing sticking in or out of it (thank goodness). Could the "thing" possibly have been skin/scales sloughing off from a deeper bruise?
I am hoping this will go ahead & heal on its own.
<I as well>
I am also now wondering if the bruise is a result of some mating behavior (two males vying for one egg-laden female?),
<Mmm, it's a "something" that I can't recall... biological... like a "sticker" terrestrially>
as a female jawfish appeared to be carrying eggs, and this afternoon Jeffrey had them in his mouth!
I'm guessing he subsequently swallowed them since they're not in his mouth anymore & his belly is fat. I understand that this can be normal for new jawfish parents-to-be, and this was our first spawn.
Attached is a shot of Jeffrey holding the eggs this afternoon, so he obviously is not too much under the weather as a result of the injury.
<I see>
If there is any other type of reef-safe additive to promote healing, let me know.
<Mmm, none that I would/will recommend presently>
Thank you again. Lillian
<Welcome. BobF>

Fish problem, Possible Marine Disease 2/13/11
I have a problem in my tank which just appeared. We have 6 fish in a 30 gallon tank with about 8 corals. Two of our fish developed a disease on and around their lips. One was a blue velvet damsel and it's lips turned white and actually fell off in one day. It's breathing is also very rapid The other is a box fish we have had for 3 weeks. It has with tissue looking material on either side of it's mouth which doesn't seem to be affecting it yet. The rest of the fish seem fine.
I'm sure we have lost our damsel, but is there anything we can do to help our spotted box fish?
Tina Miller
<Usually symptoms like these are environmental in nature, check that your water parameters are in line. It may be necessary to remove the sick fish and treat with antibiotics in a hospital tank.
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_6/volume_6_2/mycobactera.htm >

Saltwater Tank/Ridiculous Stocking Levels 12/4/10
<Hello Amber>
We had a 5 yr old 55 gallon established saltwater tank in good shape with a small grouper and 2 larger(@ 8inches) and a larger Volitans Lion fish. We needed to go bigger because our fish had grown. We bought a used 90 gallon tank which had been used to raise plants for a company who sets up and maintain tanks for
offices, hospitals etc.
<Increasing the length and width of a tank when upgrading are much more important than just increasing the depth. You have provided very little improvement for these fish.>
We switched everything over (original water, live rock, gravel and fish). Then added enough saltwater to fill up the tank. That was about 2 months ago. We have tried about everything and cannot get it to
straightened out. The pH, nitrates, nitrites and ammonia went through the roof.
<The fish load in this tank is ridiculous and am not surprised that readings have gone "through the roof".>
We were told replace your bulbs because the spectrum has gone bad (done that).
You need a protein skimmer (done that). You have an old out dated filtration system (got a new canister filtration system for up to 110 gallons plus was using the 2 out dated filters (for up to 130 gallons).We are using reverse osmosis water now (was told it would straighten out our problem) instead of well water which always worked in the 55 gal tank. It will be clear as day at night time and early morning but after the lights come on (about 3,4 or 5 hours later) it looks very brown and cloudy. We were told water changes and a lot of them.
Done that lots and lots. We were told it keeps cycling since after we do a water change it is clear for a day or so then it goes right back to the same brownish cloudy state after the lights have been on for a few hours. The fish quit eating for awhile but now are back to having a large appetite. Haven't lost any fish but it looks terrible. We have Googled this and looked at everything and talked to people who do this for a living and tried everything. We have gotten the water tested professionally. The last time they said we have no nitrites but the nitrates are back through the roof. Can you offer any advice?
<I am surprised that no one ever told you your tank is overstocked and is the major cause of your problem. Three groupers and a Lionfish produce a huge amount of waste that your system cannot deal with, it's crashing, big time.
The Lionfish alone is a bit too large for your system. Sounds to me like these "experts" were more concerned with selling you equipment rather than seriously addressing the real problem. My advice is
to find homes for these fish and fast. Secondly, I would tear this tank down and wash the substrate thoroughly and start anew with fish that are suitable for your tank size. Research fish before you buy, ensure you can provide the requirements needed for keeping a particular species. James (Salty Dog)>


Re Saltwater Tank/Ridiculous Stocking Levels 12/4/10 - 12/14/10
To James (Salty dog);
<Hi Amber>
Mr. Salty Dog, I don't consider myself inept. I have been a hobbyist for 5 yrs and I do know my species well. These fish we have now did exceptionally well in a 55 gallon which was thinner and shorter. I understand these fish will become quite large. This is a transitional tank. Plans for at least a 150 gallon
tank in the works. I believe my mistake was not rinsing the substrate when changing tanks.
<And not telling me that this was a transitional tank. None the less, much too small for the size of its occupants.>
I had sand mixed in as well. I simply took from one to the other. Added enough premixed RO water to top off the tank. Recently discovered the Ro process with out the DI filtering doesn't remove nitrites, phosphates or silicates. So algae freaked out. Had well water and RO tested. Well water better.
Got a UV Sterilizer for suspended algae and started using well water in tank again. In less than 8 hrs the water is clear. Everyone in tank including crabs are very active and eating well. The tank has remained crystal clear for a week.
Thank you for kind direction. Will be keeping our fish
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
fish hobbyists

All My Polyps are Closed!!? Anomalous Xeniid crash 5/24/10
Hello Crew,
I have been a big fan of this website for years, and I come here whenever I have an easy or tough question to answer. The wealth of knowledge on this site is second to none, and I appreciate having this resource available.
Here's my most recent issue:
I've had a reef tank set up for a little over 3 years (50 Gal display with 30g sump), with various polyps, and other soft corals, as well as some fish, snails, etc. Everything has been doing well, but I recently switched two things to my tank, and ALL my polyps have been closed since. It looks like the Pom Pom Xenia are all either dead or dying, as well. I'm hoping someone can help...
<Do be ready to scrape, remove the Xeniids if they're collapsing... or take out all else to some other system>
I have always had perfect levels (8.3, 0 nitrate, 0 phosphate, 480 cal., etc.), but was still having an algae issue. To combat that, I decided to add a Vortech MP10 to make sure I didn't have any dead areas (Have been running a Mag Drive 12 as main return with a SCWD, with a Maxi Jet with 1600 attachment in the tank). I also added two boxes worth of Hagen BioMax Filter Media in a section of my sump, just before the return pump.
<Both these changes, additions should be fine>
My goal with those was to get rid of any "crap" that kept getting pumped back into the main tank by the return pump. My levels are still pristine, algae is pretty much under control, and the clarity of my water is much better.
But, my polyps remain closed!?
Any ideas?
<Something else... but Pulsing Soft Corals can/do at times undergo population collapses... and the resultant chemical stew can be very toxic to other Cnidarians, fishes even>
Have I "purified" the water too much with the BioMax?
<No... this is a chemically inert material... for bacterial housing...>
I've tried different speeds with the MP10, and no change. I've also tried putting Coral Frenzy in a few times, and no change.
Any help is Greatly Appreciated.
<Again, the removal of the Xeniids... or all other livestock elsewhere... Water changes, use of carbon, spiffing up your skimmer can only do so much>
(if this helps, I also have a small amount of carbon filtration, Nova Extreme T5's, a protein skimmer, and a good amount of live rock)
<Do/es help>
<Bob Fenner>

New Lights ....Sudden Death 5/17/10
Hello ..
<Hello Paul>
My lights (Lunar Aqualight Compact Fluorescent) went dead on our 125 gal tank (half of the tank). I changed out within seven days with a upgraded system (2 Halide and 4- T5's) Now I'm seeing leather withdraw/ flop, have had two fish die. Is this from light cycle stress or reaction to the different bulbs?
<Corals can react to an increase in light intensity, especially with a seven day term of reduced lighting, but it is highly unlikely fish would die from the increase in light intensity. Your ammonia level is high and I'm betting the fish deaths were caused by the ammonia spike. Do read here on light acclimation.
Only thing out of the norm is the ammonia at .5
We did do a filter change with a new pad (Poly-Bio-Marine) prior to the light system change.
Any ideas?? Our Starfish is unhappy too and our Foxface seems to be in a marathon molt.
<All can be a reaction from the ammonia spike, ammonia level needs to come down to 0ppm pronto.
James (Salty Dog)>

Should I add the cleaner or not?! Water quality troubles, SW 4/27/10
Hello again crew!
<Hello Terry>
I am contacting you today with a question concerning my 500 gallon swim tank. Recently I have noticed that my Pinktail and Niger triggers have gotten this cloudy film over their eyes. Also my orange shoulder tang is scratching a lot. I immediately checked water quality and everything was perfect except for nitrates at 80 ppm.
<There's your answer.. water quality. Get this down, fast>
I have observed these fish trying to get my queen angel to clean them (sometimes he does).
<Mmm, maybe a secondary parasitic infection, but how serious this is not yet evident>
My main question is this, I have a cleaner wrasse in another system which I wanted to know if it would be a good idea to introduce since the fish are wanting cleaned.
<Possible, although it is well documented that Labroides are not good survivors. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/labroide.htm . I would be more inclined to try Lysmata shrimps here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/inverts/arthropoda/shrimp/cleaner.htm> <<Food here. RMF>>
In my 500 gallon system I have around 30 fish and all of them are eating, I just don't know if I should add the cleaner wrasse because I have read that sometimes they can irritate injured fish, and I do believe this is some type of bacterial infection which I don't know if the cleaners can help with or not?!
<I agree, that your first course of action is to improve the water quality, and see if that leads to a cure. Without doing this, all other courses of action are hindered, or not necessary at all>
What would you do?
Thanks in advance,
<No Problem at all>

A Couple Questions from a Noobie. Wherefore art thou skittish SW fishes? 3/8/2010
Thanks for the service you provide for concerned aquarists and the critters that they keep. Your website is a wonderful reference for a hobby that surprisingly doesn't have many reliable resources to rely on.
I have a 47 gallon column tank with two false Perculas, one multicolor dwarf angel, and one cleaner shrimp. I've noticed that all three fish will randomly dart around while swimming as if they're being shocked. Is there any explanation for this other than stray voltage?
<Yes... can be a matter of "something/s" missing or two much in the water, and biological interaction ("stings") from incompatible forms of life present (and quite common) on/with live rock and such>
I'm particularly worried about the dwarf angel. It was added to my tank about a week ago and in addition to when it "darts around as if being shocked" it also shakes every once in a while in short bursts. I've also noticed it rubbing on the live rock--I've only seen this happen three times over a span of a couple of days. I thought maybe it might have ich so I started adding Garlic Xtreme to its diet. But I'm concerned it might be flukes.
<Mmm, not likely a trematode species affecting all here>
I noticed a small white spot on one of its eyes. It also has some tears in its fins, but I believe those are from one of my false Perculas attacking when the angel ventured into the corner of the tank they've claimed as their home.
<Also quite common, particularly in a small volume of the tall-high make as yours>
The angel is readily eating meaty flakes and picking off algae/sponges on my LR. It and my clowns don't seem fond of Mysis shrimp for some reason.
They'll take a couple bites of the Mysis but then seem uninterested, which is surprising given that they love the meaty flakes.
One of my clowns has a black spot that has appeared on its side. I think it may have been because it rubbed up against a frogspawn coral, which I have since removed from the tank.
<Ahh! This Euphyllia could well account for the darting behavior and more here>
I have no other coral in the tank and I'm assuming the spot will eventually go away. Is this correct?
<Yes, should>
But I'm more concerned about some white/translucent spots that appear on the head of the clown at night. I've seen the spots during the day but most of the time they're only visible at night and are limited to just the forehead/nose area of the clownfish. It looks like white/translucent acne.
Is this just the result of stress that will disappear with time or should I be treating for something?
<Can't tell, but I would be adding a good deal of activated carbon, likely a pad of PolyFilter in your filter flow path here to discount possibilities>
My last question concerns the water quality. My water appears cloudy and I think it might be a mixture of both algae and bacterial bloom. My tank is about seven weeks old.
<!? This is very new... likely not "totally" cycled at this point>
I used a clarity product but it hasn't helped much. I have a Aquaclear 110 HOB filter (rated for 90G) with just the filter sponge in the chamber. I also have a Filstar XP1 canister filter (rated for 45G) with just activated carbon and granular ferric oxide in it.
<I'd ditch the latter for now>
I have fine sand substrate and I wonder if this might be a part of the problem?
<Mmm, from being stirred up?>
How can I get my water crystal clear and are all these problems interrelated?
<Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/CloudySWF.htm
and the long stretch from which you lead yourself through linked files, learning>
Thank you for your time and patience with all these questions.
<Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Secondary Infection to Popeye... SW 101b 9/21/09
Hello WWM-you guys and gals are amazing and I have forever bookmarked your website!
<Mmm, well, till the next hard drive crash... or ding dang Net virus perhaps!>
I have a question regarding my Clarkii Clown, but first I'll give you my history and stats...
<"I was borne a poor pet-fish aquarist...">
I have always had fresh water tanks, and (silly me) figured saltwater wouldn't be too much different... just add salt, right? (wrong)
<You're so right>
My friend had a 75 gallon FOWLR tank that she got from another friend who got tired of it. It came to her with a snowflake moray eel, a three stripe damsel and one other fish that she quickly killed off...she quickly tired of it and talked of getting rid of it-I said I would take it if she were ever serious. She called me one day and said come and get it. So I did, stopping at PetSmart to get a couple books on my way...
So the tank came with:
the eel and the damsel
about 60 pounds of live rock
a DSB, about 3"
<Mmm, I'd add an inch or two too. Toodle loo!>
Rena Filstar XP2
a heater
a sand/gravel vacuum
a non functional power head
some food
a swing arm hygrometer
some salt
and that's about it
After reading about the importance of skimmers, I bought the only one Petsmart had-the SeaClone100
<Ugh! See WWM re>
I added some airstones along the back wall, a new power head and got a full line of water parameter testing (both the API Reef Master and the Aquarium Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Saltwater Master-both liquid kits)
(The skimmer never seemed to do anything. Up until this recent "disaster" I thought it was just because I did a good job of keeping a clean tank...ha!!
I ended up pulling it off and not even using a skimmer. Once the "disaster" occurred, I traded it in for the identical model, hoping this one would do better.
And it actually does, but still not as good as I have read it should.)
All the life rock was covered in a THICK green carpet, that I naively thought I could brush off, just like I did with all my freshwater ornamentals!
<Ooohhh pretty!>
OBVIOUSLY I had no clue, didn't even know what live rock meant! Since I could not brush it off, I got a Foxface Rabbit Fish and a Yellow Tang and a Sailfin Tang, and they did an awesome job of cleaning it up! It was fun to watch the rocks come back to (healthy) life with all the beautiful colors and little life forms!
So, I studied, took notes, read, looked up and had a quite happy little tank for the past three years. No fish deaths, other then my eel getting a little big for her britches and eating over 100$ worth of fish over the course of a week. (She has since been rehomed! lol) I also lost a sandsifter starfish (high nitrates?) and had a couple scallops that lived for quite a while, then I found their shells one at a time (puffer fish??)
<Quite possibly>
I am interested in "upgrading" to a sump with/and refugium...doing some homework on that now. I also would like to get more live rock, to make a total at about 110 pounds (money, money, money...) and OF COURSE I need a better skimmer...
My water parameters historically:
Ammonia: 0
Nitrites: 0
Nitrates: high (40-80)
5 Phosphorous: 5
<Double, make that trip whoa!>
Specific gravity: 1.023
Carbonate Hardness: 14-16
pH: 7.8 (I can't seem to get it to stay any higher, which is weird with the super high Carbonate Hardness-idea's???)
<All sorts... Read on WWM: http://wetwebmedia.com/calcalkmar.htm
and the linked files above>
Initially, I attributed my high nitrates to the fact that I filled the tank with hose water in the beginning (stupid! stupid! stupid!) But one I learned the error of my ways, I did massive and frequent water changes trying to dilute out that original water. Nitrates have always remained high, I'm guessing just a high bioload and no system in place to removed them (I'm thinking time for a refugium and some plants!)
<Will help for sure>
So...life happens, I had a baby and wasn't as vigilant as I should have been...wasn't testing, cleaning my filter or doing water changes as often (about every 4-6 weeks, when the algae would build up and start looking bad)
About 6 weeks ago, I noticed my blue hippo tang was hiding more often and not eating as much. I watched her for a few days and felt certain I wasn't making things up. Did a cleaning and 25% water change and kept watching her. Then I thought my Clarkii Clown was acting a little odd. He was eating great, but swimming a little differently, keeping to one corner in the tank and swimming up to the top.
Everyone else in the tank seemed fine and was eating great and active. So I just kept watching. Then I thought maybe my Foxface Rabbit Fish was being more shy then normal and not eating as well, but still eating.
The Blue Hippo Tang was definitely looking skinnier, and since I had worries about a couple other tank members, I decided to throw caution to the wind and treat THE WHOLE tank with Erythromycin.
<Mmm, should have just fixed the environment...>
I was "slightly" aware of the damage that it would cause to my nitrogen cycle, but thought if I had a bunch of waters prepared and really stayed on top of testing, and added an ammonia absorbing media to my filter, I could keep the dreaded ammonia spike to a minimum. I was wrong...so wrong. And so stupid. Lesson learned. Never again.
I was horrified when my ammonia levels read 1.0. It was also the end of the recommended 4 day treatment and was supposed to do a 25% water change, but I did a 50% water change. Dumb move again. My Blue Hippo Tang died that night, and so did another fish, my Flame Angel, who had been doing totally fine and I was not concerned with him at all! So sad.
Well, the ammonia continued to spike, got to 3.5 even, so I went to my LFS (45 minutes away), had them test my water and talked to them about other ideas. I had already been adding Liquid Vacuum and Top Fin's Bacteria Supplement as well as API's Stress Coat (figured that one couldn't hurt...they were stressed...), but they also suggested to stop feeding my fish, except a small amount every other day (duh! why didn't I think of that) and adding another media to my filter. I don't recall the name, but they are these blue rubber, kinda star shaped pieces that also came in a liquid bacteria supplement that would help jump start the nitrification in my tank again.
AND, he recommended I drop the SG to 1.019 in my tank because of the opportunistic bacteria that will hang around in the higher SG. He said I don't need it that high since it is just a Fish and Live Rock, no reef tank.
<... I would not do this>
So, speaking of opportunistic bacteria...this is where that discussion came from and the root of my question for you...
My Clarkii Clown that was acting just a little odd, but still eating well, stopped eating during the antibiotic treatment (and poor water quality stress?)
<Yes; almost certainly>
But here is the kicker... when I did my massive water change and cleaned my hood and was putting the glass lid back on, I dropped one piece of the glass that fell on another and broke it into three large pieces. One piece fell right to the bottom, not bothering anyone else. Another slowly glided down and pinned my Porcupine Puffer to the ground. It really was quite comical, as he just sat there, content to wait for me to help him out. Not comical, however, was the third piece that appeared to just bump the Clarkii on it's descent. He swam to the other side of the tank and hung out there for a while. Once I picked the pieced up, I went over to check him out and his right eye looked weird-The eye itself looked fine, no sign of injury except for a tiny little air bubble INSIDE the eye. Not around, not above, not behind, but IN the eye. I immediately looked up anything I could find on the web and didn't find any matches. Saw tons of pictures and references to popeye, but this was not that. The little bubble was in the eyeball itself.
<Happens... again, stress in a word>
The next day it was gone. Then about two days after that, it started swelling up, really quickly, now resembling the pictures of popeye I had seen. All I read, was that if it was from an injury, then it should heal itself, just keep excellent water parameters. I was doing my best with the water, but it was still far from normal. They eye got bigger and bigger and then a few days after it first started swelling it looked like it was actually exploding. I could see tissue leaking out from around where it could stretch no more.
<See WWM re unilateral exophthalmia... physical trauma>
At that point, I cracked out the QT and started him on Maracyn 2. I did a 6 day treatment of that, also using Epsom salts and keeping pristine water parameters with daily water changes. The eye did not look any better, but after a few days on the antibiotics, he would eat a little food out of my hands. He has really been quite social and always swims to the top of the tank anytime I open the hood and looks at me with his good eye! He ate for a couple days, then stopped again. After the treatment, I switched to Terramycin and just finished that 6 day course two days ago.
<... gots to stop being a good western consumer... and fix their world>
He is still not eating, but the swelling is finally, completely gone, back to normal size. What is not normal is how the center of the eye (or what used to be an eye) has purulent discharge and is constantly bleeding a little (just read that Tetracycline is contraindicated in such cases. Nice to know now...) I have been scouring the web for any reference to using topical antibiotics and/or injectible. I am a CVT and have access/knowledge in that area pertaining to our terrestrial friends, but can't find anyone with a clue on fish.... until YOU!!
The sore is obviously not healing and he is not eating, so I am wondering what the next step needs to be. I am able to gently debrade the eye with a Q-tip (the same as we do with dogs and cats with a corneal abrasion) and applied a drop of NeoPolyDex drops on it for a couple days now. He is such a friendly little guy and so cooperative. I feel so bad for what I have put him through and really want to make it up to him, so, thanks in advance for the life saving advice you will offer!!
Another note: yesterday I noticed his fins and around his gills are reddish tinged. The water is very red from the Tetracycline and even the silicone in the corners appears to have taken a pinkish tinge, so I am not sure if that is what it is from. I have read about Septicemia, but not really thinking that is what it is, but can't find any pics to compare with.
BTW the main tank is back on track and thriving once more, as far as ammonia goes-back to zero!! Nitrates are still very high (80) and Phosphorous high (5).
<These are indicative of the source of trouble here... What is adding to and allowing the persistent nutrient uber concentration...>
So addressing that is my next challenge. I am ready to dive back into my tank be dedicated to making my fishy friends the best home possible. The deserve it and depend on me-I'm not going to let them down again!
(And to think i thought about a reef tank! lol-I am SOO not ready for that!)
Thanks again Team!!
(PS-you said to be thorough and that I should not worry about giving too much information...but I even feel this was a little excessive!! sorry!!)
Lots of love from the Soldati Animal Kingdom-
Aimee Anne, Brent, Ariella Rose, Mickey (Noodle-Poodle), Minnie (Mama's), Daisey-Maybel, Mallorie-Mariah, Birdie, Mango, Lilly-Lou-Lou-Belle and the salt water fishes!
<Ummm, see WWM re... Maybe start here: http://wetwebmedia.com/nutrientcontrol.htm
and ALL the linked files above. Then we'll talk if you have further questions. Bob Fenner>

Tank Crash 7/7/09
Clear DayHey everyone! I haven't talked to you guys since I used to answer questions along side of you!
<Hello Jen!>
Still extremely busy here and now planning a wedding. Hope everyone is doing well!
I am absolutely stuck. Completely confused, and utterly devastated! OK - my tank (before crash):
**29 gal, 5 gal sump, live sand, live rock - up and running for about 5 years.
**Parameters: 1.025, 8.3pH, Ammonia, Nitrate, Nitrite at 0. Temp varied around 82 degrees. Alk 12 dKH
**Corals- leather, mushrooms, and some kind of non-branching Xenia that spread EVERYWHERE.
<As it's wont to do>
Condy anemone.
**Livestock- 1 true perc (lost one about 3 months ago, but they were 5 years old), a convict goby, and a 6-line wrasse. Various snails, hermies, micro stars.
Here's the problem. On Saturday I treated with Marine Clean - I've been using it about every few months for a year plus w/o any issues. Nothing else added. I came home from fireworks on the 4th to see all the Xenia looking like limp spaghetti!
<Also not an uncommon event>
So at 2am I did a 10% water change just to make sure. Test water, everything as above. Then went to bed.
Woke up Sunday to all 3 fish dead. Remove fish, test water, parameters still as above. Used my spare master kit, tested again, parameters the same. Xenia still looking pretty poor. Did about a 10 gallon water change. My fiancé had custom made a external filter with 10lbs of carbon (he does environmental water filtration), so we decided to set this up now - just in case some other kind of toxin that I cannot test for is the issue.
Runs fine, boost the pH to 8.4 though.
Over the course of the day I check the tank. Xenia still looks horrible! and by the end of the day there is a half inch accumulation of dead brittle stars on bottom of sump. Eek!
By this morning I've lost the anemone (which by this time I was expecting), the Xenia still looks just as bad, and the nitrate and nitrite levels are through the roof! I assume because of all the die-off.
No ammonia though. Did another 3 gal water change.
So I guess my questions are this:
I can seem to figure out what triggered it -
<... perhaps the "Marine Clean", could be simple "stress"... but whatever "it" is, further triggering the Xeniid melt-down... then on to all else>
I've done so many tanks, still own and operate a side business that is all tank maintenance and have NEVER seen anything like this!
And what is the best course of action now?
<Best? IF a business, I'd dump, clean, re-set up... fastest, surest direction>
I was thinking continued water changes to bring down nitrate and nitrite levels - have no hopes of saving Xenia either. Then do I just re-cycle?
Maybe buy a few more pieces of live rock to re-seed bacteria and little critters?
<Sounds good>
I am completely at a loss and very upset! Help! Any insight would be great!
Thanks guys - again!
<Good to hear from you... even under the circumstance. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Re: Tank Crash 7/7/09
Thanks so much for the insight. Its a mind blowing experience to just not be able to figure what triggered an event so catastrophic. Oh well. I do know it happens! Considering this is my personal tank, I will probably just cycle and basically leave fallow for a few months then give it a go and see what happens with VERY slow stocking. Not sure I want to completely take apart and start over........ Yikes!
<I'll say!>
Thanks again, hope everyone at WWM is doing well! I miss writing with you all, but simply do not have the time!
Again, Thank you!
<Welcome... be seeing you, BobF>

saltwater tank crash... Troubleshooting Reef/Cnid. losses 6/23/09
Hello, I am sorry to have to bother you but I am truly at a loss. I went on vacation from 6/11-6/15. Upon returning all of my coral was dead. I quickly ran my tests:
copper-0 ( I check this in the case that my ro/di could be failing)
iron-0 (I do add iron but haven't gotten a reading yet, started about 2 months ago)
iodine-0.01 (began adding this with the iron)
<... low>
temp 82 ( I keep my tank at a stable 82 rather than let it rise and fall)
My tanks set up is as follows:
system has been set up for 3-1/2 years
90 gallon reef set up with 100 lbs live rock and 100 lbs Australian gold sand
2-150 halides, 2 90 wt fluorescents, 4 moon lights
20 gallon sump with live rock--mega flow all-glass model 3, with a phosphate/silicate removal bag inside ( I have always kept one in there, switching it every 6 months)
PM skimmer
ro/di water system in basement
I add iodine, iron, a+b, ph 8.3
My fish eat many different kids of flake food.
<Not completely nutritious, useful>
I lost all my xenia ( acquired 5/07), which covered top 1/3 of tank.
I also lost all my red mushrooms and my green star polyps ( acquired 3/07). The only thing left is one green Ricordea mushroom, so far. My fish are as follows:
bicolor Foxface (6/06)
blue spot Kole tang (10/06)
yellow tang (10/06)
Hawaiian hawk fish (7/07)
black Sebae clown fish (3/08)
lunare wrasse (1/09)
I did have someone watching my tank and they said there was no power outage or temperature spike while I was gone. As a side note, the day after I returned there was an overflow from my sump. After watching for a few days, I realized that the dead corals were jamming up a pad (no chemicals) that was in the sump tray. Thus the sides were overflowing when the water was at the full line. Just a fun little addition since I keep my lighting under there as well. Good times.
<No thanks!>
So I did a water change of 10 gallons and siphoned some of the dead xenia up, but couldn't get much. My plan is to do a larger water change and try to pick up more. The reason I write to you is more than my confusion as to what happened. This morning I noticed my clown lingering near the bottom. I cannot sit by and lose my fish. I have had them forever. I am devastated as it is, but losing the rest of my tank after so much time, love and money would just kill me. I am truly perplexed. Is there something else I should be testing?
<Mmm, no... just massive water changes, use of chemical filtrants, keeping your skimmer spiffed up>
I thought about taking the water to the LFS but they actually run less tests than I do. I wish I had more for you but the truth is not much changed. Thanks for anything you can offer,
<Likely some sort of "cascade event" with one group of Cnidarians poisoning the others... a clue that your fishes weren't offed... Please read here:
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Re: saltwater tank crash 6/23/09
Thank you very much for your help, Jill
<Welcome Jill... Please do read up at your earliest convenience, do the water changes..., keep an eye on all... Cheers, BobF>

Frustrated 04/24/09
Hi. My name is Bryan and I am a relative new-comer to this hobby (almost 7 months). I read extensively about setting up and maintaining a new aquarium and think that I did almost everything correctly as far as I can tell. Cycled the 55-gallon aquarium fully as a FOWLR until nitrates accumulated and brown algae appeared on almost everything. Got 3 smallish Damsels (cyanea, Dascyllus, and yellow-tail cyanea) that have always been doing great, with the exception of some minor in-fighting. The Damsels have never been a problem. So I figured that I could start buying some other fish that I really desired.
<Hmm... uh, with 3 damsels and an anemone, the tank might arguably be considered already fully stocked. These fish will get larger and more aggressive (poor choices for a 55g tank. Please see here:
My first was a medium-sized Yellow Tang that I named Harold. Harold did well for a while, but started getting red splotches on his sides, not eating much, and breathing heavy. I researched this and found that the water quality and diet needed improvement (Nobody at the pet store ever said anything about the special needs of Tangs, other than to include algae sheet in his diet, and I did ask.). I had been feeding him mostly Emerald Entrée and algae sheets (which is what the pet store recommended). I performed the recommended 20% water changes every 2 weeks and always checked levels with my test kits, including nitrates, nitrites, ph, and salinity. Kept nitrates between 10 and 20, usually closer to 20. Kept ph between 8.2 and 8.4. Kept salinity at 1.022 to 1.023 and temperature at 78F. Did all this like I thought I was supposed to, but Harold got the septicemia (red splotches). So I upped the ante and quarantined him for a while, then figured he was better off in the tank when he looked a little better (there's no algae in my quarantine tank), then got vitamin supplement (Zoe) and garlic to help him fight off whatever was ailing him.
<What are you using for filtration? Do you have a protein skimmer?>
He looked great the night before he died - swimming around freely in the tank, color was no longer red but deep yellow, grazing on brown algae, breathing slowed. He had eaten some algae sheet with the vitamin supplement and garlic that day and loved it (as did the Damsels, which usually don't bother with the algae at all). I did a 1/3 water change (33%) that night before he died and checked everything. Nitrates were around 15. Nitrites were zero. pH was in the range of 8.3 to 8.4. Lowered the salinity to around 1.019 to 1.020 to help matters a little.
<Bad idea... dropping the salinity like that only causes stress.>
He looked great for several hours before I went to bed that night. Then I woke up the next day and he was dead, laying on the bottom of the tank, being eaten by my Ophiolepsis superba named Patrick (cute name, huh?). Patrick is a brute and fights me for food sometimes. He's a monster, but only about 4" across from arm tip to arm tip. He never bothers the fish with the lights on, even when they hover within range. The Damsels were noticeably stressed that morning, too, hovering much more than they usually do.
So my question is - what the heck happened?
<You added too much too fast, you didn't research these animals enough before you bought them, you used damsels to cycle your tank... >
How could a fish that looked great and showed so much improvement go to dead in less than 8 hours? And what made the 3 Damsels stressed? They're very durable fish from what I've seen. I've had them for months with no problems while the Tang was dead in only a month. So what happened there? Any ideas?
<See above, your fish are suffering from poor water quality, possibly some overcrowding.>
I also had a small Lemonpeel Angel named Petey that never ate a blessed thing I gave him, God bless him. I was impressed by this fish and did everything I could to accommodate him, but alas he never took to eating prepared foods. He picked at algae, but never ate anything I offered him. The Damsels completely ignored him and the Tang was his buddy, following him around slowly while they grazed together. I thought he would be fine because he never showed any ill signs until about a day before he died. Petey started breathing heavy and stayed curled to his left side while hovering on the bottom of the tank most of the time. So I quarantined him and he died in less than a day without eating anything at all. My QT tank has no algae for him to eat, so I was torn between leaving him in the main tank and putting him in the QT, just like with my Tang. I've heard that Lemonpeel Angels are notorious non-eaters, but I can't help but feel like I did everything I could.
<No, you didn't. It is *your* responsibility to research an animal's needs before you purchase them. Though it's nice if LFS employees are knowledgeable and can help you, ultimately, it's your responsibility to be informed.>
So anyway I'm really frustrated. I did everything I thought was right in my best judgment to get the tank ready for the inhabitants that I wanted
<Again, I would not say this is true... but, you have not given me much information about your system.>
(I never really wanted the Damsels, but they helped cycle the aquarium and I like them a lot now.),
<A poor practice... you should never use live fish to cycle a tank.>
but they both died. I spent a lot of time, money, and effort getting ready for them and trying to rescue them, but the tang lasted only less than a month and the angel less than a week. If I didn't have the Damsels and 2 sea-stars, I would empty the friggin tank and give it away - I'm that frustrated. So where did I go wrong?
<See above... poor planning, poor livestock selection, impatience, what else? I don't know much about your system/filtration.>
P.S. - I also had a Condylactis anemone named Anna that shred about 80% of her tentacles and nearly died, then recovered and started re-growing her tentacles, then a few weeks later curled up and never came back out.
<Dying anemones can definitely spoil water quality.>
She was mostly white, except for some tan on the ends of her tentacles, which I found out is bad, but I hand-fed her krill to try to help supplement her diet. She curled up in a ball and I thought she was dead, but I've seen her come out before when I thought she was dead, so I left her there but she never came back out and eventually disappeared. Maybe the sea-stars ate what was left of her - ? Not sure what effect this would have on anything, but it might be worth mentioning. The history went something like this (times are approximated):
3 Damsels and 1 serpent sea-star (Patrick) living in a fully-cycled aquarium - no problems
Anemone (Anna) introduced
1 week later red brittle star (Scruffy) introduced (he hides and sticks upside-down on stuff and walks up the sides of the tank way-up, he's a good hider - can't find him half the time)
2 weeks later Tang (Harold) introduced
1 week later anemone dies
1 week later Angel (Petey) introduced
1 week later Angel dies
1 week later Tang dies
3 Damsels and 2 sea-stars living in an aquarium....
Tang lived a month, angel a week.
So in the last month, I've had a Condylactis Anemone, a Lemonpeel Angel, and a Yellow Tang all die on me despite my doing everything I could for them. I swear that the nitrates were never over 20, even though they were usually over 15. And I kept a close eye on pH, salinity, and temperature. I understand that the Condy needed ultra-low nitrate levels (<10 is supposed to be preferred) and was probably bleached, but the Tang and the Angel deaths are a mystery to me. Never saw any of them fight at all (except the Damsels between themselves, but they're still alive). What happened? Please restore my faith in this very frustrating hobby that was supposed to help me reduce my stress and bring me hours of satisfaction. I'm at my limit. Your help is very greatly appreciated.
<This might not be what you want to hear, but marine aquarium keeping is just not an easy hobby. Most people give up after 6 to 8 months. Those of us who stick with it until we get it right are usually quite passionate about it (maybe obsessed even). Only those who really do their research, take the time to learn, go slowly, and have the patience, sincere interest... end up being successful.>
Thank you.
<De nada,
Sara M.>

Help ? Missing Echidna... env.dis... 3/12/2009 Hello again, thanks for a real quick response last time. This one is a good one! My 220 salt fish only, is missing 2 of my 3 small snowflake morays.!@ <Mmm, either eaten, hiding... on the floor... carried away by pets?> The tank has been set up for many years, currently it houses 3- 4 inch lion fish , 1 - 6 inch beta, 1-6 inch soldier fish , 1 - 5 inch porcupine puffer, and one 12 inch wolf eel . <Mmm... the puffer is the prime suspect here> All have been doing great for months , water param.s are fine,. The problem , 4 days a go I fed them all chopped squid stuffed and fine , I noticed one of the snowflakes moray went down the mega flow over flow and went through my home made trickle filter of 2 5 gallon pails and was in the sump and i left him there! My return pump does not have a screen on it before it meets up with the other sump then a little giant md4 pumps back up, I wasn't able to check tank for two days and then I noticed that two of the 3 lion fish have their TAIL 3 fins like melted off and are very pale . <Mmm, I don't like this... maybe just consequent of the squid, perhaps the eel perishing... water quality issue most likely> I did a 50 gallon water change added poly filter and checked all levels fine, ph a little low 8.0 .The Coralife skimmer wasn't really overreacting. The lion fish all 3 are still eating fortified krill as the other fish minus 2 eels? Im very concerned about the lion fish ,1 however has perfect fins but is also pale. Do you think the eel has been blended up? <Too likely so> The water is very clear and tightly covered on tank P.S. I noticed during feeding the moray that's still in tank would bite the other ones , but they bite back. thank you Tony <Stay vigilant here... water quality test, chemical filtrant use... pre-made water available for change-outs. Bob Fenner>

My Butterfly Died 2/16/09 Hey Guys, <Keith> I have been looking at your website for several weeks now and it has been very helpful. I do have a question about one of my fish however. I have a 75 gallon FOWLR and everything seemed to be going find for the last few months. Ammonia, Nitrates, Nitrites all 0, according to my test kit. I think I had an ick outbreak and went to my LFS and bought some stuff called Ick Attack. <Mmm... see WWM re> The Ick Attack seemed to work, I guess, and all of my fish seemed to be doing fine. I used it twice a day for 2 weeks with my skimmer off and all of the carbon out of the system, when the 2 weeks were done I did a 20% water change and added the carbon back. I have 2 Clowns, a Velvet Fairy Wrasse, a Green Watchman Goby, a Three Striped Damselfish, about 15 Red Leg Crabs, a Cleaner Skunk Shrimp, and a Yellow headed Jawfish, and at the time I also had a Threadfin Butterfly. Things seemed good after the treatment until about a week later, I came home from work and my Butterfly seemed to be bleeding and looked like he may have been missing a scale on his side. <I see this> I looked on your site and the general answer to questions regarding this was to give it time to heal and keep an eye on it. I thought it was getting better, until yesterday. He seemed to have some red streaks on him, and was not near as energetic or aggressive with his eating. I came home from work today and had plans of setting up a hospital tank and treating from there and he was laying by some rocks breathing really heavy. I was in the process of netting him and he swam fine, just looked very bad, but by the time I had the hospital set up he was gone. Some other things about my tank, I have about 60 pounds of LR and I just put sand in it about 2 weeks ago, it had CC to begin with but it was only about 2 inches deep so I added about 100 pounds of sand on top of the CC. I have a BioWheel 350, a H.O.T. Magnum, and an All Flow Freedom Filter/Skimmer combo. I thought maybe my test kit might be bad, but I took water samples to two different stores and both told me my water was fine. From the picture do you think you can tell me what happened, if it is internal or external, should I worry about the remaining fishes, if you think I should treat the water, what would you suggest to use? <Nada> I have only ever seen my cleaner shrimp on the butterfly, should I worry about him or do you think he will adapt without having someone to clean? <Will adapt> You can see that it seems his tail has been attacked or picked on a bit it was not like that when I left for work this morning. <Likely unrelated> Sorry for jumping around so much, I'm trying to answer all of the questions you guys typically ask and it seems to be coming out pretty chopped up. Thank you in advance, Keith P.S. Today in your daily FAQ you had a piece on about using garlic to treat Ick, do you think that would be a good option for me seeing as it seems my whole tank may be infected? <Do think this alternative "medicine" has something going for it... This Auriga likely died from "stress"... the Kordon "medicine" exposure, the new sand... Not a biological/pathogenic disease here. Else-wise, your other fishes would be involved. Bob Fenner>

Re: My Butterfly Died 2/16/08 Thank you Mr. Fenner, <Welcome Keith> Both of my Clowns seem to have some white spots on them again. Do you think it would be best to stop adding anything to the water and put the carbon filters back in? Two things I forgot to tell you, my PH is 8.4 and I am currently running the temp. at around 82. Thank you for the quick response, I know that I have lost this one but I do not want to lose anything else that is currently calling my tank home. Thanks again, Keith You guys are great <... you need to move the fishes (all) to another system for treatment if necessary. I strongly suspect the Kordon product has poisoned the present one... and that the "stress" of being there is leading to the cascade event of parasitic disease you're experiencing. I would add the carbon back, but I fear your fishes will perish none the less if not moved, post haste, to new water en toto. BobF>
Re: My Butterfly Died 2/16/08
One other question, please <Sure> The store that I purchased the butterfly from told me, after the fact, that they use Kordon products in all of there tanks every day as a precautionary treatment. <Mmm> Do you think it would be best to look elsewhere for a LFS as it seems I might be getting animals that are already poisoned? <Too likely so> About the poison, if I take the fish out to help them, the products will still be in my LR and sand, right? <I don't think so... Have been over with the old owner... this organic mix does degrade> Is my rock and sand in need of replacing or will a good washing get the majority of the products off of and out of it. <Just time going by methinks> Thank you for all of your help Mr. Fenner. Your help is greatly appreciated, even though I'm not sure the outcome will be favorable. Thanks again, Keith <Welcome Keith. BobF>

Re: Strange Wipe Out 1/2/09 Hi James, Thanks for your speedy response and the pointers. <You're welcome.> So trying to get to the bottom of this disaster. We took levels that morning and there was no ammonia spike, pH was 7.9, nitrites negligible and the same for nitrates. <OK.> So I don't know whether that rules out the possibility of a decaying cowry body. Cowry was only about 2cm big, we thought that one of the hermits may have killed and eaten it. The water was cloudy though so maybe another bacterial explosion that lead to the fish death? The tank has been stable more or less since we started and we have never had an ammonia spike or high nitrites. We have a large amount of live rock and live sand which we use as biological filtration plus several hermit crabs and snails. In the Fluval filter we use bio-max, clearMax and opti-carb. The Wreckfish (sea Goldie) also known as Lyretail anthias we have often seen in aquaria shops and is bright orange, maybe this isn't the same fish you mention? <Was not, but anthias do require a larger tank than what you have.> Any ideas about what could have caused this? <You mentioned no toxins could have entered the tank. Doe this include hand contact with the water, nothing on your hand that may be toxic to fish (Windex, etc)? Thanks for your help. Really confused. <Yes, I'm puzzled also. I'm thinking the dead cowry may have had something to do with this or possibly a toxin getting into the water unknowing to you. You may want to read here and related articles/FAQ's, something may ring a bell here for you. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/toxictk.htm James (Salty Dog)> Natalie

Big problem for me, another day at the office for you. Cascade event... Something to BGA to Cnid.s to All 10/24/08 Hi guys. <Jason> I don't write in unless I'm sick to my stomach and need a fast answer, so here goes. This is two weeks in a row now I've experienced major bad news just after a water change. Here's my information... 125 with a 30 gallon sump. EuroReef skimmer, (very tough to behave due to fluctuation in water level in sump, <Mmm, easy to remedy this by "backing up" the water in a section... with baffles...> but skims over or under none-the-less). Tank has been running for about 3 months with all of the 150 lbs of live rock and most of the live sand coming from a tank that had been up for a year. <May be time to replace, add some to... see WWM re> 3, 150 watt halides with 2, 96 watt actinics about 9 inches off the water. Two large Brain corals, one large Bubble coral, one Frogspawn, one Galaxia, trumpets here and there, one Merulina, one Pagoda, one Montipora Capricornis (small), one rock of Zoanthids, and a couple other small Sps corals. Last week I had 9 Domino Damsels of which all died but one after last weeks water change of 15 gallons. <!?> My Yellow tang looked at the time like he was next but pulled through and is fine now. I had at least 8 Turbo snails that now are mostly all laying on their sides. <Summat bad going on here...> I think one of my three Cleaner shrimps have just died, not molted and one of my three Fire shrimp is seriously considering dying. He has been lying on his back for awhile until just now one of the other alive Fire shrimp came upon him, woke him up to mess with him, they tussled for a few seconds and the week one fell off a rock and tumbled to the "ocean" floor, again upside down. Currently all of my corals are extremely retracted and I'm assuming most are on the way out. I also forgot to mention I have three very small Xenia corals that crashed after last weeks water change, were fully revived, and now again look even worse this time. <A cascade event... some errant poisoning, causing sufficient stress to have your Cnidarians in turn poison all> I have Chaetomorpha doing fine in my sump, shall I say a nice salad bowl full. My water temperature is 77 degrees. It goes from about 76-79 on a typical day. I know 2 degrees should be the max, but hey, c'mon. S.G. is 1.024 PH is 8.1 Nitrate 20 <High for a reef> Nitrite 0 Phosphate .5 <Also> Ammonia 0 I have a 1800 gph mag drive in the sump running my returns, with currently three Koralia powerheads of which two are the 600gph variety and one is the 1,200gph. So, the problem. Last week and this week I did identical water changes of about 15 gallons like usual. The only real difference from other times was I got smart and have eliminated the use of buckets and simply drain my water using a 20 foot tube that is new, then refilling with the same tube from my Rubbermaid garbage can via powerhead in the can run to my tank. Works pretty slick. I even use a small powerhead to get the siphon going out of my main tank to start the drain. During the process, as always, I stir the sand bed a bit and get any Cyano <This could be an/the issue> I can see and other detritus. Now during the filling the tank back up part, I did sort of "spray" off some of my rocks and corals with the incoming water to clean them up a bit. This was a little different from the past with buckets because with that method it's just dump and whoosh. I noticed as I sprayed the Galaxea in particular, at that point it retracted and hasn't come out since. (24 hours now). <Oculinids are amongst the greatest "stingers" on the reef... see WWM re> Just to clarify the "spray" thing, this is simply just directing with tube in hand the made up saltwater coming into the tank. Not coming in super fast either mind you. It took about 8 minutes or so I would say to fill back up the 15 gallons or so that drained. Of course I use RO water and my saltwater is always made up a week ahead of time under constant aeration and same temp as main tank. <Mmm, then doubtful this is/was trouble> I have been using Kalkwasser and other additives all along for my make up water. I will be discontinuing the use of these soon as I see they are really mostly unnecessary and more often than not, doing more harm than good. I don't believe they are my main problem here even though some of those additives are a couple years old. I'm keying in on massive disasters following my water changes. I've changed even more water than this in the past without problems. I'm doing all that I know to be the correct way of doing things. Now I'm to the point of being afraid to do water changes. Everything was fine until then both last week and this week. Last time I lost 8 Dominos, this time my fish are fine, but my corals are all maybe dead as well as my three clams that look pathetic now. What in God's name is going on? <Some "one" in the system "melting down", taking your other stock with it... but the root cause?> One other item to mention, I have been dealing with, (like a lot of people), Cyanobacteria issues. <Yes... again, a very real possible factor> It has been accumulating on the sand bed on rock work but I have been keeping up on it. It's not terrible right now. However, my nose knows something is out of whack. You know how that stuff smells right? <Very bad if you can detect this by smell> It has its own unique smell. I think it smells like when you have water short out a power strip and you get that electrical burn smell. I've had that before too so I'm familiar with that, but hopefully those problems are fixed. But anyway, I notice my whole basement, (location of "reef") has that strong Cyano smell. I can even smell it when I come in the house from the upstairs Now it's now overwhelming and keeping me out of the basement or anything, but I can sure smell it anyway when I sniff the water and can't help but to think it's related in some way to my problems too. But I can't figure out what could be causing this crash right after a water change two weeks in a row. My Galaxia was even starting to spread to the next rock, my Xenia was spreading as well. Everything again was looking really good. Now I'm sick. I'm just going to guess and say you will say it is warfare with the corals. <All of a sudden though? W/o adding new life? Not likely... Perhaps a simple guess at a scenario... the skimmer (a good make BTW) can't do its job due to fluctuating water level... the BGA gets going too much due to high, available nitrate, phosphate... it poisons some of the Cnidarians, who in turn release chemical, physical "weapons" into the water, poisoning all...> If this is true, would this affect the snails and shrimp to the point of death as well? <Could, yes> Oops, I have to make a correction, now as I look at my tank, another of my Cleaner shrimp has stopped moving and is decided whether to hang on to the rock its on or fall off. Oh the humanity. Please advise, do your worst. Thanks, Jason <Mmm, you need to read (and quick) re BGA, its consequences, control: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bluegralgae.htm and the linked files above. And skimmer placement in sumps/refugiums: the second tray and Cnidarian Compatibility: http://wetwebmedia.com/cnidcompppt.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Caulerpa prolifera, bad exp. related 2/16/08 Hello Crew, After reading many of the WWM Caulerpa prolifera links and FAQ's I would like to share my experience with this macroalgae. Tank: 29 gallon - BioWheel filter, 3 powerheads bounced off walls and moved 1-2 times/week, Fluval canister - carbon and sponge media rotated weekly. Water parameters test normal - Ammonia 0, Nitrates always under 10, Salinity 1.023-.025, Temp - 79-80 F. Do not dose - weekly 4-5 gallon water changes with Instant Ocean salt. Excellent LFS test my water for other parameters that I do not test for and all are within normal range. (Because I don't dose, I don't regularly test for Calcium, phosphates, other trace elements - rely on the water changes and the LFS for tests every 1-2 months). The inhabitants are 2 false Percs., a mating pair (4 clutches of eggs since Dec. '07) and they have been the only 'fish' inhabitants for 2+ years. Until recently, I had 4 hermit crabs (some 2 years old as well) and an emerald crab, happily there for almost a year. Tons of purple coralline everywhere, about 25 lbs live rock, several forms of red macroalgae, 3 thriving colonies of brown polyps and one lone mushroom (Ricordea) - polyps and mushroom also 2+ years in this tank. Several other types of macros - mostly red and not nuisance (Identified on your site - thanks!) Now to the Caulerpa prolifera - On January 2, 2008, I added a handful of the weed into my tank, along with a properly acclimated cleaner shrimp from my trusty LFS. The shrimp very sadly died within 48 hours - like it was being poisoned. I did water changes immediately and did not want to introduce another shrimp or any other creature. Within 10 days, my emerald crab was MIA and now presumed deceased. I am down to 2 hermit crabs. Polyps and mushroom are shriveled up and only partially extend after the water changes. Thankfully, the clownfish seem fine - still producing a clutch - but not like they were prior to the introduction of the Caulerpa prolifera. After reading everything I can find on your site and from the countless hours monitoring the health of my little tank, I think the Caulerpa is killing my inverts. Plan to carefully remove all of it today, followed up with even more rigorous water changes and increased carbon. I'll keep you posted on the progress. With a 29 gallon tank, the Caulerpa may be too great a risk - simply not enough water volume to handle any toxins released - even with water changes. Any thoughts on this matter? <Is a possibility here for sure> The recent problems in my tank brings me to another question. I do not have a protein skimmer because of the low bioload and frequent water changes and because the original inhabitants have been thriving for so long. <Mmm, would help> However, recent events have changed my mind - scared me, really and I'm going to purchase an HOB/HOT skimmer. Choices are the Tunze Nano or Aqua C Remora Nano (rated for 25 gallons). There are many reviews on your site - any personal preferences? <Both are excellent here> Do you think the Aqua C Nano is sufficient? <Yes, likely so> Is the Aqua C Pre-bubble box required? <Might be... try it w/o and see> (I don't plan to add anything else except 2-3 hermits and a cleaner shrimp if and when the polyps unfurl/things get healthy again) Thanks for this site and all your work. Cheers, Kellie McIvor <It will likely take a few careful vacuuming/water change procedures to rid yourself of the Caulerpa... but I'd proceed. I do encourage you to skim out the weedy bits, turf them into your garden and not down the sanitary sewer... if yours discharges more/less directly to the sea... as this noxious weed can be too-easily transplanted in this fashion. Bob Fenner>

Linckia Starfish And Possible System Poisoning -- 02/15/08 Dear WetWebMedia crew (what should we do without you?), <<Hello Michael>> I have a question concerning my Blue Linckia starfish. <<Mmm, okay'¦but be advised, this is a species better left in the ocean>> I have been reading a lot of FAQs concerning starfish, and I must say that I am a little worried. <<Indeed'¦these starfish have a dismal survival rate>> I have an 80 G reef tank, with various fish and corals. I also have 2 Seastars, a Blue Linckia and a Fromia. <<The latter is a much more aquarium hardy species>> But for what I have been reading my tank is too small for a Linckia, <<Yes'¦but only one of many issues re the survivability of this starfish species>> and that if it dies it can wipe out my entire system? <<Can decompose and pollute a smallish system very quickly'¦and not likely to be quickly consumed/appreciated by the scavengers available in your system. But I'm doubtful of an entire tank wipeout here'¦though this is much dependent on existing filtration>> Should I remove it? <<Is up to you'¦maybe you can return it for store credit>> I have had it for 10 months. <<Well, I must admit this is surprisingly long'¦especially considering the size of your system>> Thank You, Michael Fick Denmark <<Happy to share. Eric Russell'¦South Carolina>>

Re: Linckia Starfish And Possible System Poisoning -- 02/16/08 Hello Eric, <<Good morning, Michael>> Thank you for your reply. <<Quite welcome>> Eric, let me ask you more directly. Would you remove the Linckia, if it was your system? <<Hmm'¦ Well Michael, considering this animal has been in the system for ten months now'¦with a good protein skimmer installed, I would leave it be unless it is showing or begins to show signs of decline (degeneration/loss of limbs)>> My system (my first) is a year old. <<I see'¦and was (still is) much too new when you introduced 'this' starfish. Yet, it is still alive after ten months in your system so I'm guessing you got one of those 'very rare' individuals that make the adaptation to captive life'¦and'¦you are doing something/there is something about your system that is keeping this animal healthy>> The plan is to upgrade the system to 140-150 G. <<Sounds great... Am sure you are aware but, do be cautious during the move and reacclimation to prevent exposure of the starfish to the atmosphere>> But that is not before in a year's time. <<Ahh, the anticipation'¦and good time for researching the livestock you think you might want'¦before you buy [grin]>> Thanks, Michael Fick Denmark <<Happy to help. EricR>>

R2: Linckia Starfish And Possible System Poisoning -- 02/16/08> Hi Eric, <<Hello Michael>> Thanks again for your (quick) reply. <<Always welcome>> Yes, you're absolutely (unfortunately) right, I knew very little about this starfish when I bought it, which is why I was a little reluctant to write, because I knew that I could come in "trouble" for that. <<Ah, yes'¦but only a minor scolding this time'¦just make sure you learn from the incident and don't become a 'repeat offender' [grin]>> But you are absolutely right, I should never have bought it without doing research first, and then I should still not have bought it. <<Untold animal lives and hobbyist anguish could be spared with but this one simple rule'¦and oh yeah, a comprehensive application of prophylactic freshwater dips for our piscine friends'¦>> And that is one of the reasons I really like you guys, I can trust you, you are not trying to make a buck off me. <<Indeed'¦and 'thank you' for the vote of confidence>> I am very happy that I stumbled upon this site four months ago, purely by accident; you have saved me a lot of grief, a thousand thanks. I am very grateful. <<We too are pleased you have found us and to be of service>> Michael Fick Denmark <<Be chatting, my friend. Eric Russell>> P.S Do you know when the new edition of Bob's book is out? <<Hmm, I believe I saw where he stated it had gone to the publisher some weeks ago'¦so maybe soon. Perhaps Bob will see this and elaborate. EricR>> <I know naught... should be any time now... RMF>

Porcupine Puffer Help... actually, just reading re mis-stocking, maint. of FO sys. 7/4/08 Ok, will start with my set-up. 65 Gallon, <A Diodontid needs more room than this> have a CPR BakPak and Red Sea Prizm Skimmers. Filstar Canister Filter rated to 75 Gallons, currently filled with live rock as the media. 2 Powerheads. Have 60-70 Pounds of Live rock and about 50 pounds of live sand. System has been running for about 6 months with 2 Volitans lionfish. <These also...> I had my water tested before adding my little porcupine and it read 7.9 pH, <Too low...> 10 Nitrate, 0.2 Nitrite, and 0.2 ammonia, <... both deadly toxic> Salinity was 1.018. <Too low...> The puffer is only about 4" right now. I am planning on getting a bigger tank, probably 125 within 6-8 months. <Too late> So I figured water was at good quality before adding my puffer, and I had time before getting my bigger tank for him to grow a little. I have had my porcupine for about a week now. The first 4-5 days he was fine and healthy just swimming about the tank checking things out. The sixth day was when he finally ate something, just a couple of krill. Couldn't get him to accept the silversides. On day 7 I woke up to the blue in his eyes gone, they are also larger than normal and slightly hazy, he also had a film coming off his spikes and around his eyes. <Good observations> He was swimming around bumping into everything as if he couldn't see. When he wasn't swimming and was laying on the sand he is breathing heavy and appears to "cough" every 5-10 seconds. Before today I had been doing about 5 gallon water changes every other day. I panicked a little and did a quick 7.5 gallon water change before testing the water. I then ran to my LFS to grab some meds. <... environmental> I was given a Malachite Green and some Maracyn-Two. I came home, set him up in a freshwater bath with the malachite green for about 20 minutes. While this was going on I tested the water. pH 7.9, 0.2 Nitrite, 0.15 Ammonia, 40-50 for Nitrate, and 1.023 for salinity. I then did another 7.5 gallons of water change. Put puffer back into my main tank and added the recommended dosage of Maracyn-Two to the tank (2 Packets per 20 gallons, so I added 6 packets). Also every water change has been with mixed RO water and salt to a 1.025 Salinity. The 2 lions seem to be in great health still. That's the story up to today. I think I have solved the stuff that was found on his spikes. As he coughs he is blowing the sand up around and onto his back. So it seems to be just stuff he is kicking up out of the sand. My question is this. How many and how frequent water changes should I be doing from this point forward to get him healthy again, should I be doing a daily freshwater bath with the Malachite Green, and should I continue with the recommended five day dosing of the Maracyn-Two. Any other meds you can recommend? Your help is appreciated. <... No "meds" needed, nor desired. But reading (by you) is... see WWM re the Systems for these species, Ammonia, Nitrite... You're headed for disaster... at a fast clip. Bob Fenner>

Ich on corals? Cnid. allelopathy, esp. dangerous in smaller vol.s 3/28/07 Hi guys! I'm hoping you can help me out of what I'm afraid might be my 1st experience with Ich (or marine velvet). I have a 24g Nano with MH lights, temp=80, spg 1.025, ph=8.3-8.4 (depending on am or pm measure), calcium=450, nitrites, nitrates and am=0. I do 3g H2O changes weekly. We have 2 true Percs, a royal Gramma, 2 peppermint shrimp, assorted snails and hermit crabs. Corals include Blasto, assorted mushrooms, Zoas, sun coral (my favorite), toadstool and Plays. <Yikes... trouble with all these disparate Cnidarians down the road... with growth... do settle on not adding any more species... and DO be diligent re maintenance> I noticed white spots on our palys 4 days ago, and they have gotten worse. I removed and gave to a friend to put in his hospital tank (I am getting one tomorrow!). <Good moves!> Now I noticed that the Gramma is looking beat up. and scratching itself on the live rock. He's not breathing heavy, though. I think I see 2 pinhead white spots on the fin of 1 of the Percs. I plan to take all 3 fish and put in hospital tank as soon as I have it set up, but I'm wondering if the corals are at risk of this parasite, since it seemed to start on the palys. <Mmm, not likely a parasite... of any of them... But very likely a matter of the fishes being exposed to types of chemical warfare twixt the stinging-celled life... "Caught in the cross-fire" so to speak"> I have had them for 1 mo already. I just don't want to treat the fish, and wind up with all the corals getting this white stuff too! Please advise! Thank you!! -Debbie <Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/cnidcompfaqs.htm And the linked files above... Perhaps my write-up on Tom Walsh's small systems from years back... The "Garden Mix" of Zoanthids, Scleractinians et al. you list is possible, though not really practical in small volumes... these sessile animals species have varying, but highly effective strategies for "saving space", hogging light, gathering food exclusively to themselves... These potent stinging, poisoning, over-growing mechanisms easily play havoc in small captive systems... As you are experiencing. There are a few strategies for limiting the morbidity and mortality here... Read on. Bob Fenner>

Sea Apple = A-Bomb 03/25/07 I am completely heartbroken and devastated. All the fish in my main saltwater tank (135 gallons) were just killed by a Sea Apple that eviscerated while I was at work except for three fish. <Unfortunate, but all too common. I am sorry for you loss.> Only two paired Ocellaris Clowns and one Blue Green Chromis survived. Fifteen others sadly died, including four cleaner shrimp. Apparently this happened when my local electric company temporarily terminated electricity and my equipment turned off. I came home to find the devastation, dead fish everywhere and the worm-like insides of the Sea Apple were all over the tank. <Such is the risk of keeping Holothuroids in a populated tank. Evisceration is really more of an eventuality than a risk. It most likely WILL happen and at an inopportune moment.> By the way, there were all kinds of unidentified creatures in the tank that I have never seen before, some were crab-like, others had shapeless forms and were about a half inch wide, what are these things? <Various Polychaete worms, and other crustaceans most likely. Impossible to say for certain without a photo, even then exact I.D. is hit or miss.> Fortunately I had a second tank where I put the three fish (24 gallon Nano). They seem to be doing OK. <This is a good thing. Why don't you have a Quarantine tank?> Unfortunately, I have a pair of established Tomato Clowns that immediately started hassling the Ocellaris' and the Chromis so I caught one of the Tomato Clowns and put him in a ventilated breeding unit to isolate him from the others. I am working on catching the other which is hiding in his Bubble Tipped Anemone, I hate to have to do this but I want the stressed fish from the other tank to be able to relax and de-stress without being chased all over the tank. <Another reason to have the quarantine tank.> Do you think this is a good idea? <Would be better to have a quarantine tank. Go purchase a 10 gallon tank, and a heater and filter. Place some established media from the Nano that you have into it's filter. Then place your stressed fish into it. This is much better than hassling an established environment.> I need advice on what to do now with the main tank. <Siphon out the remaining viscera, and about 70 % of the water. Over the next few days do a 20% water change each day. This should dilute the poison. Make sure that you get ALL of the dead animals. They will be broken down as part of Nitrification, and will pollute your tank.> I will remove the dead fish but what do I do with the corals, they seem to all be fine, will they survive? <Hard to say. Time will tell.> Should I remove the corals immediately to plastic container with chemically adjusted RO water? Or should I risk putting the corals in my 24 gallon Nano? <I would follow the water change plan firstly. Then if the corals start to degrade I would consider moving them. You don't want to do anything drastic that might crash the Nano too.> Would that possibly poison the water in the Nano? <I would think that the increased bioload would cause problems.> I also have two Crocea Clams, will they likely survive? <Again time will tell. Please see above Re: Water Changes.> After I remove the corals and snails or anything else that is still alive what should I do with the water? I would assume I should completely drain it, is that correct? <Please see above. I would NOT drain all of the water.> What about the live rock and live sand, what should I do with them? How will the worms die and how should I get rid of them? <Not really sure what you are asking. I was under the impression that these worms were already dead. If not, then NO LEAVE THEM ALONE. They are GOOD for your system, and are present in all healthy systems.> Are these worms toxic themselves and if they remain alive in the rock after the cleanup are they harmful to the tank? <No. They are your friends. Likely came out because they sensed carrion which is what they eat.> After a complete water change which I'll assume I should do, how soon can I replace any fish and corals? <Do not do a complete water change. I would do one large change and then a few days worth of 20% changes, and then a weeks worth of small 5-10% changes. Start adding fish one at a time and QUARANTINE them. I would say one fish every two weeks.> Should I treat the tank in any way? Do I have to completely recycle the tank? Could you please take me through the proper steps I should take at this time, I need help. <If you don't change all of the water at once you should be fine. There are obviously some creatures that survived.> When I eventually pick myself up and slowly add fish back to the tank I vow to always listen to the advice of the WetWebMedia crew. You guys know what you are talking about. <Thank you for your kind words.> My story is probably a typical one; I asked about Sea Apples from a LFS and was told that they were harmless filter feeders. <More or less true, unless you irritate one.> I was attracted to their bright colors and figured I could trust the store owner. I didn't do my research and found out a few days later through your site that Sea Apples were potential killers and should be avoided. <Doh! You should always research before purchase.> I contemplated returning the Sea Apple and was strongly leaning toward doing just that until I did some further research with obviously less well-informed 'experts' that theorized that a tank wipeout was extremely unlikely. <They obviously have not kept Holothuroids for extended periods of time'¦> They also said that most of the fish would survive even if it did happen and there likely would be time to get the fish out. <Again Holothurin/Holotoxin is a very powerful neurotoxin. It also depends on the kind of Holothuroid that you have. Some are worse than others.> Unfortunately, you were right and they were dead wrong and my fish paid the price. <Sad to hear this really.> I feel responsible because I was forewarned by you after I bought the Sea Apple. I had a healthy thriving tank with no deaths for seven months. The water was good, I was doing routine water changes, all the fish were healthy and I had the Sea Apple for about six months with no problems. I have learned a painful lesson and I vow to be a more conscientious fish owner from this point forward. <We all learn from our mistakes. Everyone was new to this at some point.> I usually follow your advice to the tee but all I takes is one major mistake. I also learned to never trust my LFS without doing research before hand. I know this is a touchy subject but what would you do in this situation regarding the LFS that sold me the Sea Apple. What action and I don't necessarily mean legal action would you take. <I would make my situation know to them. If they seem unconcerned or callous about your plight, I would further go to the local Marine Aquarium Society. I would tell them what happened and ask that they not patron this establishment. You could put up a blog to share this experience, etc.> I am curious to read your response. In the meantime I can really use some immediate help with this mess ASAP. <I hope that this helps.> Thank You, <You are welcome.> (please feel free to post this for others to read in the Marine Aquarium articles) <This correspondence, like all correspondence to WWM will be posted. Brandon.> Have you received this, I haven't seen a response. 3/26/07 <Yes this was received. Should be an E-mail in your in box waiting on you. I have a copy of the response that I sent. Let me know if I need to resend it.> Where will I see a response, I could use some help with my problem. <You have received an E-mail, and you can check the response on the daily FAQ section of the site as well.> Thanks <You are welcome. Brandon.> Death of LTA Causing Pollution -- 3/29/07 Hi crew, <Hello, Brenda here> I haven't written in a while, but have a somewhat urgent question that I can't find the answer to. I had a purple long tentacle anemone that mysteriously decided to leave his spot in a rock and apparently somehow tore his foot in the process. He actually looked as if I had forcibly moved it. I never touched it by the way. <Did it come in contact with a power head?> Anyway it was injured and then began to go downhill and within a couple of days totally disintegrated, died and had to be removed. In the process of removing it, it pretty much came apart and many parts of it (very small parts) went everywhere throughout the tank. <Yikes!> The tank is 150 gallon with a large ASM skimmer so I wasn't too concerned and figured that the skimmer would take care of getting the stuff out of the water, along with the crabs. <Not necessarily fast enough. I suggest a large water change also. I also don't recommend crabs with anemones. Crabs have been known to pester and attack these creatures.> I have no idea what happened to make him move or why he died, but my question really is this: I have a tube anemone that I have had about two weeks. <Your tube anemone is likely the reason your LTA decided to move. You should not house two anemones in one system.> He has been very active and healthy, stays totally open all the time and looks gorgeous; he has never closed since I have had it. This morning I get up and the tube anemone is TOTALLY closed. <Check your water parameters.> I have not seen this at all since I got it. Last night he was wonderful and seemed normal. Could he be suffering some sort of reaction to the death of the purple anemone? <Yes, from the pollution.> I have heard something about toxins getting in the tank when anemones die. Would this have happened and caused the other to have problems? <Yes, ammonia is extremely toxic.> My water parameters were tested the day before the purple anemone died and they were all perfect. No ammonia, no nitrates, nitrites, phosphates, SG1.024, <Salinity at 1.026 is best for anemones.> Temp is always 78-81 night to day and I have lots of light MH and actinic, lots. The calcium is steady at 440 to 460 and the ph 8.4. These tests were the day before the purple anemone death; I have not tested this morning. Any help or insight into this would be most helpful. I don't want to lose this other anemone too. <You definitely need to monitor your water parameters closely after something dies. Have saltwater ready at all times in case of an emergency.> Thanks, Debi <You're welcome! Brenda>

Sea Apple... dying, removal, potential 8/7/07 Help Please, <Will try> I have a 160 gallon salt water tank. The tank is 34" tall. I have a sea apple that apparently is starting to die. <Yeeikes> I've had it for 9-10 months It usually stayed out in front, moving around normally, but has now moved to a cave and has gotten smaller. I can see pieces of it starting to deteriorate, however it's color is still pretty good. I cannot reach it to remove it without moving a 100 lbs of rock and upsetting the rest of the tank. Is there anything I could/should be doing during the dying process? <Yes... carefully remove it... and the water around it> All other corals and fish are exceptionally well at this time and I want to really avoid a major crash. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks <Tongs, a small net and definitely a good large-diameter siphon... and the use of a good volume of high quality carbon. Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/cukecompfaqs.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner> Rich Sarno

Sarcophyton leather toadstool (and the near death of my tank) - 04/16/06 Hello, <Hi, Leslie here with you today> Maybe I'm an idiot but I learned a important lesson this week, thought it would be a good idea to share this with people. <I doubt that . Admitting and sharing our mistakes so others can benefit from them is a very honorable gesture. Thank you! > I took my leather toadstool out of the tank and thought I would propagate it by cutting it in half. Well when I cut it open a massive amount of " juice " came out (no big deal) I rinsed it off with saltwater and put it back into my tank. Well within 5 minutes my fish were going nuts, my Kole tang turned so pale he was almost white and was instantly covered with spots, my Clownfish was breathing very heavy, my Bubble Tip Anemone looked completely dead and my finger leather closed completely. Needless to say I freaked out and did a quick search on Sarcophyton being toxic to fish, yup found out the extract can kill your fish in 30 minutes. I quickly went to the LFS I work at (no one that works there knew this was a deadly procedure) and picked up 15 gallons (55 gallon tank) of water and did a quick water change (and dumped the toadstool). My bubble tip immediately looked completely normal, the fish resumed breathing normally and other than an ich outbreak everything was fine the next day. Anyway just wanted to let people know that if you are going to do something like this make sure you have a really good carbon filter that moves a lot of water quickly, and I would definitely not attempt doing cutting one up in your tank. Found it interesting that everything that I read about propagating a leather said nothing about it being toxic, found out that there are actually 50 toxic chemicals in a Sarcophyton leather toadstool (after the incident of course). Like I said, maybe I'm an idiot but I just wanted to get this out there so people don't repeat my mistake. <You made a mistake. I know for a fact you are not the first and you will not be the last. We all make mistakes. It seems to be the theme for today's queries. I have certainly made my fair share. An idiot most likely would not have acted as quickly as you did to resolve the problem. Your quick thinking and action hopefully saved the rest of the creatures in your tank. Fingers crossed that they recover from the ich. I don't do any propagating myself but most of the folks I know that do use separate propagation tanks.> Thanks. <Thank you for sharing your story. Best of luck with your tank, Leslie>

Toxicity of Cyanobacteria... can be extreme 8/27/06 Hi Crew, <Thomas/Tom> I have developed what I believe to be a Cyanobacteria problem in a 30 gallon with 2 Gobies, 2 soft corals, and 1 Fireshrimp. This algae is purplish in color and sort of thread-like, forming masses that hold together reasonably well. <Is likely a BGA> I have found several suggestions on your site about how to go about correcting this problem, which I will get to work on. But I still have a question. Prior to water changes, I have been attempting to break up this algae to syphon at least some of it out during those changes. I have noticed my Fireshrimp suffering after water changes (looks bad, like he might not survive). In today's change, I noticed that he looked bad, before the new water goes in, which is why I started to suspect this had something to do with what I was doing to the algae. <Mmm, either this and/or some part/aspect(s) of the new water... Both very common> So, can disturbing Cyanobacteria release toxics into the water that serious affect a Fireshrimp, but not Gobies or soft corals? <Oh yes. Bob Fenner, touching on this subject today at a presentation to the NJRC in Pt. Pleasant, NJ> Thanks, Tom

Urchin mysterious death-poisoning of tank 02-05-06 Dear Crew, <Dawn> My tank recently crashed. Most everyone was saved, except the fish, who perished very quickly. It happened while I was at work; my housemate reported tank looked great at 3pm. It was cloudy / milky by the time I got home 3.5 hours later, fish were dead, and most everything else was severely stressed. I suspect the death of a Diadema setosum or Antillarum (not quite sure which it was) is what triggered the crash. <Could, yes> I think it died, (it hadn't been well for some time, it had dropped it's spines 3 times in recent months), and in turn created a toxic soup that caused tank crash. I do not have good facts for this, just my suspicions. I've been researching for info re: toxicity of urchins in the tank once they die, but having very little success. I did find this on WWM, but little else in the Urchin articles and FAQs - "There are no absolutely reef safe urchin species IMO... too much chance of mysterious death-poisoning of the system" ~ Bob Fenner. My questions: What leads Mr. Fenner to the above conclusion? What can you all tell me about the death of sea urchins poisoning a tank? Could you point me in the direction of additional information? Thanks in advance and kind regards, Dawn < http://www.google.com/custom?q=urchin+poisoning&sitesearch=wetwebmedia.com Bob Fenner>

Re: Urchin mysterious death-poisoning of tank 2/6/06 Thank you for your quick reply. <Welcome> I had done that particular search (and others as well) on WWM and read the articles / FAQs that came up prior to posting my question. The first hit on the search results is the one from which I drew Mr. Fenner's quote. I have in addition done much looking on the web, thinking it must be common enough that I would find many sources of info. There is a great deal of info surrounding being poisoned by mechanical injuries involving urchins, but I am having difficulty finding info about the death of an urchin poisoning a tank. I've also approached local LFS', all of whom profess they've not heard of such a thing as a dead urchin poisoning a tank. Would it be possible to give a quick outline of your understanding of the issue of urchin death poisoning the tank? Thanks again, Dawn <Just this: that these events are positively correlated anecdotally. Bob Fenner>

Sea slug Toxin? Oh yes 02-05-06 Morning guys! <Too cheerful...!> Just found your web sight and it's now booked marked! <And the site too?> I've been searching all over the web trying to find an answer to my problem! About a month ago I purchased a beautiful sea slug. A week later I found it dead, caught in my filter. <Yikes... am trying to put away the pix from the last trip... and am on to the Opisthobranchs... and reading re just how toxic some of them are... no wonder they can be so gorgeously colored and not predated, eh?> A week later all my fish except for one damsel were dead! ( Niger Trigger, reef beauty, butterflyfish, cardinal, yellow tang) I forgot to mention that my tank is a combo reef/fish 50 gallon. My soft coals and one Anemone were not affected nor were the cleaner shrimp, hermit crabs and turbo-snails. I immediately suspected the death of the sea slug and sure enough read that these slugs secret a defensive toxin. <Yes... but not so much a secret to the fishes they're found with... just in the confines of an aquarium...> I performed a 50% water change and replaced all my filters. I let the tank "stand" for 3 weeks then introduced one blenny to the tank. Within 36 hours it died! It's skin was sloughing off and fins looked as if they were dissolving. <Yep> My question is; should I completely start over with new live sand and live rock??? ( the rock is still very purple in color) or let the tank recycle for a longer period of time???? HELP! Great sight, Jim <Mmm, if it were me, mine I'd try adding a good quantity, quality of activated carbon in your filter flow path, let another few weeks go by and try some other "test fishes". Bob Fenner>

Sudden Fish Loss, BGA wipe-out 7/18/05 Yesterday I experienced sudden fish loss which freaked me out. My system has been up and running for 3 years with no major problems. 46 Gallon About 70 pounds live rock 5-6 inch fine sand bed AquaC HOT skimmer Magnum 350 canister (for Carbon and Mech. filt.) A couple power heads Medusa Temp controller (hooked to small fan and heater) Ground probe Live stock: Regal Tang (I know, too small a tank but didn't do my homework when I first bought him) 2 Ocellaris Clowns 1 Chromis Coral: Bubble, Candy Cane Yellow polyps, and a few mushrooms. 4 Turbo Snails Have not done any tests in a while, SG 1.026 I am currently going through a Cyano out break and got lazy the past week or so and let it build up on the glass. I used the Magnet and cleaned off most of it from the glass, of course there was a ton of it floating around the tank so I reached my hand in and took the screen off the canister filter intake so it doesn't get clogged and it can suck up the floating blue-green algae. About a half hour later I glanced at the tank and noticed the Chromis was dead and the other 3 fish were gasping like crazy. The clownfish were on the bottom gasping and having trouble staying upright, the tang was gasping also but seemed to be handling a bit better (I guess because he is a lot bigger), The starfish then ate the dead Chromis. I had no reserve saltwater so I hurried and mixed a batch of fresh saltwater, (obviously you are supposed to let it mix for a couple days in normal situations) the salinity was a bit off cause it was the last of it (about 1.023), I put the worst of the clownfish in there but he didn't last long and died. I then put a fresh batch of Carbon in the canister filter <Which I hope/trust you rinsed of the Cyano> and let the remaining 2 fish stay in the tank. <No... move them from the toxified water> The 2nd small clownfish died overnight I think. I believe the starfish ate him too because the central disk was a big bulge this morning . The Regal Tang seems kind of OK, it looks pretty lethargic but I put a few flakes in this morning and it did eat. Also he is not gasping like crazy anymore. The coral and polyps seem to be ok, they extended there tentacles last night to go into feeding mode. The starfish is fine I assume, especially since it ate 2 fish. I did do an ammonia test this morning and results showed no ammonia (old Salifert test kit though not sure how accurate it is anymore). So could have the tons of Cyano floating around have caused the sudden fish loss? <Oh yes> I don't think it was me putting my arm in the water, I don't recall handling any chemicals or anything that would be toxic. I am at a total loss here. There is also a couple Caulerpa (I believe) stalks growing not sure if that could be hazardous in any way. I do have a small toadstool mushroom that is being taken over by blue green algae, could it have released some kind of poison? <Possibly> The system has been running just fine for 3 years and all of a sudden this happens and I have no idea why. Its kind of discouraging, I wanted to replace with a bigger tank at some point <Much more forgiving...> but am now re-thinking that idea. So any ideas? Thanks. Angelo <The BGA is likely the primary culprit here... need to be diligent about keeping it steadily kept down... A larger system, with a sump/refugium will be much more stable, easier to maintain. Bob Fenner> Cowfish Poisoned Tank Hi Bob, <George> I have a 120 gallon tank I converted to salt water about 4 months ago and went through the cycle and all my fish were doing fine. About every other day I checked the salinity, nitrite, nitrate, pH and ammonia and they are always perfect. I had 2 Yellow Tangs and A Powder Blue Tang <Not easily kept> and a few Damsels and about 2 weeks ago I purchased a cowfish. The aquarium store I purchased it at didn't tell me the fish was poisonous and if they had, I wouldn't have bought it. <This is mentioned several times, places on our site: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/boxfishes.htm> It seemed to be OK for a day or two and then it kinda started just floating around in the tank, swimming a little every now and then. I told the pet store I purchased it at and they said that it was just stressed because it was in a new tank and that it would be OK in a few days. I believed him and then the next afternoon when I came home from work it was hung behind one of the decorations I have in my tank and it was dead. I carried it back to them and they gave me a different fish to replace it. When I got back home about 3 of my other fish were dead and the others were swimming around with hardly no life at all. Then, the next afternoon they all were dead. I found out that if the cowfish becomes stressed before it dies it releases a poison that will kill everything in the tank and it did. I went to a "Barnes @ Noble" book store and after looking through all their Aquarium Fish books and reading about the cowfish they all said that it was poisonous and it will release a poison if it becomes stressed and it will die instantly and poison the entire tank, and it did. Over the past two weeks since this happened I have changed about 50% of the water 3 times and one time I changed about 75% and each time I did a test on the water and it was all perfect. <I would change ALL the water... in fact, if this were an account, I would drain it all, re-fill it with fresh and lightly bleach (acid) wash all... yes, killing all biota, oxidizing the ostracitoxin> I have also replaced the carbon in my two filters every other day as I was advised by the aquarium store. I have added a few damsels to it and they have all died after being in the tank after about 2 days. Every time they died I purchased 3 more damsels and about 2 days later they died. They all seemed to be doing well and then the next morning when I turned the lights on they were all dead. I am trying everything I can think of. I would appreciate any suggestions you have before I recycle my tank. George <Sorry to hear of the losses here. Please refer to WetWebMedia.com re how to thoroughly clean your system... and start over from "square one". Bob Fenner>

Sea apples -Nooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!! - 11/24/03 Hello I believe I have a Australian Sea Apple, and the other day it was secreting yellow little balls, possibly eggs. <Possible...either way....not good!!!> But the next day 2 of my fish died. <Craaaaaap. Sorry to hear about that. Yes, well, this is why these are not good in mixed aquaria. Either dedicated tanks or not at all my friend.> I was curious if it was from eating those balls. <Absolutely, but just being in the tank with this noxious material would be enough to kill everything in the tank! Doesn't even take eating it. Do read about this on our site.> I did a 90% water change <More frequent water changes with about 30-50% daily might help. 90% percent was probably necessary though. Do read up before purchasing any inhabitant you are to take into your charge. Good luck ~Paul>

- Sudden Fish Losses - Bob, <Actually, JasonC here this morning...> I must say, your writings have been a Bible for my husband and I when it comes to our 185 gallon reef tank. I wanted to ask you a question as we value your opinion. Over the last 3 weeks we've lost a massive amount of fish. Our water conditions are Perfect! We do our water changes, test the chemicals etc... our tank is well established and has been up and running for about 6 months. We noticed some symptoms of what we believed to be Ich. The fish had white patches (some had small white spots), were flicking themselves on rocks (scratching), BUGGING our cleaner shrimp way more than normal and they would completely lose their appetite. Once we noticed the symptoms, we would remove the fish from the tank and freshwater dip them. We would also put them in our quarantine tank (a 55 gallon) with medication if necessary. We were using the Mardel-Two. A few died in the medicine tank, I am assuming because of the stress of moving them (two tangs and a blue Angel). Slowly though, all of our fish died: Emperor Angel, Coral Beauty, 2 Clown Fish, 2 Zebra Damsels, a Hippo Tang, a Brown Tang, a Black Velvet Angel, a Lemon Peel Angel (of which we still have not found the bodies of the Black Velvet or the Lemon Peel). The only survivors were 3 Blue Damsels. Now though, we are getting VERY worried as it is happening really fast with the NEW fish we just got! I know that when you move fish from your quarantine tank to the "Final" tank that it will cause stress and could cause fish to possibly die (although we are extremely careful). <Uhh... I don't agree with that. The fish have already been through their original capture and transport which is very stressful. Transfer from quarantine to the main tank might be stressful but not nearly as much as some other things - like overcrowding.> But, we are seeing fish healthy, happy, eating, not scratching.... dying within a few hours! Just tonight, I fed the fish and our Blue Spotted Angel, came out and ate. Just 15 min.s. ago, I saw him being pushed around the tank in the current, then falling to the bottom, barely breathing. I immediately removed him, put him in a 5 gallon bucket with an air pump and covered the bucket with a clothe to make sure he wasn't disturbed by any light. When I put him in, he flipped out, tried jumping out of the bucket a couple of times (scared the death out of me because I don't know where the "spurt" of energy came from). He died a few minutes later. <It sounds to me like some contaminant has gotten into your tank - perhaps a household cleaner... does anyone in your house smoke cigarettes? Or as another example of cross contamination, if you put flea and tick medication on your dog, then scratch/pet the dog and then place your hands in the tank... bad news. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/toxictk.htm > We have a Tube anemone that yesterday was trying to eat a Yellow Striped Maroon Clown. The fish was dead but he had about 1/2 of him in his tube. This worried us because, we don't know if the Tube Anemone maybe stinging our fish and maybe this is a cause of the deaths. We have other corals. We have a Frogspawn (2 of them), a Torch, an Elegance, Xenia and a yellow polyp. They are all doing great, fully expanding etc.... <As backwards as it might seem, many invertebrates are actually more tolerant to environmental pollution than are fish - mostly because they can't move, they've developed a tolerance, whereas fish who can usually 'run away' in this circumstance cannot, so... you need to look for things around your house that may have got this problem started.> Again, we just don't know what is going on or what we should do! <I'd start by running activated carbon inline with your filter system.> Have you ever heard of a Tube Anemone doing something like this? <Sure.> Or do you think our tank is diseased? Either way, what would you suggest doing? <Some large water changes along with careful investigations as to the source of the problem. Do you have a protein skimmer on this tank? Has the skimmate changed or is there more 'stuff' coming out of it?> Thank you so much for your time. We have consulted all of our books etc... and we have tried the freshwater baths, the medicines, we practice quarantine our new fish etc.... and we just have no idea what is going on or what to do. I am so worried about the fish that we have in there now. Again, thank you for your time, Danielle <Cheers, J -- >

- Sudden Fish Losses, Follow-up - Thank you very much for your response! <My pleasure.> Our skimmer isn't producing more than they normal amount of waste but, obviously that doesn't mean that it is not contaminated. We are going to do our water changes and put some fresh carbon etc... to clean this things up. We have the Protein Skimmer and an External Filter. We are going to do the water change in just an hour or so. Do you think that the fish we have in there now should be removed and placed into our other tank? <I'd actually hold off... as long as they aren't expensive fish, I'd leave them in there for the canary in the coal mine factor, if you know what I mean.> Also, with the Tube Anemone, fish obviously swim by him and I am assuming that maybe that's when they are getting stung. <Most likely at night, when they can't see the anemone so well... you would think they would know better.> Can you tell me what the signs/symptoms are when a fish gets stung by a Tube Anemone? <Outright death... have not ever seen a fish survive this.> Again, thank you so much for your help! <Cheers, J -- >

Plankton outbreak Hi Bob, I have a 75 gallon reef, I just have a problem I hope you can help with. A week and a half ago, a pet store gave me a sample of DT's Phytoplankton to try, the dosage on the bottle is 2 cups per 100 gallons, they gave me a cup, I put it in my tank and it turned green and boy do I mean green, now I can't get it out it keeps blooming. If I turn out the lights it get a little better, but I can't leave the lights out for long as I am afraid it will kill my corals ( which are doing fine). I have VHO lighting, filtration is a Fluval 300, 3 power heads, a skimmer, and a hang on the back filter loaded with carbon ( which was suggested that I do to pull it out ( no luck) Now it is suggested that I put on a U.V sterilizer, but won't that take out all the elements that I have put in? Can you help? JoAnn >> Think so... I would install a pad of PolyFilter at this point... that will slowly remove some of the necessary nutrients for the phytoplankton, and your system will clear in a couple of weeks. The UV would work as well, but the sudden release of materials bound up in the algae will cause other problems for you... Bob Fenner

Plankton outbreak Hi Bob, Thanks for the reply, My corals are starting to suffer from insufficient light if it takes a couple of weeks, do I risk losing my corals? This stuff is thick I think the light can't get through. JoAnn >> Hmm, in that case, do ask the store if they'll lend you a "diatom filter" (Vortex Innerspace Products)... have them charge it with media, and show you how to set it up and run it... or if they have a "skid unit" with a few micron mesh cartridge system that they can run for an hour or two... Either of these will filter out most of the single cells for now... Otherwise, the low light condition should not kill your corals. Bob Fenner

Question "help", shipping water? My question is: I set up my 55 gallon tank about 10 weeks ago and have added about 70 lbs total of live rock. I currently have a leather coral, and 3 sea anemones. When I fist started my tank I added about 7 damsels, and since have taken them back to the pet store and added different fish clowns, Banggai Cardinals). After several days of adding the new fish they died. I went to the pet store and they recommended I treat the tank with Tetracycline to see if that would help. I treated the tank, did a 50% water change. and after a week I added 2 Percula Clowns and they died 3 days later. I have checked the ammonia and nitrates, they are both 0. Some of the fish, before dying, hover at the bottom and look as if they are gasping for air. Others look liked their skin was being peeled off a little at a time (No white dots, but looks like they have been scraping themselves on the rocks. I added an airstone to the tank before they died thinking maybe they did not have enough oxygen, but they still died. Currently, I have a 50/50 bulb, an actinic bulb, a protein skimmer, a power head, and an Emperor 400 to filter the water. Do you have any suggestions as to why the fish continue to die, and maybe any suggestions as to what I can do? I am not sure what to try next to see what is going on. Thank you very much. >> Thank you for writing... Did you happen to pour any of the shipping water into your tank? This situation sounds like one or more of your anemones has "shed" enough (cnidocytic) material in the water to render the observations you're relating... There are a few things I would do at this point. If you can mix up enough synthetic seawater, a massive (80% or so) water change. And the addition of a Polyfilter pad to your filter flow path... and take all your filter material out and thoroughly wash it in hot, freshwater... thoroughly wipe down the inside aquarium panels (glass or acrylic) then wait a good month, and "try" another "tester" damsel... Bob Fenner

Tank death Hey there, It's me again. Remember the Tang. He past away the day I talked to you about feeding him. Yesterday I lost the rest of the fish in the Tank. No Illness signs at all. My main tank and the secondary tank in unaffected with this problem. I check the water and everything is fine, except the ammonia way in the low-mid level range. Could it be reef disease??? If so what can I do to clean the tank??? <Hmm, disconcerting... and I don't remember much about my emails... many going through every day... But anomalous losses are a source of concern/worry to me... Generally attributable to a "hobbyist" poisoning input... like errant metal contamination, spray cleaners in the room, mis-use of "additives.... or an internal job of algae, sea cucumbers... some combination of interactions... But, other than idle speculation, what can be done at this point? Typically, near total break downs to massive water changes and use of chemical filtrants (carbon, resins), followed by slow addition of "test" organisms to re-stocking...> The last question, in my main tank I have 5 kinds of mushrooms. All died except the hairy Tongo. What could cause their deaths. When I notice a signs of coral problem I change 5 gallons of water from the tank with 2 day old RO sea water. I also lost the green star polyps also. My collection of Xenia is doing fine. I will be doing a partial water change again tonight. I'm also running carbon to help filter out poisons that may be present. Any Suggestions?? Water quality is fine except Ammonia slightly present in the water. Only have a Mandarin goby and a Clark Basslet. <Oh, here come the clues... yes to the biological chemical warfare possibility alluded to above... The winner(s) are usually the better part of the cause(s) of these sorts of wipe-outs.... And sort of like re-doing your computer's main drive... start with these "winners" and add more software/livestock that are compatible with them... You shouldn' t have any ammonia... this is a residual of the die/kill off and ongoing skirmishes... Wait till it's all gone, develop a stringently regular water changing, chemical filtrant use program (monthly)... and a careful re-stocking plan> Thanks, Anthony

Thermal Shock... downward Hi, I'm working to the Quebec aquarium, and one of my lionfish got a thermal shock last week. The temperature normally at 25 degree Celsius, fell to 18, and the fish turn over. Is not dead, but he look bad on his back. He don't eat anymore. Can you help me to help the beautiful fish? Thank you for your help!!! Geneviève Poulin >> With luck this specimen will recover... even if it doesn't eat for a few weeks (not a typo). Try to keep its environment stable, and be patient.... I know of worse cases that have turned out okay. Bob Fenner

A real mess... thermal stress plus? Dear Bob, I'm mailing you from Adelaide, Australia with a nasty dilemma. I have a 5ft marine tank containing 12 fish from damsels to clowns to a golden headed sleeper, approximately 20kg live rock, an anemone and a painted crayfish. I've noticed over the last few weeks large white/light brown growths on some of the fishes faces. My local fish shop suggested it was white spot and so I've been using MYAZIN once a day, which is supposed to be OK for the anemone and Cray. I've also increased the temperature to ~29degrees C and the salinity is low. However, the fish show no change. I've lost a tang and bicolour angle, both I found on their sides gasping. Some of the other fish are now doing a lot of scratching. I've recently moved (three weeks ago) and in the process managed to crack the tank which has made my trickle filter inoperable, so I've been relying on an undergravel filter and an internal powerhead with some filter media attached. Help? Patrick Sim >> Yikes, a whole lot going on here! Can you characterize these markings on your fishes faces? I suspect this is really not a parasitic infestation at all, but likely a stress reaction from... the high temperature... and??? What I would do is stop with the treatments (likely related to your losses... and the scratching behavior) and look into ways to lower the temperature of the system, get that crack fixed... Maybe leaving the lights off by day... perhaps rigging up a fan to blow air across the top during the day... maybe even floating a frozen plastic jug of water in the system on the hottest of days... But, let's get the remaining life into another system so you can effect the repair (maybe just siliconing a bit of thin acrylic sheet over the cracked area...) and the wet-dry sump up and going. Bob Fenner

Sick Tank, Animals, or both? I have a 55 gallon tank with about 20lbs of live rock in it. The tank is two weeks old, but I 've had the live rock for a week. Problems arose as I noticed that two of my four striped damsels were suffering from scale loss and fin decay (I noticed little white particles on their fins). To tell you the honest truth I really could care less about the damsels. I moved them to a 15 gal tank along with my ten hermit crabs (after freshwater bath). I pretty much narrowed the cause down to a bacterial infection of c. columnaris, streptococcus, or Vibrio. I ordered some Ampicillin and will begin treatment when I get it. my question is (finally) suppose that my diagnosis is correct and I cure my fish. the 15 gal tank is clean of infection but what about the 55 gal tank? there's nothing but live rock in there and I plan on adding medication to the tank anyways to prevent a second infection. will the medication kill the 'good' bacteria in there? <Probably the new tank was the real cause... and I would just let the 55 "go fallow" for a month... and not worry otherwise> what about the live rock, will it 'buffer' some of the 'bad' bacteria and protect it from medication (absorbed into the pores)? your help would be nice but its not an emergency. by the way your site rocks, I appreciate your unbiased opinions on all subjects. <No worries my friend. Go ahead with your livestocking plan in about a month. Bob Fenner> Depressing start, please help. Hello, I recently bought a 92 gallon corner tank with a bio filter, protein skimmer, and canister filter. It was stocked with 88 lbs of live rock, and three days later I added 6 fish to begin the cycle. 3 green Chromis and 3 of the NOT TRUE Percula clowns. <Yikes... should have waited...> 3 days after that a clown has just died, and for about 2 hours went all around the tank upside down and banging into things. He seemed to be fine the first couple days, although none of the clowns like to come out of hiding, even when feeding. The green Chromis are quite energetic though. <Stress, and all induced...> Please let me know if that death was "normal" or have I selected incompatible specimens. I hope to avoid any ignorant mistakes in the future. <Very normal... Patience my new friend...> PS: Live rock seems to have so many problems... anemones, worms, etc Why don't people start out with sterile rock and build it up without the pests? <Good idea... we have a few thousand pounds that we do just this for... and "cycle it out" for new about every six months...> THANKS, Michael <Do read over the set-up sections posted on the www.wetwebmedia.com site and give your system a month or two holiday from stocking for now. Bob Fenner>

Carnivores won't eat 8/5/05 Hello gang, I've a 125 gal marine tank, with 50-70lbs of live rock, currently housing, amongst others, a Dendrochirus zebra, and a Diodon holocanthus. Not quite 2 weeks ago, the lion stopped eating, and the porcupine followed 3 days ago. <Bad sign...> Both had previously fed with considerable gusto on krill, ghost shrimp, pellets, and the odd bit of chopped table shrimp. <Bad diet...> Both fish attempt to eat, but either turn away as soon as they reach the food, or spit it out as soon as they get it in their mouths. None of the other fish (lunar wrasse, 2 Fiji blue devils, 1 domino damsel, powder blue tang, Foxface lo, snowflake moray, ocellaris clown) exhibit this behavior, and usually rush in to take what the other two ignore. Also, the lion's gills seem to be a bit puffy. All water chemistry checks out ok, save a very high nitrate level I've been fighting with. <Bingo... need to fix this> I've tried other foods (silversides, Mysid shrimp, crab, and squid) but have had no luck. Anything you could suggest would be very helpful. Thank you, Jacob <Fix their environment Jacob. Read here please: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm And the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Goin' On A Hunger Strike - 08/11/2005 I have a 150 gallon marine tank. My dwarf lion (D. zebra) has not eaten in a month (frozen krill). <Disturbing....> Have tried many ghost shrimp, crab, shrimp, etc. to no avail. My 8" snowflake eel seemed to be having trouble eating also and recently died. <A major concern....> He did not seem thin and actually seemed swollen. <An excellent clue....> My 5" porcupine puffer quit eating for 3 days but now is eating fine. frozen krill). My powder blue tang and other herbivores seem to be unaffected. No change in appetite or behavior. The lion appears to try to suck in the food but cannot. My water quality seems good. <Seeming good is not enough info.... Be certain ammonia and nitrite are ZERO, pH 8.3, salinity 1.021-1.024....> But my nitrates are high. <Also of concern. How high? Above 20ppm can be an issue.> I have done additional water changes (more than normal), I run a UV sterilizer, protein skimmer and do regular filter changes. <Try to find the source of your nitrates.... I would be concerned that the tank may be overstocked if you cannot keep nitrate down with reasonable water changes.> No fish in the tank have bad fins, color or any abnormalities. And there have been no recent illnesses or fish additions. I would appreciate any suggestions. <My first guess is purely environmental issues. Get more water changes done, pronto, if anything is mildly amiss there. Try feeding foods soaked in garlic extract to stimulate an appetite. If still unsuccessful, you might want to consider the possibility of internal parasites.... the swollen eel, after having not eaten, may be an indicator, here. Are any of the fish excreting long, clear-ish strands of poo? You might consider offering a food medicated with Metronidazole or Praziquantel, or treat these fish in a quarantine tank with either of those in the water.> Thanks.
<Wishing you well, -Sabrina>

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