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FAQs on Marine Environmental Disease:  Troubleshooting, Fixing

Related Articles: Environmental Disease, Establishing Nutrient CyclingMarine 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, ), Physiological Challenges (e.g. Metabolites, Allelopathy, Stinging), &

Too Much Tinkering In My Reef - Please Help!     1/16/18
Hi WWM Team,
<Really like your subject/header here>
I hope all is well in the New Year! I am going through one of those “tinkering too much moments” with my Red Sea Reefer 450. I have a mixed reef tank and decided to add a 3 ½” Achilles Tang and 4”Watanabei Angel within the last month. The fishes and corals are doing fine and my water parameters were fine as well. I decided to be proactive and thought it would be wise to add more biological filtration because of the new additions.
<Can never have too much Biofiltration>
I bought a box of Marine Pure bioballs and a bottle of ATM nitrifying bacteria (label states it treats up to 100 gallons – which is less than my total tank volume). I’ve added the bioballs and the entire bottle of ATM nitrifying bacteria into my tank last week. I turned off my skimmer for 4 days as per instructions. My tank was instantly cloudy once I added the ATM solution; I figured it is the bacteria in the bottle.
<Mmm; maybe secondarily>
As I wait for the bacterial colonization process, I noticed my Choati Red Leopard wrasse was missing for a couple of days. She was always active and eats very well. Again, I thought of being proactive is best and have to go into the tank to search for her.
<Not by disturbing the sand bed I hope/trust>
I don’t want her to die and decompose in my tank, especially during this tenuous stage of my tank. As I comb through the sand (about 1” sand bed),
<I'd increase this by at least twice>

I could potentially disturbed some anaerobic pockets – loosened some clumpy sand that had black residue rising up.
<Oooh, not good>
Long story short, I caught the Choati wrasse and relocated her to the quarantine tank (unfortunately, the Choati wrasse died in the QT last night). I tested my water in my main display and they are as follows:
Ammonia (Red Sea) = .2 ppm

Nitrite (Red Sea) = 0 ppm
Nitrate (Red Sea) = 16 ppm
PO4 (Hanna) = 0.06 ppm
PH (Red Sea) = 8.2
Alkalinity (Hanna) = 9 dKH
<All fine w/ the exception of the ammonia>
I decided to do three 20% water change in the last 3 days and added a dose of Seachem Prime to lock up the toxicity of ammonia until my mini-cycle completes itself.
<.... I would have just stopped feeding... >
I tested my water again, and it remains relatively the same:
· Ammonia (Red Sea) = .2 ppm

· Nitrite (Red Sea) = 0 ppm
· Nitrate (Red Sea) = 10 ppm
The water is still cloudy, which is surprising to me because I thought the water changes would have rid the bacteria bloom in the water column…
<And the loss of ammonia, likely bumped off a good deal of nitrifying population>
The livestock (both fish & corals) still looks fine - the fish are eating & active and the corals are fully expanded. Anyway, what would you recommend with regard to the mini-cycle and cloudy water?
<Just stop feeding till the NH3/NH4OH drops to 0.0 ppm>
As always, your insights and recommendations are extremely appreciated. Many thanks in advance.
<Thank you for sharing. Increase, mix in more sand when the system restabilizes. Bob Fenner>

Taking Over Tanks In Poor Health, Need Help – 11/19/15
Hey crew, Scott here.
<<Hey Scott, Eric here>>
I have recently moved and started in my new location with an aquarium service company. This company maintains only 400+ gallon systems
<<And you have enough of these to profit? Wow...and congrats>>
most of which are FO. I owned a maintenance company in my previous location for about 10 years with great success but all fowler and reef setups, all setups running very near 0 nitrates.
<<But not strictly necessary…or even desirable, when inverts are kept.>>
These new systems are running extremely high nitrates all over 60, most over 160.
<<Yeah, too much.>>

this is due I'm assuming (well more than an assumption) to the very inadequate filtrations.
<<And/or overstocking, perhaps?>>
Most have only 40-80 gal sump running about 10gal of worth of bioballs with no top off system so they are sometimes half submerge at time of service when they are topped off. This plus very undersized skimmers, carbon pads, uv sterilizer and filter floss pre-bioball. These tanks are also almost stagnant pools with very little flow using only open loop return pumps.

I am definitely not an expert on FO setups as I don't use them personally but I have seen similar setups on 90 gal tanks, I would assume these should be much larger.
<<Indeed…as it sounds these are proving inadequate for the stocking levels of the systems.>>
All fish are in poor health, most Angels and Tangs have HLLE to some extent and the others just don't look great having a variety of fin rot, bacterial infection, fungal infection etc.
<<Sad… And depending on stocking, there may also be social issues contributing to these complaints.>>
There is a large variety of fish in these tanks but doesn't seem to be much aggression,
puffers, eels, boxfish, triggers, groupers, and even sharks, rays, jacks, tarpon, redfish in our larger 100,000 gal+ waterways (the waterways are in good health with adequate filtration). They are all fat due to the over feeding, mostly mysis, brine, prawn, clam, and silverside, which I am trying to train the clients not to do (easier to train a fish to not eat I think).
<<Indeed…your customers see this as a great way to ‘interact’ with the fishes>>
I have reduced the amount of food and added some algae.
<<Even with the variety of foods offered, it’s likely I think there are nutritional issues at play as well. Do consider a food pre-soak such as Selco/Selcon when thawing frozen foods. There are vitamin supplement tablets available for the larger fishes/sharks/rays (Vita-Zu is one brand), and for those fishes that will accept them, I highly recommend New Life Spectrum pellets as part of their diet. Better/more nutritional feedings don’t solve your environmental problems, but it can help the fishes to deal with them better.>>
I'm not sure what to do with the filtration though.

I am limited on space because of the existing setups.
<<Then perhaps stocking reductions are your answer.>>
I am working with the clients to purchase a more adequate skimmer
<<Will help…>>
they are in sticker shock for now especially when they were told the ones they have are adequate.
<<I can imagine…but hopefully you will be able to convince these clients to put the fishes health at the forefront. Surely they can see the decline in appearance since they were obtained, if nothing else>>
I have slowly washed the excess bacteria in the bio towers and cleaned the gunk from the sump. I am working on solutions to increase the amount of trickle filtration and lower the water level so it's functioning properly and not starving the aquarium of oxygen.
<<A good skimmer will help re the oxygen levels. As for the trickle filtration, you may find ‘fluidized bed filters’ to be more efficient.>>
I have added gyres to increase the flow in the displays and surface agitation.
<<Ah! My favorite method of supplemental water movement…excellent!>>

floss is changed weekly as well as approx 30% weekly water changes until I can bring the nitrates down to a safer level, which I am catching flack over the cost, not just for salt but time spent as well.
<<I think you have your work cut out…going back to stocking levels, what you are doing in the short term may well need to become rote>>
I pulled the filter floss surrounded carbon bags
<<Seems there is a lot of filter floss in these systems. If it wasn’t properly maintained…..>>
and replaced them with carbon reactors
<<Another good move>>
to free up space and reduce nitrates they were giving off.
<<You do understand that even in a reactor, carbon quickly becomes a biological filter (and thus produces nitrate). Some will say carbon loses its efficacy in our systems within hours…certainly within days…I would change it as often as possible>>
I added Chaeto to the sumps as I'm afraid that's all the room I have for any kind of fuge,
although there is room on some for algae turf scrubbers which I will be incorporating. I have installed fluidized bed filters
as well but am limited in size. I would love to increase the sand bed depths as most are running at about 1’’-2’’ but that will be a huge undertaking for each of these 30 or so setups.
<<And not cheap>>
There is no way to convince them to go fowler with the thousands they spent on custom inserts. I have been able to bring down the nitrates quite a bit but not below 40.
<<I’m sure you are aware you are not going to be able to eliminate nitrate production. Aside from the skimmers, nearly all the filtration discussed (trickle filters, fluidized-bed filters, media reactors) are going to produce nitrate. I think you have probably hit on a big problem re the overfeeding and maintenance of the systems, but I keep wanting to go back to stocking levels. I surely don’t know how the stocking of these systems was managed, but if the client was left to pick and choose as they pleased, well, need I say? And considering the obstacles you face re the filtration equipment and kick-back from the clients on the costs to upgrade, I think you need to take a hard look at how these ailing systems are stocked (or, overstocked)>>
Is 20 and below a fair target or will I just be stuck at the 40+ level.
<<Most fish groups are fairly tolerant of nitrate levels up to 40ppm but I wouldn’t want to walk that fine of a line, myself. I would strive to get this down below 40ppm, though 20ppm may well be unachievable here, and maybe even an unnecessary goal>>
I need suggestions to maybe something I am overlooking,
<<Stocking levels?>>
or another filtration I should look into. I can't stand to see fish in such poor health.
<<It sounds as if you have done about the best you can under the circumstances…but do consider my comments re stocking levels (starting to sound like a broken record [grin])>>
Also when I do a rinse on the bio balls I rinse them in a container of their own tank water and agitated them to get the large bacteria colonies off, and then replace them. Is there a better way of doing this?
<<Not really, no…is fine>>
<<Happy to share… EricR>>

immaculate puffer fish/red tailed filefish behavioral concerns   1/14/12
At my work we currently have 4 fish. A clown fish, a small blue fish I'm not familiar with, an immaculate puffer
<Arothron immaculatus?>
and a red tailed filefish. We also had a baby lion fish for a couple weeks that had to be removed for stinging the puffer and filefish repeatedly.
<Mmm, how large is this system?>
 Now the filefish and puffer are both acting very strange and I wonder if the toxins are the cause or if it's something else.
The puffer fish alternates between moping and relatively unresponsive-as opposed to his normally over excitable and rather adorable personality- to completely tweaking out. He body slams the fake coral, shoots backwards in all directions, and today was flipping up and out of the water, luckily not getting stuck on the ledge that covers half of the tank. He has also darkened in color and has scratch marks, presumably from slamming in the coral. I've also notices he's been letting the filefish take bites out of his fin, which never occurred with Puffy, even though the filefish has eaten several other fish.
The filefish has been acting strange for awhile, but it got worse with the lion fish. Before he would swim into mounds of sand like he couldn't see them, and occasionally bounce into the side of the tank. Now he runs into everything full force, and sometimes swims full speed all over the tank and then disappearing in a nook for awhile. He's also lost nearly all of his color, and taking to doing the fish equivalent of hand stands, sitting face first in the sand for up to an hour at a time and just wiggling to stay up straight. It also has been hiding more than normal.
The lionfish has been gone a week and neither seem to be getting better. Do you think this is a result of the toxins from the lionfish or perhaps
something else?
<Could be resultant from the Lion... or some other source of toxicity, even stray electrical potential (I'd measure, run all electrical gear through GFIs)>
Do you think they'll eventually get better, stay the same, or die? And is there anything we can do for them?
<A large, or series of large water changes, the use of good-grade activated carbon (in the filter flow path), spiffing up (cleaning) the skimmer. Bob Fenner>

Troublesome tank... die off cascade event   10/31/11
My wife's marine tank is a 75. We've experienced an influx of green thread algae that just exploded, seemed to come from nowhere. Shortly after the bloom, we lost several corals. Brain, bubble, polyps, torch... along with an anemone and Christmas tree worms.
<No fun>
Our once plentiful supply of Xenia literally disappeared overnight.
<Happens... Nutrients from it are now likely incorporated in the algae>
And subsequently we've lost a percula clown, domino damsel, four stripe damsel, a strawberry pseudo chromosome,
<Interesting homonym>
and a mandarin. Our remaining 4 stripe damsel was acting poorly, swimming sideways, breathing rapidly, and literally as I'm typing is being eaten by our brittle star!
Our remaining life is the star, hippo tang, six line wrasse, lawnmower blenny, and a long nosed hawk. And leather corals, polyps, anemone, Zoanthid, Kenya tree, and a purple mushroom.
We use adequate lighting on a 10hr on cycle. A Fluval 404 and a protein Skimmer. Temp is 81°, gravity of 1.023.
<A bit low>
Nitrates less than 5ppm. Phosphate .25ppm, ammonia 0, nitrites 0.
We are at our wits end with the tank, having lost a great deal of this investment. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you,
<Reads like some sort of "cascade event" w/ the die-off of the Xeniid triggering subsequent losses. In such cases, best to "re-set" the system... Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/toxicwipeoutf.htm
Bob Fenner>

Re: Help....   where does this go? 5/13/10
so what should I do now
<Do a series of small water changes, perhaps 5% aquarium volume per day, until you get the salinity to SG 1.025. Don't try and do a big water change, because that will stress the fish and the filter bacteria.>
until now you do not tell me what to do first.. to save my tank..
<I have no idea how to "save" your aquarium. If your salinity is varying between 1.020 and 1.030, then that's the reason your fish are sick. Tangs and Angelfish are intolerant of poor aquarium conditions. Provide good water quality and they will feed. If you do not fix the environment, they will get sick. There is no medicine that will fix this. You MUST make sure the aquarium is properly maintained. That means -- among other things -- a constant salinity level.>
I gave you every thing you asked for
<Yes, and I told you what was wrong. Forgive me, but it is difficult for me to help if you cannot read the WWM articles. Cheers, Neale.>

SW deaths diag... Olde tank syndromes... A lesson for the planet re real ecology  11/2/2009
Hi folks,
I have written in the past and have always gotten helpful advice - thanks.
Here's a situation that I couldn't find in any of the FAQs areas. I have had a 90 gal. saltwater tank set up and running for 10 years. At one point it was a full blown reef tank, with a few large fish. About a year ago I noticed my green brain coral ( in the tank for 3 years ) start to show signs of stress. I immediately checked my water quality - everything was where it was supposed to be. It never recovered and ended up dying. A month after that, my colt coral shriveled up and died within a few days, I had that one over 4 years. Next I started to notice small cabbage corals sprouting up all over the place, with a rather large one growing behind where the colt coral was. I figured there may be some chemical warfare going on.
<A good possibility, yes>
I did a 50% water change and put some Chemipure in the canister. Every thing seemed fine after that. ( bubble coral, star polyps, red and green hairy mushrooms ) Then I lost the bubble, then the star polyps shrank and died. The star polyps were covering a large section of the bottom and growing up the glass in the back. All dead within 2 weeks. By now I am freaking out a bit. But the number of cabbage corals kept increasing. Then the fish started to show signs of stress, breathing heavy, not eating robustly - that lasted a week and all went back to normal. So by this point I only had green hairy mushrooms and cabbage corals left. Snails, hermits, urchin and shrimps seem unaffected still.
Then a few weeks ago I noticed my Naso tang ( in the tank 10 years ) get cloudy eyes, then my Japanese swallowtail ( 8 years ) started swimming in the outflow of a powerhead also with cloudy eyes, my adult mimic tang had grey slime hanging off of him so he did the same thing as the angel and died within hours of me noticing this. Checked the water quality, only the nitrates were a bit high about 140 / million.
<Yikes! This is much more than "a bit">
Did a 50% water change the next day. I then removed any carbon and added a Trisulfa antibiotic.
<? For what reason/s?>
I haven't had a hospital tank set up because I haven't needed it for so long that I was told it was taking up space, so down it came. I had to add the antibiotic to the main tank.
<Oh my friend! A poor idea>
After 7 days of treatment, nothing changed, it got worse. I added a large airstone for more oxygen but still no change.
I then lost my bicolor blenny, my royal gramma and my majestic angel ( over 6 years ). This is perplexing to me, I am not a novice, I did not introduce anything new into the tank, the last fish added was 2 years ago ( the gramma ) and he was quarantined for a month. I know this is a long email but I cannot figure this one out. My LFS buddy can't either. This tank has been up and running for years, I have always done regular maintenance, water changes, quarantine, it is not overstocked, may seem it but there has been no problems at all for years . Still, it all crashed within a couple of months and I couldn't figure out how to stop it. Now for the weirdest part - 5 days ago the water turned brown.
Not dirty brown, but clear brown like weak tea. No weird smell and the remaining corals and inverts seem unaffected. My Naso is not happy but he is still alive for now but with one eye really in bad shape. I put a large amount of carbon in a hang on filter and it took 3 days to show any change.
So I am asking if you could throw your 2 cents out there. Any ideas?
<Mmm, yes...>
Is there any truth to that "old tank" syndrome?
<Indeed there is>
Any advice would be helpful.
Thank you
<I do consider that there might well have either been allelopathy twixt your Cnidarians at some point involved... but the mix of life, who was mal-affected in order, points to some other sort of poisoning or acute deficiency syndrome system-wide. Some sort of metal perhaps... but from where? An old clamp? Some change in your source water or salt mix? At any length, you might be able to investigate this through help with a physical science or quality control lab... or use a pad of PolyFilter and luck out and have a substantial change in colour show that would help narrow down your search. Avoiding such "olde tank problems" is best done with periodic (yearly) replacement, additions of some hard substrates (gravel, live rock) and periodic use of chemical filtrants. Ideally in such large systems, aquarists will monitor ORP/RedOx potential (read here:
and the linked files above), and use this as a guideline to system suitability (rather than bio-assay... the loss of livestock). Bob Fenner>

Bloated Fish now Blistered  6/4/08 Hi WWM Crew, <Joe> Again I am requesting your expertise on something that has seemed to stumped me and everyone else that has looked in on these pics. This is not my fish but someone else's. As of now it is in a hospital tank being treated with antibiotics but still no idea what is on this guy. It started when the owner noticed ich in her DT after moving everyone to a HT for hypo she noticed this particular fish looked bloated, keeping an eye on it for a couple of days it didn't get better. Then it stopped eating, she started treatment and also raising the salinity back up to normal. Total elapsed time from start of hypo to present day is 6 days, yesterday it apparently ate for the first time but not anything significant. The issue now is that the bloated area seems to have blisters all over. Any ideas what these blisters are and what caused them? Thanks in advance and I attached the best pics there were. -Joe- <Mmm, have seen this sort of blistering before... Looks like this fish was initially stung but good by a defensive/offensive mechanism of some powerful Cnidarian... Like a Galaxea or Catalaphyllia species... Hopefully will self-cure in time. Bob Fenner>

Re: Bloated Fish now Blistered -- 6/4/08 Ok, except this fish wasn't symptomatic until after it was in hospital tank with no corals for a couple of days. Can a sting reaction take that long to show damage? <Yes indeed; it can. Other possibilities abound... burning from heaters, an allergic reaction to foods, tankmates; idiopathic tumours...> Joe Brillon

Nitrate and Phosphate spike... SW troubleshooting... "other poisoned" event  2/28/07 Thanks in advance for the time you take to read and answer these questions, and for the fantastic wealth of information that you make available.  I've had countless questions answered thanks to your web site. <Welcome> I have a 90 gallon display tank, with a 60 gallon refugium/sump (about 45g water volume).  I have a 4.5" sand bed and about 210lbs of live rock.  The system has been setup for about 9mths, and was an upgrade from a previous 55g system (3years old).  For nutrient control I have a Coralife 220 skimmer and a 20g section of the refugium loaded with Caulerpa. <Mmmm, this Chlorophyte has largely fallen out of favor...> Up until about 2 months ago everything was doing great, the soft corals I have were growing out of control and all the inhabitants looked great.  Around 2 months ago I noticed a rapid decline in coral health, and I was starting to get a lot of Aiptasia growth. <Mmm, indications of some rapid change in conditions...> I started doing daily water tests looking for any issues, and all tests came up with near 0 levels, the same as before. <Actual tests, values please... Can't tell what specifically you're referring to in any substantive way w/o> As time went on I continued with more frequent (10% weekly, up from 5%) water changes however the coral health continued to decline, Aiptasia spread was on the rise, and I started getting red algae growth on the sand surface and the rocks. <Further evidence... BGA...> At this point, with my test kits still reporting no issues, I decided to take some of my water to a local fish store.  Tests at the store show that my phosphate and nitrate are off the scale of their test kit. (not sure on the phosphate, but the nitrate is >100) <Yikes... but from what is the real question> After replacing my test kits and some discussion with the staff at the store I decided on a phosphate reactor loaded with Rowaphos and some Seachem nitrate removal media, along with more water changes (20% ever couple days, as fast as I can get water made and stabilized). <Mmm... but these are remedial measures... treating symptoms... Do you understand? What is/are the root cause/s here?> This brings me to my questions.    1. My most pressing issue is of course to get the levels back down to acceptable levels. Are the methods above sufficient, or could I be doing more? <Mmm... please see below>    2. Equally concerning is why the spike in levels.  I haven't changed    any of my routines, feeding habits, or bio-load (remains unchanged since the    55g days), but something triggered this rapid spike. <Yes. Agreed... and this is what you really need to address... Identify and fix>   I can recall 3 events that might have contributed to this issue, and was wondering if you believe any of them could have contributed:       1. The suction cups on one of my Seio 1500's let go and it       pointed down at the sand, moving a large mound of sand down to bare glass       before I got home. <Mmm, maybe a contributor... might have triggered some sort of "cascade event" with some life form... causing it to negatively react, interact with other life...>       2. I pruned a large amount of macro algae in the refugium (about       50%) because it was growing out of control <I DO believe this is likely a large influence here>       3. The lights (2x90w Phillips daylights) on my refugium burned       out, and I replaced then with some 90w fluorescents (also supposed to be       daylights, but the color is not the same). <This also>   I want to go back to the Phillips bulbs as soon as I can find them again.    3. What would you recommend housing in the refugium aside from the macro algae and crabs and snails I currently have. Thanks in advance, Derek. <I would actually "clean out" the refugium (up to actually taking it "down", rinsing all the substrate, possibly even bleaching/washing all to rid it of the Caulerpa...) in order to switch out to a more suitable algae... Likely either a Chaetomorpha or Gracilaria species... AND avail yourself (at least for a month or two) of both activated carbon (like a unit of Chemi-pure or equivalent, and a pad of Polyfilter.... in your filter flow path... I do think your system, livestock suffered some sort of allelopathogenic event... and these steps are the safest, surest way to get the system re-centered. Bob Fenner>

Carnage. Reef livestock losses... env., toxicity?  2/19/07 Hi, I have a 120 gallon reef tank which I thought was doing pretty well until yesterday morning when a number of my fish died or were dying.  They looked as if they were starving for oxygen.  I lost three angels, a tang, spotted  hawk. and a marine beta.  A very large wrasse and tomato clown were subdued but are just fine today after an emergency water exchange. <Useful data... these would persist longer than the others lost... due to low O2, other poisoning types>   Indeed the tank looks as beautiful as ever. <... frightening...> I went to the local retailer for help with a pre-water exchange water sample. The pH was fine, next to no nitrates. dKH was fine, Mg 1200, Ca 340 to 385 depending on the test kit used.  I was unable to get any good explanation for this occurrence other than there must have been a sudden change in pH due to excessive CO2.   <Mmm... no, not likely> But my morning pH is no different than any other time.  I have no excessive algae to speak of. Another puzzling thing; I use the two step calcium replacement, Kent part A and part B.  Lately, when I add the part B I get a snow effect that lasts just a few minutes.   <... not in your main display... Please... do such adjustments through water changes... the products added there... dissolved... ahead of time> Is this anything to be concerned about? <All sorts>   And while I'm thinking about it is there a general rule for the amount of calcium and magnesium to add to a reef tank? <... None... directly...>   Also,  I'm looking for a reliable calcium test kit.  Any recommendations? <Posted on WWM... LaMotte, Hach... on the lower end, Salifert> In any case, I'm at a loss as to finding out why these fish died.  I haven't changed anything other than getting some better lighting. <In recent times? Anything else?> I do water exchanges monthly <I would do these at least bi-monthly> including vacuuming the bottom of the tank.  Trace minerals are added consistently. <Only through water changes...> I did recently add a rather large medusa worm which I don't see anymore.  I don't know if it was lost in the carnage or could it possibly have caused this carnage by dying?   <Yes... this or other possibly seemingly innocuous animal demise, upset... For instance, sea cucumbers of many sorts...> Any input you may have would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Ray                            <I do think you suffered an internal biological toxicity... but can't detect what organism/s might be involved from the information presented... Would proceed slowly, use chemical filtrant/s, make water chemistry and physics changes outside the system going forward. Bob Fenner>

A damsel problem In my marine biology class, we recently got 4 blue damsels, 1 yellow tailed damsel, and 2 4-striped damsels in. They were distributed blue blues to each tank, the yellow in one, and the striped in the other. Within a few days one blue damsel in each tank got the "lockjaw" that I have been investigating. They were each in separate environments for about 2 to 5 days, so I don't think it has to do with the environment, and it hadn't injured itself on anything. Both fish had died by the next day. We dissected one and nothing was stuck inside to prevent the mouth from closing. Today another blue fish has this same lockjaw, and we don't know what to do to cure it, if there is a cure. So unfortunately we assume it will be dead in the morning. Could you email me back with what you think the problem is and the solution, if there is one. Thank You -Paul Hooper <Mmmm, don't know of this ailment "lock jaw" in Pomacentrids. Some do die shortly after arrival (all are wild-collected) with their mouths "stuck open"... perhaps a manifestation of these specimens inability to generate sufficient oxygen, or loss of osmotic integrity... consequent to poor, rough collection, shipping trauma. Fishes have very high (relative to terrestrial Tetrapods) hematocrits (packed cell volumes) and live in a world/environment much less oxygen concentrated (at most about 7,8 ppm of O2)... and can have real troubles if the availability of oxygen drops, other influences to its uptake occur (e.g. drops in pH, elevated ammonia in shipping containers, slime wiped from their bodies...). Much more could be mentioned as possible sources of mortality, but I strongly suspect these anomalous losses are due to environmental stressors. Bob Fenner>

Heavy Breathing... 2/9/03 Hi, one of my boys just doesn't' t seem himself.  He is breathing heavily and seems to lose strength and float to the bottom of his tank.  Any ideas? <lack of oxygen from poor water quality or parasitic attack. If this is the only/first fish of a group of the same species... that strongly suggests that nature could be pathogenic. You do not mention if the fish is salt or freshwater. Do a dip of the opposite salinity for a quick fix. But first, test water quality to rule it out. Do a large water change and replace chemical media. Then consider if a disease is likely here (read through the archives at wetwebmedia.com to discover further symptoms/clues). If necessary, medicate the fish in a separate and proper QT vessel as per protocol also described in our archives> Thanks, Sandra <best regards, Anthony>

Fish deaths Hello, I recently posted a string of e-mails dealing with my fluidized bed filter and a string of fish deaths I have had. I have a goldhead sleeper goby and a cleaner shrimp still alive in the tank as well as live rock showing good growth. Any new fish I add die within 4-5 days of being placed in the tank even though they seem initially to adjust well.  <old fish/inverts live and new ones die... most always a sign that some aspect of water quality has strayed/accumulated over time to the point where the old ones have gradually acclimated to it, but the new ones are shocked when thrown into it> They eat on the 2nd day, get cleaned by the shrimp and swim actively. I have no idea what is causing this and have checked all water parameters and nothing indicates a problem. Same levels as my recent posts, with ammonia, nitrites, nitrates reading 0, temp. 77, salinity 1.022 and pH 8.2.  <I have forgotten if you mentioned nitrates before and have you confirmed all of your readings on another brand of test kit (test kits are barely accurate fresh, spoil easily and age very quickly (reagents= months in most cases). Don't be surprised if one of your test kits was way off> I was advised to let the tank just run at present for about a month but recently added a damsel a friend was removing from his tank that was in good health. It died within 4 days during the night and showed no problematic signs.  <wow... dying damsels... that's bad.> I realize that this type of diagnosis is difficult to do without seeing the tank but what else could I be checking for?  I am certain that is something to do with my tank and not the fish because I have had long lived specimens also die quickly. I use the usual technique for acclimating the fish but I have no quarantine tank, although I am not sure this would help with the problem in my tank. Any ideas, suggestions or tests you could suggest would be appreciated. <when in doubt... big water changes and good chemical media (Poly filters would help here if it is a contaminant)> I have good water flow from a Quiet one pump hooked to a mechanical,  <whoa!@!? Stop the presses. I love quite ones but they are very problematic on saltwater tanks. Their stainless steel drive shaft is not so stainless. Shut the system down briefly and take that pump apart... look for corrosion> chemical and heater module, an Aqua C Remora pro skimmer and a powerhead for water movement in a 72 gallon tank. I am at a loss as to why two creatures continue to live while all others perish quickly in my tank. Thanks for your input. Jameel <yes, my fried... do large proper water changes (pH, temp adjusted, SG, etc), use small charges of carbon weekly (1 oz week rather than 4 oz month per 50 gall) and definitely throw in a poly filter and not the color change if any to indicate a possible contaminant. Anthony>

Question regarding a cloudy eye Thanks for taking my question have an Annularis angel that has a cloudy eye.. it is cloudy with a little red around it. The fish eats normally, and swims normally. I need to know if you know of any meds to cure his eye.. thank you. Edward Borre.... >> Not really... This does sound like a "clinical case" of physical trauma... And will probably repair of its own accord... Try to optimize and stabilize your water quality, and assure the fish gets plenty to eat... Treating the fish is not a good idea, either by placing material in the water, or netting/dipping it. Bob Fenner

Fungus... not likely I have a 55 gallon salt water tank. All fish and I think I have fungus.  The fish have cotton like spots all over the body and fins. Can I treat the tank with clout???? If not what should I do? Do I need a hospital tank? I had lost 3 fish before to this same problem... Larry >> Yikes, real fungal problems in marine systems are rare... and almost always due to poor water quality... I would do a thorough once over on all aspects of your set-up and maintenance routines...Test water quality, clean your skimmer... and make a massive water change (50% plus), and add a unit (pound or so) of activated carbon in your filter flow path... I would not place the Clout (tm) in your main system for this appearance. Have a marine aquarium friend come over and look at your system, livestock for another look for what might be wrong. 'Bob Fenner

HELP! Hello, I am writing as I am having problems with my tank. It has been up and running for about 8 weeks. I cannot get anything to live in it. I have tried damsels, a wrasse and a yellow tang. Some died within an hour, and some within 24 hours (tang). I started out using Fritzyme 900 Turbo Start, and recently tried Hagen Cycle. I believe I am acclimating them properly, as I have used both the drip method and the float and add method. All my levels are at 0, and the PH and Specific Gravity are correct. I have a 46 gallon bow front, and am using a Fluval 304 Canister Filter, a BakPak 2 Filter/Skimmer. I have a power head running for circulation, and an airstone also. I have used Aragamax as my substrate, and coral skeletons for decor. I used a Water Purifier, and de-chlorinator (Prime). Two weeks ago I did a 60% water change, as I have a lot of Diatom algae. Please help, why am I losing fish? >> <Obviously, something(s) are very wrong here... I would hold off putting in any more in the way of cycling products or water conditioners period... allow the system to run another couple of weeks, and try introducing a damselfish... If this fish perishes, I would likely dump all the water out of this system, re-fill it with new pre-made seawater, allow it to run for a week without adding anything else (not necessary), add some live rock (even a few pounds will do), allow that to run for a week, and then try another damsel... If you know a dealer or fellow aquarist who can/will come and look at your tank to look for trouble I would have them come by... Perhaps somehow a pesticide or cleaning agent (like glass cleaners with ammonia) have made their way into your system... Maybe there is insufficient aeration... direct your filter discharge above water... maybe add a powerhead with an air intake... Bob Fenner>

Scratching fish Bob, I have written you on this problem that I am having in the past and was hoping to get your advice on an idea I have. I have a 125 gallon aquarium with 2 green dragon wrasses, a blue angel, a six line wrasse, and a Foxface. I also have around 60 pounds of live rock, a couple of mushroom anemones, a Sarcophyton, and a pagoda coral. For a couple of months now I have been noticing some of my fish starting to scratch themselves on the rocks, especially the blue angel, a tomato clown (which is no longer with me), and my six line wrasse. In the morning some of the fish, especially the blue angel, would have small dots on them which I thought was velvet, they were too small to look like ich but the dots would disappear by the time I got home from work so I started thinking that it was just small sand particles. I decided to try some environmental changes though because the scratching was still going on and I lost my tomato clown for no apparent reason. I lowered the salt level to 17 and raised the temperature to around 84 degrees. I left it like this while doing water changes once a week for over a month. The scratching is still going on and I'm not really sure what it can be.  <Perhaps a protozoan, worm parasite of some sort, maybe a chemical or physical manifestation...> The fish look good and eat just fine. I sometimes think that my blue angel may be breathing a little heavy but it is hard to tell because he usually gets really excited when I am near the tank and is very aggressive when it is feeding time. The green dragon wrasses haven't shown any signs of anything but I may think that they are just more hardy than the blue angel and the six line wrasse. I'm not sure if my tank is infested or if there is something else going on. <Me neither> I have removed the angel and tried treating him in a hospital tank but he has started right back up scratching a week or so after I put him back in the main tank. At the worst case I was considering removing all of my live rock and corals and treating my main tank with the fish still in it to hopefully get rid of whatever may be going on. <I would try a couple of three things first... Add some sort of biological cleaner... like Gobiosoma gobies (don't think I'd risk Shrimps with those wrasses)... add some activated carbon to your filter flow path or a pad of Polyfilter... increase your aeration (could just be low oxygen and/or carbon dioxide stressing your fishes)... add some more live rock, macro-algae and increase your lighting (to discount chem/physical anomalies, nutritional possibilities... Add an ozonizer, dryer for same... get a better skimmer, ultraviolet sterilizer...> The one thing that I have found that might be wrong though is that I tested my nitrate level and found it at zero but my nitrite level was at 10ppm. <Twisted around>  Is this considered too high and can it be that the nitrite isn't being converted into nitrate fast enough and causing the scratching?  <Definitely contributes> The only filtration I have is an emperor power filter with two bio wheels and another old hang on filter that I use only for mechanical filtration.  <No skimmer?> I have been looking into getting a sump too but haven't done that yet. I hope I have provided you with enough information and I hope that you can give me some advice on what I should do. Thank you, Gianluca <And read over the "environmental disease" and "toxic tank conditions" parts on the site www.wetwebmedia.com under the marine index... Bob Fenner>

Unexplained Fish Death I recently purchased four fish. Two Banner Fish, one Saddleback Butterfly (same store different tank), and a Gold Stripe Maroon Clown at a different store. I put them in a quarantine tank prior to moving to the 250 gallon main tank. All were looking good. The saddleback was breathing a little rapidly but swimming well after about three days. When I checked 10 minutes latter he was gone. Mouth open fins erect and completely without life. I checked water quality as I had been doing daily and noticed an ammonia spike of about .25 ppm or slightly more. I was also treating with Cupramine (sp?) at .03-.04 ppm. Not wanting to risk further ammonia concerns I transferred the remaining Banner fish and Maroon Clown to the main tank which was also at .03-.04 copper due to a marine velvet outbreak (now under control I hope) from about six weeks ago. The Maroon hid for a day or so but came out about half an hour ago and was swimming well and interacting with the other fish. Breathing was a little rapid. Boom checked less than ten minutes latter and the Maroon was gone. Mouth open no life. Like a heart attack or something. The new Banner fish (the ones originally in the quarantine tank with the dead ones) as well as a Powder Blue, Flame Angel, Golden and a Blackback Butterfly are doing great (Better check in 10 minutes to be sure Ha). Question, I have had fish die from disease or other things but it tends to be slow. What causes such a rapid death and how can I prevent it. <I understand... these "rapid death syndrome" phenomena are generally due to "acute stress" coupled with "transit shock", "diminished RBC" (hematocrit, red blood cell) troubles... fishes have high-packed cell volumes, water has low dissolved oxygen capacity... 7ppm is about sat.... and if the fish get nicked by netting, handling, get chased around by existing livestock, eat too much... the resultant strain can be too much... resulting in the sorts of deaths you detail so well... mouth open, pectoral fins out or forward, eyes alert... dead suddenly> Long question I know but wanted to give all the facts. PS. Water quality in the main tank is dead on except for copper. Tank has been set up about three months now. Appreciate any insight you could give. <Many things that could be stated here. For one, sorry about your losses... and two, do try to keep from coppering your new or old fish livestock... the added stress was/is a factor here... best to "leave new/incoming life" in peace as much as possible for the two weeks recommended respite from collection, moving... so they can/will "re-center" themselves... before moving again, unless there is outright evidence of parasitic infestation, I would not automatically copper them. Bob Fenner... Please do read through the survey works, many FAQs about marine "disease", especially "The Three Sets of Factors that Determine Health" posted on the site: www.WetWebMedia.com>

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