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FAQs about Toxic Water Conditions : Exogenous Causes (External, Inorganic... e.g. Paint, Metals, Fish Medicine-Biocides... 1

Related Articles: Copper Use in Marine Systems, Marine Toxic Tank Conditions , General  Marine Maintenance,

Related FAQs: Exogenous Source 2, Exogenous Source 3, Exogenous Source 4, & Insecticides, Cleaners, Copper Use in Marine Aquariums, Toxic Situations 1, Toxic Situations 2, Toxic Situations 3Toxic Situations 4Toxic Situations 5, Toxic Situations 6, Toxic Situations 7, Toxic Situations 8, Toxic Situations 9, & FAQs on Toxic Water Conditions by: Unknown Causes, & Endogenous (from inside, e.g. Internal, Organic Causes), Foods, Nutrients, Venomous/Poisonous Tankmates, Wipe-out Syndromes/New Tanks e.g.,

Exogenous Causes: Marine Algaecide Use/Chemical Control, Toxic Copper Use Situations/Troubleshooting, Insecticides, Cleaners, & Troubleshooting/Fixing,

Carbon dioxide, kitty litter boxes, metal clamps valves, fittings... hydrometer/thermometer ballast, paint, solvents, glues, and cleaner and cooking oils and... in the air. Broken light bulbs and heaters... perfumes, deodorants, soaps on hands/arms and detergents on clothes, towels... Smoking tobacco, wood... et al. Oh! And chemical additives, mis-mixes, including most fish medicine ingredients!


Question regarding Antiperspirant in tank?/Stinky Fish, Need Underfin Deodorant 6/18/09
Hello All,
<Hi Todd>
First off, love the website! Tons of great info.
<Thank you.>
I have a question. I have Googled your site, and the web for info. I am wondering what the side affects of antiperspirant is on my reef tank? I can't seem to find any info anywhere. I am aware it contains alluminium
My tank is 120G (48X24X24). I have a very hard time reaching the bottom, even with a ladder. I am tempted to get a snorkel, and goggles.
<I'm not aware of any negative effects this would cause, but I'd be safe and put up with BO while cleaning your tank.
James (Salty Dog)>
<<My dos centavos tossed in... Al metal is toxic... but the bit from this source is likely negligible. RMF>>

SW 30 gallon with toxic water. Toxic Water\Heavy metal or Biochemical 4/16/2009
I have had a on going problem that started in January.
I have a 30 gallon salt water reef tank and it got contaminated with the red slime.
<Currently fighting an outbreak myself.>
It was very bad, everything died and so on. I have since replaced everything in the tank. Live sand, live rock . Brand new Eheim ECCO canister filter, brand new Back Pak protein skimmer, brand new submariner 9V UV sterilizer and a stainless heater with heater control. The water has tested perfect across the board for ammonia, nitrate, nitrite and PH. The temp is a solid 78 degrees at all times. Yet, nothing can survive in the water.
<Hmm....Did you add any chemicals to the water after the red slime outbreak?>
I have small, 5 gallon refuge tank that I put everything I could save from the original tank and it's perfect. I cannot even put a snail in it.
<Something toxic in the water.>
Totally confused, and advise would be great because I don't know how long I can stand running this tank without anything in it. Thank you in advance.
< I would get a couple of Poly Filters and some activated carbon for your canister filter and run it for a few days. Then inspect the Poly Filter and see what color it turns Poly Filters turn different colors depending on
what it is adsorbing.>

Re Regal Angelfish/Feeding/Now Cyanide Poisoning 3/7/09 Hi James, <Hello Peter> Would you agree that cyanide catching may have impaired her ability to try other foods since she paid no attention to anything that I tried. <Unlikely. Typically, poisoned fish do eat well at first, but gradually lose weight. <<Mmm, no... not usually... Almost any fish "near ground zero" sufficiently cyanide toxified, will refuse eating altogether... and if it does... will then die in short order. RMF>> You have to realize that this is a very difficult fish to acclimate to prepared foods, and to keep for that matter. I've tried a couple of Regal Angelfish in my 35+ year span in the hobby, and I'm thinking one month was the longest I've kept one alive. Best chances for success with this fish are in large systems with plenty of live rock baring benthic algae growth, tunicates, sponges, etc. With natural foods present, a better chance for prepared food acclimation exists.> I am afraid she may not be able to survive for long and I dare not move her to the 400g display tank which is hosting many aggressive tangs and angel fishes. <May very well be demise for sure here. Have you tried a 30% water change in the angel's tank? Sometimes this can trigger an appetite. A sponge encrusted rock may help stimulate feeding also.> My last experience is with a Philippine Regal for 5 years. <Great.> Sadly, I lost her recently in an accident which killed many of my prized fishes and corals. <Not so great.> Therefore, any ideas that would entice my new yellow belly regal (she is really gorgeous) to feed on something else (anything) would be highly appreciated. <Have you read the FAQ's on feeding I gave you in the previous email? See what others have tried, what worked, etc.> Regards, <Good luck my friend. James (Salty Dog)> Peter

Heater Breaking -- 2/21/09 Hello. I would first like to say that I love your website. I have a 29 gallon that used to house two Sepia bandensis (they were still in a net breeder). We keep our house in the upper 60's, so I had a heater. One night I noticed a metallic smell and a cracking noise in the room that the tank was. I found that the heater had, well, exploded. The cuttlefish and the clean-up crew were dead. There were shards of glass all over the sand bed <!? Wow!> and the water was tinted yellow/brown. In the area of the heater, all of the sand had turn black and it was still plugged in. It was a old heater (4+ years?). I removed the heater remains. It has been a few weeks since the incident and I have cleared the water up with a carbon filter. My question to you, the all knowing oracles of aquarium wisdom, is what sort of toxins/chemicals did that leak into the water? Will the aquarium be usable again? Will the live rock? The live sand? Carbon filter? Thank you for your time. <Just to make sure... I'd bleach, wash, rinse all (in place if you can open a window to dilute any fumes) read here re: http://wetwebmedia.com/clnornart.htm> ... toss the old and run some new Carbon, drag a magnet (an algae scrubber is fine) over and through the old sand/substrate (to search for ferrous metal bits), add a unit of PolyFilter to your filter flow path (note any color changes)... and start slowly (testing) with new livestock. Bob Fenner>

Rust  ~ 01/12/09 Thanks for all you guys do, its so nice to have this resource. <Thank you!> I hope this is a simple yes or no question, but what is in this hobby... Will small amounts of rust in a reef or fish only tank contribute to nuisance algae outbreaks? <Not without other fueling factors, really the least of your worries when it comes to algae.> Like a small wire rusting above the tank, and particles falling in over time? ( Bet you could guess I have a small rusting wire over my tank with an algae outbreak going on.) I have previously written you guys about the algae, and am systematically following your previous advice trying to track down the source. I realize there is lots more that can contribute, but for this email, I'm only interested in the rusty wire. <Not a big factor in the big picture. But by all means, remove or replace the rusty wire! If it is not in use you can certainly get rid of the thing. If it is in use, well, rusty wires are not a good thing!> Thanks, Ken. <Welcome, Scott V.>

Fluorescent tube breaks in my reef tank 11/13/08 Robert, I got your email address from Ninong from Reefland.com. He mentioned that I should contact you on my problem. A fluorescent tube broke into my reef tank. I removed as much of the glass as I could. I am worried about any issues I may have with this down the road. My tank is 300 gal with 90 gal sump. The tube was a VHO tube that was 6' long. Thanks in advance for any help you may be able to provide. Ed <Mmm, there shouldn't be any real issues... other than those which may have occurred already... Some lamps do have a bit of mercury to them... but this and what other little chemical residue there might have been is likely of little further consequence. Do take care when having your hands in and about the substrate, lest there be bits of glass still thereabouts. I would siphon the area a few times during your normal maintenance. Bob Fenner> Re: fluorescent tube breaks in my reef tank Thanks for the input. I was really worried. <Ahh! Glad to help ease your mind. Cheers, BobF> 

Re: Microbubbles and no skimmate Part II  10/6/08 Good Evening all: <Roger> Mr. Fenner, just a short line to update you. First and foremost, do not take this as blame. I have major problems now. I followed the instructions that you so generously gave me (I am very appreciative). I administered the first dose of the Vodka. This made my water cloudy after about twelve hours, and it remained cloudy for about forty-eight. I then saw some improvement in the quality and my skimmer was skimming for the first time since the tank was set up, it was not dark, but I did have a good tower of dry foam. I then dosed it the second time with the Vodka and four hours later (I just happened to be standing there) the first fish just fell over dead <!? Might I ask, what "brand" of vodka was this?> (no sign of distress just instant death) I immediately started water changes and began trying to move as many as possible to the hospital tank. I only saved three. This happened extremely quickly and there were no signs of anything being wrong, other than the cloudy water. The corals started looking very stressed and the remaining fish showed their first signs and symptoms of labored breathing. I checked all the chemistry and everything had remained the same as what I sent you in the previous note, other than the PH, and it had gone to 7.9 from 8.4 in about two hours. <Yikes... too much too fast> I continued to check the chemistry and after about two hours, the ammonia spiked to 1.5. <Perhaps the dying fish> I am sure I am now going through another cycle, since I still have ammonia after several large water changes. I am struggling with great difficulty to keep the pH at 8.0. I have been adding Reef Buffer, and have continued to do large water changes. Calcium remains at 400 and DKH is 14, I am concerned about adding any more Reef Buffer because I really do not wish to have a "snowstorm". The few remaining corals continue to show extreme stress. Would adding baking soda be more applicable in this case? Sorry to bother you again, I am just not sure where I go from here; any help would be greatly appreciated. Best Regards, Roger <Do NOT add any more ethanol period... Some sort of overdose or poisoning has occurred. I would not feed anything either, until the ammonia is below 0.5 ppm. I would not add anything to adjust your biomineral or alkalinity either. Best to (if possible) wait, see if/when the system restabilizes. Bob Fenner, who wishes he had thrown in a cautionary note re waiting until the water cleared...> 

Para Guard Contamination   6/23/08 Hi crew, <Hello Rick! Benjamin here today.> Presently running a 90 gallon system with 110 lbs of live rock, ocellaris clown, Scopas tang, royal Gramma, green Chromis, dragon goby and Foxface. Refugium/sump with healthy Chaetomorpha. Present parameters as follows: PH 8.4, SG 1.024, Nitrate 5, Ammonia and nitrite non-detectible. <Good> RedOx hovers between 295 and 310. Aqua C skimmer with ozone injection through a the John Guest fitting. For 10 months after set-up, the system was thriving (RedOx closer to 360) ... elegance coral, pulsing xenia, devil's hand and finger coral all thriving. 6 hermits, turbo snails, feather dusters, worms, shrimp, etc., etc. But then ... For some absolutely unknown reason, I treated my main tank with Para Guard (synergistic blend of aldehydes, malachite green and fish protective polymers - as advertised as basically reef-safe) <definitely not the case> for early signs of ick - if you can believe it just a couple "dots" on the Scopas which a couple new neon gobies and "Selcon" soaked food seemed to help take care of - no "scratching, dots, etc." in last couple months (I know, this has been an expensive lesson - I'm still shaking my head?). <Ouch. I would never recommend 'proactive' medication, as the repercussions/stress of the meds may actually stress the fish enough to cause an infection. Although if you suspected the tang of possessing WMDs, I guess that's good enough reason for Congress to take the preemptive route...> Invertebrates are now gone, live rock looks dead - small amounts of diatoms on live rock now present but not infested. <Malachite green, formalin will do that.> I've never missed a 5 gallon weekly water change. Fish continue to do very well - eat well and appear happy. <Well, glad they didn't suffer for it. Sometimes these formaldehyde and malachite medications can really mess them up too- keep in mind that malachite green is a heavy carcinogen and vertebrate poison, as well as the fact that formaldehyde at relatively low concentrations will embalm a specimen almost indefinitely (when Twinkies, etc are unavailable)> I added a 2 hermits and a turbo snail 5 days ago, but they slowly deteriorated from the get-go. <Bad sign.> Finally my questions - assuming the medication (poison) has regrettably gotten me to this point, I've been using activated carbon (weekly changes) over the past month in an attempt to "pull the medication" out of the system, but the recent snail/crab incident tells me I've still got problems. 1) How/what can I "test" to determine if my system is invertebrate "safe" <The bad news is, you can't really. Your rock and sand will be slowly leaching the poison back into the water (mostly the malachite, a dye) for a very, very long time. I'm the sort who would probably wait decades, or just never try, but if you feel okay about a canary in the mine shaft a few snails or crabs in another month or two would be a decent check. Bear in mind you will be able to keep hardy inverts (arthropods, etc) long before cnidarians.> 2) Assuming I get to a point where my system is invertebrate safe, by adding some additional "live rock", will this "reseed" the deserted rock I presently have. <With time, yes. The eventual purchase of some top-grade rock from a LR specialist would help restore macrofauna, but even standard LFS stuff ought restore your bacteria and crustacean populations, diversity.> Greatly appreciate the help ... and fell free to give me a good boot in the but for my knee-jerk stupidity. <I suspect you've booted yourself enough- this is a mistake a lot of us have made, don't feel too rough on yourself. Tolstoy wrote that "What matters is life, life alone, the continuous and infinite process of discovering it, not the discovery itself." Continue discovering, learning, enjoying.> Rick in Edmonton. <Benjamin>

Bologna in My Reef Tank 3/29/08 Hi, there I have problem here, my 4 year old son put bologna in my reef tank and there is 3 pieces that I can't get out. So would you please let me know if this could harm my fish or corals. Thanks, Patricia <I see no immediate issue, it should be processed by your reef life (unless they are not fond of bologna). I would however continue to try and get it out, perhaps if you have a powerhead you can attach a hose to and blow the pieces to where you can get at them. Welcome, Scott V.>

Heavy Metal, ferrous discovery, removal  03/19/2008 Crew, <<Ben>> Thank you in advance. I was doing my glass cleaning on my 240 reef tonight with my Tiger Shark cleaning magnet when, about 1" above the sand bed, a small, dime sized thingy leapt from the sand and stuck to the inner magnet. I pulled it out and although it looked somewhat rock like, it was more dense than a rock would be and pulled very strongly on the magnet when held close. Obviously this thing has some sort of metal in it's composition. Should I be worried? It had to have come in with the CaribSea sand I used for the tank. Since my rock rests directly on the bottom of my tank, the vast majority of my sand is exposed and I can vacuum seal the outer piece of my Tiger Shark (very powerful) and run it over the sand to see if anything else comes out. Whada ya think? Thanks, <<I would certainly check by hovering the Mag cleaner over the sandbed to remove any other items. I would not be overly concerned by this>> Ben <<Thanks for the questions, A Nixon>>

Re: Untimely demise... tank poisoning by baby/battery  10/22/07 Thank you for the prompt reply. I do believe I found the culprit, now I am not sure if there is anything specific I need to do, other than a water change. I was looking in the sump this morning, the light on it has been off because it got wet, oops, and saw a reddish orange color. That piqued my interest, because there is nothing that color in the tank. I found a AA battery, swollen and exploded (compliments of the 2 year old I'm sure). The substrate there is stained reddish orange as well, I am assuming I need to remove that. An additional concern now is that the Scolymia coral is very pale looking, not totally bleached out, but pale. I am guessing it is related to the pollution as well? <<Veronica: Wow. A battery is not good. A water change would help a lot as it will dilute any toxins. If the tank doesn't look better, try doing more than one. Best of luck, Roy>>

Disaster...no Clue. AP TWP, some sort of catastrophic cascade poisoning event Hello!   12/9/07 I have a major problem with my tank and have spent 3 weeks trying to sort it out. I have searched your site and just can't seem to find anything that relates to my situation. <Let's see...> My set up is a 90 gallon with a Pro Clear 150 series 2. <This wet-dry? http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00061UXXC?smid=AEL917WTFL8PV&tag=msnshop-pet-mp-20&linkCode=asn> The tank has been up and running for over a year now with no problems. Nitrates, Nitrites and Ammonia all at zero. PH runs about 8.2. I added some red Gracilaria to the Sump. (After the skimmer below bio ball before the return) I was running a light on opposite cycle from the main tank lights as well. A month after adding the Gracilaria I started to see copods <No such thing... Copepods> down there and when I did a water change they would sometimes go flying out into the tank. A few of them took up residence around some of my polyps and pulsing xenia. Life was good in the tank! I did water changed weekly of about 10 gallons. This went on for a year with no problems or losses. <Good> Rather than purchase water I decided to invest in a Tap Water Filter by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals. <Mmm, please see WWM... this product is unworthy... a toy if you will... Not cheap or really functional to produce clean water> I did some reading and this was supposed to be a great product. Recommended by Jack Wattley and all. <Jack... Wattley... knows better than to have lent/sold his name here. I will say no more re> I mixed up my first 5 gallon batch and decided to test it first since I wanted to be sure the water was good before adding it to my tank. Testing pre-salt showed 0 nitrates, nitrites, ammonia and chlorine. I did note the PH was very low. Around a 5.0 but once I added the salt mix it came right up to the 8.0 level. I added the 5 gallons and then mixed the next 5 gallons. Testing again gave the same results. While I was working on the tank I decided that I would add a little of the bio active sand to the sump. I placed it down with the Gracilaria to try and keep the pods going strong. The next morning it looked like a war zone. Pulsing xenia was withered away and the mushroom leather corals were all shriveled up. I tested and found my nitrates 20 nitrites were at .5. <Yikes...> Panic set in so I went and did another 10 gallon water change. Again, testing the water before placing it in the tank. 24 Hours later my nitrates 20 nitrites were at 3.0 and all coral, blue leg, emerald green, peppermint and cleaner shrimp were dead. <Yes... poisoned> I again did another water change, this time I did 30 gallons. The nitrites came down to .5 and I decided to go and purchase some Prime since it seemed my tank was in a cycle. Odd thing is ammonia was 0 or .5 during this whole ordeal. <Not all microbes mal-affected evidently> Day 4 I tested and now the nitrates 20, nitrites were at 5.0 I lost a Chromis ammonia was .05. I did another 30 gallon water change and got nitrites down to 1.0. I decided that perhaps too many water changes were causing a cycle. I had to go away for 3 days and the tank just sat. I turned off the lights as to try not to stress the remaining fish. Upon my return the nitrites were back up, but to 10.0 this time! Nitrates were 40 and believe it or not 2 false Percs, yellow tail blue tang and lawnmower were still alive. Ok, so the tank is clear I thought maybe it's my test kit. I got a brand new kit and tested. Nitrates 40 Nitrites 10.0 and ammonia at .5. Two test kits same readings. So a week after using the new water filter and adding the sand I am in a mess. I did water changes of 10 gallons every day for a week. That kept the nitrites at about 3.0 all week. I then tried cycle to see if somehow it would help balance things out. Day 14 I added the cycle nitrites were 3.0 nitrates at 10. The next morning I was looking at Nitrates over 200 and nitrites over 10 ! All 4 fish were still alive. I tried both test kits same readings. <Yes... a cascade effect... the nitrogenous materials are/were derived from the rapidly decomposing biota...> I know it seems like I am just throwing stuff at the tank to make something stick but I tried water changes I am starting to think that it's the water I am using from that filter. <Likely this is/was the origin here> (Perhaps I am being stubborn and I could just go buy water again but after shelling out the money for the water filter and testing the water and it being fine I figured that can't be the cause) I DID test each batch before placing it into the tank and it was fine. <... for what you were measuring...> Perhaps my local water becomes unstable after going through that filter? <Mmm, not the source water, no... but possibly the TWP> I have replaced the filter now twice since it is only good for about a 100 gallons. My readings were good but since the package said "up to 150 gallons" I did not want to press my luck. <... Let me cut to the proverbial chase. I'd toss the TWP... and look into, buy a real water filter... either an RO or RO/DI device...> So at this point what would you suggest? More water changes? Just let it sit and run it's course? Light on ? off ? More prime? More Cycle? Take the sand out of the sump? Trash the water filter? <Yes to the second, and last, no to all others> It's been about 3 weeks now and the 4 fish are still alive but the Gracilaria lost it's color completely. I added a little more to the tank to see and it too lost it's color. LOST and in desperate need of some direction here. Thanks So Much I just know you can give me some help. Derek <Please, take your time... and read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/index.htm the sixth/blue tray on water... the sections, articles, FAQs files on treatment/filtering. Bob Fenner>

Fingernail polish reef safe?   12/9/07 Hello. I wear fingernail polish that is reapplied every 2 weeks. Is it safe to put my hands in my 72G. reef tank? <I do think so... Once the chemicals used are "cured", set, they are inert. When new/"wet", do keep your hands out of the tanks> When my husband cleans the tank every week the shrimp "clean" his fingernails and climb on his arm. Looks like fun! Is it safe for me to do this? <Likely so... the smelly solvents that function as carriers, evaporate, go away with curing, leave behind material that is non-toxic> Thanks for the wonderful service you provide. Ellen <Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Metal in reef aquaria 12/19/07 Greetings Crew <Hello Mark.> I am in the process of starting a new 100 gal reef and would like to get it right the first time with your help. The lighting is installed, a new Euro-Reef skimmer is in the sump, and I'm ready for live rock. <Congratulations> What I'm not sure about is the use of metallic objects in reef systems. The metallic objects I refer to include a titanium heater, a submersible Mag 12 pump which utilizes stainless steel screws to fasten the pump chamber to the motor, and an Aqua UV ultraviolet sterilizer. The sterilizer is my main concern here as it is equipped with a sleeve wiper actuated by a 1/4" rod about 8" long. All these items have been used in a previous setup with no appreciable corrosion so the stainless is of good quality. I have always made a point of avoiding metal fasteners and clamps where contact with the water is likely but these items are supposedly made for this application. <Good practice.> Do I have cause for concern? <No, these items can be used no problem.> Thanks, Mark P. <Welcome, have fun, Scott V.>

Sump Near Oil Furnace - 12/13/07 I have learned a great deal from your site, thank you. I have not been able to find any mention of what might be troubling me with my tanks. I have two reef tanks one 72 bow front in my basement, one 210 on first floor of my home - they run off the same water system and sump in the basement. The sump, which contains my protein skimmer, water pumps and heater is in very close proximity of my oil burning furnace. [Living in Maine - basic necessity.] The sump ( a 45 gallon tote ) is approximately 1 foot away from the furnace. I do not have a cover on the sump - lots of open water. I use RO water. My fish are doing great, fat and healthy. My corals are not so great; they fail to thrive. Do you think it has something to do with the proximity of the furnace/sump. <Mmm... might have an influence... I would likely contact a business in the field of such heat technology, ask what tools they suggest for testing for contamination here, what compounds are typically found in association... Perhaps a few calls to a college with a chemistry department re what they might be able to do for you re mass spectrophotometry> My local reefing expert and friend at AquaCorals in Fairfield, Maine has brainstormed all parameters - <Mmm, would like to see/hear this...> thinks all is fine but questions the furnace. What do you think? Jeanine M. Brown <... Could experiment or just move the sump... try covering it at least... Bob Fenner>

Water chemistry question... Anomalous invert. SW losses   2/21/08 Hey guys, long time lurker first time e-mailer. I have a 50g mixed reef with a 20g sump/refuge. My water parameters always test to 0ppm for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate; phosphates are about 0.05ppm (LFS test), calcium is between 400 and 450ppm, Alk is 10dkh, lastly my magnesium is 1350. The tank was upgraded from my 24g NanoCube which ran for 2 years, and now my 50g has been up for about 10 months. I've been having a bad green hair algae problem and been having a hard time keeping my Astrea and Mexican Turbos alive for more then a month. <Mmm... something... is growing there that is poisoning the snails...> I now only have 2 Astraea's, initially I couldn't figure out why I would lose my Astraea's and Turbos but after surfing around on WWM I think I'm attributing it to pyramid snails. <Maybe...> I see them around the tank and I pick them out by hand, and now I inspect my two Astraea's and remove the pyramid's from them. <Do you see these actually on the dead snails?> I don't see the pyramids much anymore. Anyway I did get 2 months ago a Sixline partially because I wanted to see if it would eat the pyramids and partially because I like watching them. Anyway he lasted about 2 weeks and I found him stuck to my maxi-jet 1200 that I modded for more flow. <Also likely poisoned...> I don't know why he died but he looked great up until I came home and saw him dead. Anyway because I can't keep snails alive a few weeks after that I got a sea hare <Mmm, I would be checking the species, its biology... too many of these are coldwater, too toxic themselves...> thinking maybe with the absence of snails or a clam the pyramids would die. The sea hare did great, he was mowing down the algae but he lasted 2 weeks as well. <Something, chemical, biochemical...> I found him one day behind my rockwork white as a ghost and with his guts spit out. Lastly a month later I decided to get a tuxedo urchin. He's been great at eating the algae as well but he just died today. Is there some type of pest that would take these guys out, or is there some chemical that both my LFS and my tests aren't looking for? Oh by the way, I do a water change out of 10g once every week and a half and for fish I only have 2 ocellaris clowns and they have been in both tanks since day one and they and my corals don't seem to be affected at all. This can't just be bad luck can it? <Again... summat amiss here... Could be a blue-green, other Division algae, or something else... I would try using a pad of PolyFilter (please write back re colors you see accumulating on the pad), and add a good bit of some "other" species of useful algae to your lighted area of the refugium (Gracilaria or Chaetomorpha are my best choices)... You need to eliminate whatever the toxicity is here, and these steps should do it. Bob Fenner>

Re: Water chemistry question... Anomalous invert. SW losses... Tufa rock  2/21/08 Thank you very much for your help. I'll pick up some PolyFilter and let you guys know. I do have some Chaeto in my fuge and it grows fast <A good sign> but my fuge is starting to be overcome by the hair algae as well. <A bad one... Do you have access to a few hundred power microscope? I am suspecting that this hair algae is a Cyanobacteria... no nuclei or other visible endoplasmic inclusions... See WWM re ID...> The algae itself is a darker green and is soft/silky when I pull it out. <Does it feel slimy?> I'm also using about 40 pounds of tufa rock if that has anything to do with it, <Erp! Does... See WWM re... use the search tool and the term... on the "Ask the Crew..." page, view the cached views... the Tufa rock is VERY likely the source of trouble here> the other 30 pounds are Fiji base rocks transferred from my nano cube. Anyway thank you for your time, I'll update you in a few days. <The PolyFilter will help absorb some of the Tufa issue, but not indefinitely... it needs to be pulled. BobF>

Re: Water chemistry question... Anomalous invert. SW losses... Tufa Rock  2/21/08 Aha! Tufa rock, man I wish I would have read what I just read 10 months ago. <Ah, you and I both> I'm attaching a picture of what the algae looks like in my tank. <Nice... except for the...> I do have to say that until I got my ATO working in my sump when I was first setup and cycling the tank my water level ran low and 2 times I had to top off with tap water because I didn't have an RODI unit and the grocery store's unit was down for maintenance. The algae started out as Cyano obviously because of my use of tap water and after 3 months turned to what you see now in the picture. It's not really slimy, at least not like what Cyano feels like but it is kind of close. You can see in the picture that all of the tufa rock has bad hair algae and non of my established Fiji rock has it. <A clue eh?> I manually pick it out to battle it, I've gone as far as remove the rocks on the right side of the tank to scrub them in water from a water change and then put them back in only to find that the problem got worse. <More exposed surface area on the Tufa...> It seems like the more I pick the algae out the faster it grows back. My dad's work has an electron microscope that takes pictures he's going to see if he can bring it home over the weekend because I'll be up in Cleveland visiting my parents, if not he said I can put some algae in a test tube and he'll take it to work and email me the pictures. <Neat!> Also to answer a previous question you asked, I have never seen the so called pyramid snails that I think I have on a dead Astrea or turbo, but I have seen them on the live ones. I figured better to be safe then sorry and pick them out. In my nano-cube they did stay on the glass and algae all the time but I had a hard time keeping the snails alive there too, especially Mexican Turbos. <These may be something other than Pyramidellids> I had one live about 8 months but the replacement one lived 2 or 3 months. The poly-filter is in my sump, what color would it turn if its a toxic chemical from the tufa rock? Green? <We'll see... depends on the nutrients available, preponderant> Lastly, my wife and I are closing on a house tomorrow and will be moving into it on March 2nd. <Ah, congrats!> My plans were to first plumb a 50g Rubbermaid stock tank in our basement and plumb that to the main tank that would be on the first floor in our family room. My idea for moving would be to dig my snails out of the sand, and pitch the sand and start fresh as recommended by my local reef club. To transport the water I was going to use the orange 5g painter buckets to get them from my apartment to my new house and setup my 24g nano until the dust clears in the main tank with the new sand. If the tufa rock is the culprit, I have about 40lbs in my main display, if I were to remove it and add 40lbs of Fiji rock to my main display wouldn't the combination of adding the sand and rock send my tank into another cycle? <Quite possibly so... I'd get the new Fiji LR and cure it ASAP, and move it in with the big MOVE> If so should I just keep my nano-cube up and running to just re-cycle my tank or how would you go about that whole situation? Also, to clarify, were you referring to my algae problem being caused by the tufa rock maybe? Or where you referring to the tufa rock releasing the toxin into my system killing new additions? Or both? <Both... or the algae the Tufa is "sponsoring" in turn producing toxins... The Tufa's got to go. Bob Fenner>

Re: Water chemistry question... Anomalous invert. SW losses... Tufa Rock  2/23/08 Just an update, I am going tomorrow to phishybusiness to pick up about 40 pounds of Eva live rock and I will cure it in my 24g NanoCube. The PolyFilter pad has started to turn a green/brown color. Hopefully this fixes my toxin problem so that I could get some new fish that I've had my eyes on. <Ahhh! B>

Toxic tank, Contaminated Calcium Reactor Media    2/12/07   I have had toxic tank syndrome for 8 months now.  My pulsing Xenia starts to turn black in less than 24 hours.  All SPS corals had to be removed from my 180 gallon 5 year old tank.  Lost some fish, scooter blenny, mandarin, Rainford's goby. <Yikes... so, what have you done re the toxicity?>     To make a long story short, I changed water like crazy, searched everything for a metal contamination.  Could find nothing, so I emptied the system completely.  Cleaned it all out, replaced the sand bed, all rock, everything out, and refilled with natural sea water.  After a week, I put a piece of pulsing Xenia in last night, and this morning the polyps were starting to turn black.     I got mad, again, and the only thing I had not done was to empty my calcium reactor.  I put the media in a bowl and searched it.  Using a magnet, I found small flakes of metal of some sort, laced through the media!!!!!!!!! <Yikes...>   I have not idea how it got there!  Not from me!  I won't mention a brand name here. <I wish you would... My wife, Diana, used to distribute Knop Products in N. America... their Korallith was/is very pure...>     I will do a 100% water change as soon as possible.  I can not afford to change the rock and sand bed again!  What further steps should I take?  Carbon?  Poly filters? <Yes to both of these... this should do it> Will my new rock and sand be ok? <Very likely yes> There are no fish or corals in the tank st this time.  All have been moved to other systems.   Help   Richard <Thank you for relating your experiences... Will save many others huge headaches and grief. 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> Painting a room with a fish tank  2/18/07 Hi WWM Crew, <Helen>   I have two questions.   The first is about painting a room with a fish tank. The only other email to you have that I found with a similar question involved a tank that was large and had to be moved anyway, but I'm thinking that my 5 gallon could stay in the room while painting. <Yes, likely so> The problem is I have no idea what I should be concerned about, what precautions to take or things to lookout for when painting. <Most "modern" paints don't have "that much" in the way of dangerous VOC content... and if the tank is not too crowded... simply turning off all air-entraining devices (air pumps, venturi type powerheads...) and covering the tank with a damp towel... and of course some decent air circulation (painting on a "nice" day with the windows, doors partly open)... should do it>   The tank is well covered, being one of those water home acrylic kits sold by Hagen. It is light enough to move without taking apart, unless I had to move it out of the room.   Also, I will be upgrading to a 55 gallon tank in about three months (mom is painting now, <And I hope you're helping...> I will be moving out then). One of the worries I have about a tank this size is heating the water that I use to replace the water that is removed during water changing. <Mmm, for freshwater, you can just "toss in" some hot water from the tap (is what I do)... unless your source water is "terrible"... Elsewise, it is strongly advised nowadays, that folks store water to be changed out... in a designated "trash can" or such... and using a heater that is readily unplugged... is a good idea here> Strangely, although I've been looking all over the net I can't find any suggestions for this part of the water change. I would like as many suggestions as you can provide.   Thanks for any suggestions you may have. Helen <Thank you for writing. Bob Fenner>

Heater Hazard! 2/27/07 I have (actually had) a 75 gallon reef tank with a variety of soft corals (zoos, mushrooms, polyps, etc), a Jawfish, blue/red wrasse, Clarkii clown, Blue goby, and the cleaner crew.  It was beautiful! This past weekend when I came home, my heater was shattered in the tank, the top of my aquarium was cracked, the plastic was broken away, and there was a black substance splattered on the wall all the way up to the ceiling. <Oh boy, sorry to hear.>  All the snails and crabs were dead, all the corals were withdrawn and the wrasse was dead.  <Painful loss I'm sure.>  I did an immediate water change, not knowing if there were any chemicals in the water from the shattered heater, but I lost all the corals anyway. <Not unexpected unfortunately.> The temperature did fluctuate and dipped to around 72 degrees. <Left and right hook.>  The heater was not touching anything, and I can't figure out what happened. <Have seen this before, does happen from time to time, weakness in the glass gets worse over time with repeated heating and cooling until it gives way catastrophically.> I always unplug my heater for water changes and have never had a problem before.  <Not really avoidable, sort of a ticking time bomb.> I immediately removed all the dead creatures.  Since then, I have a consistent ammonia reading in my tank and have done daily water changes to try to save the fish. <Good.> Do you have any other suggestions regarding the ammonia? <Doing all you can currently, the die off from the LR is probably causing the ammonia spike.> Obviously I am completely devastated and am contemplating reverting back to a fish-only system because I can't afford to restock the tank. <Discouraging for sure, but I encourage you to continue, would have had the same problem in any tank.>  Any suggestions on how to avoid this in the future? <Avoid the glass heaters, got with one of the titanium ones.>  Do you think there are chemicals in my tank still? <Yes, run lots of carbon and Poly-Filters.>  Was it the temperature change, electric shock, or chemicals that killed everything? <Yes to all, a triple whammy.>  Are there heaters that don't contain damaging chemicals or will automatically shut off if there is a problem? <Putting it on a GFI outlet will help, although the bigger culprit is the metal inside the heater.>  Or are some heaters just doomed to shatter. <All glass heater have this possibility, go with a titanium one.>  Also do you think my live rock is damaged? <Only time will tell, see how it recovers.  I would bet on it being ok long term.>  Or the substrate filtration? Thanks! Amy <Sorry to hear of your troubles.  Have faith you will be able to work through this and get back on the right track.> <Chris> Heater Hazard! 2/28/07 Thank you for your reply! I appreciate all your help. Although frustrating, at least I know I am doing all I can do.    Amy <Stay on the path.> <Chris>

Styrofoam, Next Time PVC, perhaps Starboard.   2/20/07 Hello! <Hi there MJ!  Mich here.>      I have searched high and low using specific search strings for this question.  "Is Styrofoam safe for inside the aquarium?"  I have a 200-gallon half cylinder that I placed some blocks of Styrofoam in to prop up the rockwork for aquascaping purposes.  I used 2" rigid wall insulation for this purpose.  The sticker on the insulation says that it is chemically inert.  My fish are healthy and my hermits love life.  Refugium is growing well.  Should I worry about this Styrofoam breaking down over time and releasing nasties into my tank? <Sounds like a nice system.  To be perfectly honest I don't really know the answer to this question.  I would be a little leery as I have kept this type of insulation in the basement and over time it gets a little crumbly and nasty.  That being said, if it's not causing you any obvious problem right now I think I would just leave it alone.  RMF comments?  <<Mmm, Styro is chemically inert... but does tend to fall apart too much to suit me. RMF>>  I do have a suggestion for the future.  PVC piping is commonly used to support rockwork and I think is a better option as it won't react or breakdown. There are multiple ways of doing this from actually constructing frames to simply cutting large PVC piece with a saw.  There is also a product called starboard that is used in the hobby and is know to be inert which is good if you are lining the bottom of the tank.  Good luck!  -Mich> MJ

Broken Thermometer 3/29/07 Hey WetWeb Media, <Hi again.> Real quick question I was mixing water today and had one of those floating thermometers made of glass in the trashcan and when I poured the water in it broke the thermometer. Should I throw out the water and the trash can. <Yes to the water, no to the can, just rinse it out very well.> Because I think the thermometer had mercury in it.  <Unlikely, most now are alcohol based.> I still have the heater and power head. Should I even throw those out? <Nope, just rinse well.> Or am I being crazy. <Maybe a little crazy.>  Please write back as soon as you can. <Chris>

I need help, all my fish died -- 3/28/07 I'll apologize in advance for the length of this.  I just want to give as much info as possible. <No problem.> I recently had a disaster with my tank.  It's 45 gal, 20 lbs of live rock, (I know it's not enough) and 1/2" crushed coral substrate. <Also not enough.  A deeper bed could help you with denitrification.>   I have a CPR BakPak 2 and Via Aqua canister filter for filtration.  The tank has been set up for 2 years now.  I haven't added anything new to the tank in over 6 months.  I had 1 tomato clown, 2 pajama cardinals, and 1 royal Gramma.  There are 3-5 hermit crabs and the live rock is covered with small feather dusters, green algae, and little bits of coralline.  It also had a couple of spaghetti worms which died also. The crabs appear healthy and the feather dusters, while some larger ones seemed a little stressed, appear otherwise fine. <This sounds like a very nice tank.  I am sorry you had a disaster.> I was in the process of cleaning my tank.  The tank has always had a nitrate problem (usually 20) that I've not been able to fix <This is not extremely high given that you are not trying to keep sensitive invertebrates.  A deep sand bed could help bring this down though.  And changing more water is the other option.> and occasionally I've used a little Amquel+ before a partial water change. I've never had problems with Amquel+ before.  I did use some about 24 hours before I found all of the fish dead.   <Hmmm'¦> I tried the forum first, the Amquel+ had a strong rotten egg like odor to it which apparently isn't normal according to some posts.   <This does not sound normal to me.  Rotten egg odor is hydrogen sulfide.  Can't be good.> I can tell you the ph in the tank plummeted to 7.4. <Yikes!!> I don't have readings for ammonia etc., from the time I found the fish as my first reaction was to change the water quickly to save the rest of the tank. On Monday, the fish seemed healthy and were eating ok when I fed them before I left for work, about 12 hours after adding the Amquel+.  It was about 11 hours later I found them all dead.  There were no visible signs of any illness prior to this.   <Illness does not sound likely.  This is environmental.> So far, I've done 2 partial water changes and I plan on doing a 3rd this weekend.  I've also added some Seachem reef buffer.  I removed and completely cleaned the CPR BakPak. It is currently the only filtration.  I need to completely replace all the media in the VIA Aqua so for the moment it's disconnected. What could have killed the fish and not the crabs and feather duster? <It does sound like your Amquel+ was the culprit.  Crabs and annelids can be pretty hardy sometimes.  Fish have such high metabolisms they are very sensitive to toxins or oxygen depletion.  The manufacturer is not sharing the recipe for this newer product, but lists the composition of original Amquel as sodium hydroxymethanesulfonate.  Assuming this is a primary component of the new formula as well, It does sound like it broke down into some very unpleasant compounds, including hydrogen sulfide.  Here is the link to the safety information about the product: http://www.novalek.com/kordon/Amquel+/index.htm Although they say it is very safe, of course, they also say that deoxygenation of the water occurs after addition, and this is certainly one way the fish could be injured.  The hydrogen sulfide and pH drop could also be culprits.  I would not add any products like this to the tank to reduce nitrates.  Nitrates are much less dangerous than these chemicals!> Is there something I should test for other than the normal water parameters? <pH, alkalinity, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate should be sufficient.  The Sulphur should not be a problem as long as your pH and hardness are appropriate, especially since you have diluted with significant water changes.  The water changes should have taken care of any obscure compounds. > Do I need new substrate and live rock? <I would not replace the substrate and rock.  You might go ahead and add some more. > I plan on waiting at least a few weeks, I'm afraid to even consider adding any fish until I figure out what went wrong. <Yes, once your pH and other parameters are stable, and if your invertebrates continue to do well, I would add fish back one at a time.  The quarantine period for the fish should give you plenty of time to assess the stability of the tank.  I would not use Amquel+ in the tank anymore.  After a similar fish kill from another 'safe' product that also deoxygenates the water, I have sworn off adding any proprietary formulations to my no matter how safe anyone says it is.> Dawn <Alex>  

A follow-up to "I need help, all my fish died 3/28/07" More on Amquel (and A.C.E. . ) poss. toxicity   3/31/07 Good afternoon Crew, <Nicole> I just wanted to add to this question, which Alex answered, in which someone named Dawn relayed the disaster that her 45 gallon reef tank experienced. <Please do> I myself have noticed this odor with the Amquel+ product, but when I first bought a bottle of it about a year ago, it had a similar smell. The smell seems to have become concentrated as the product was expended. It leaves a very lasting odor - an uncapped bottle can quickly smell up a room! This makes me uneasy, but I do believe it is normal to some extent. Even Prime (in my opinion the best dechlorinator, the 50 ml dropper bottle makes dosing very simple - 3 drops per gallon)  has a section on the back where it says: "Sulfur odor is normal." <Yes> Prime, however, has a very slight odor, in my opinion. The Amquel+ product definitely does not! I answer fish questions on another site, and have seen many cases where an addition of Amquel+ or A.C.E. . caused major disruption of the bio-filter, usually nitrites shooting up sky high. <Yes> I cannot say that it is due to the product alone, but it certainly was a catalyst. Although both Novalek and Jungle do offer other fine aquarium products - these particular ones, I would never recommend to anyone. <Me neither> Thanks for reading this, and for all that you do each day for hobbyists worldwide! Nicole <Thanks much for coming forward... with this lucid, useful input. Bob Fenner>

Oxidation of Bromide in SW... via high ORP?   4/11/07 Mr. Fenner,    <Emmanuel>   I work with coral reef fishes. May I ask your opinion about one specific issue?    <Certainly>   I have had trouble with our ozonizer. Despite keeping the ORP within a moderate range (280-320 mV), some of the mortality I have observed could be related to oxidation of bromide to bromine species (HOBr, OBr-). Do you have any experience and/or would you know any reliable source of information on that subject?    <Interesting speculation... I thought about this last night for a bit... How might one test for this conversion to toxic halogen? Or, "look up" such information from extant studies? Perhaps an inquiry to a college chemistry dept., professor. I don't think this is a practical possibility at this range of RedOx however.>   Thank you for your collaboration.      Regards,      Emmanuel <Bob Fenner>

Sick Damsel... actually partial understanding, involvement in the marine aquarium interest, life...  4/17/04 Hi, <Hello there> I have a blue damsel that has had a white spot on his side for a few months. We have isolated him in a hospital tank (2.5 gallons) for the last 1-2 months.  Although the spot occasionally looks smaller, it really has not disappeared.  He did have a few small spots on his fins, but they have gone away.  How do we know how long to hospitalize this fish, and will he get better? <Mmm... a good question (causing me to consider...)... Likely this spot is "nothing to worry about"... a bit of mucus being produced by the fish due to a trauma in recent times (capture, holding, shipping...) and will "go" with time... For accurate diagnosis, anesthetizing the fish possibly, excising the spot or some part of it, microscopic examination, likely with some cursory staining... perhaps culturing... might reveal the nature better here> On another note, we have lost about 6 fish in our 50 gallon tank. <?!>   We have tried to kill the parasites or ich by removing the hosts, we left the two hermit crabs in there but had no fish in the tank for over 2 weeks. <... need more "fallow" time than this...> We raised the temperature to about 85, and we have tried numerous treatments such as copper, table salt, Quick Cure, and API General Cure. <Oh my!> We recently bought two more damsel fish.  One is still alive but the other we lost yesterday, he was breathing quickly so and he was developing a whit line down the center of his back (on the nervous system?). <Mmm... no... likely general stress period... You "have" something very wrong going on in/with this system...> We tried to give him a fresh water dip with a dose of the Quick Cure, <... toxic... the formalin component is a biocide... see WWM re> but lost him during the treatment. <... dangerous to use... for you as well... Needs to be "extremely" aerated during fish exposure...>   Do you think we need to breach our tank and begin recycling it or is there some way to kill what is in there?   Linda & Ben <Uhh... you obviously need a better, fuller understanding of what you have here, what you're doing... How to begin to help you educate yourself? I don't know you, your previous experiences... but the dumping of the chemicals you list, the killing of livestock... leads me to consider that such a hodge-podge approach to the hobby is resultant from a lack of reading... or whatever mechanism/s "work" for you... You could (continue) to "get" advice (from stores, the Net?) and "gad-about" what you're doing... but... If you want to save time, understand... a good book or two... or a bunch of reading (start here: http://wetwebmedia.com/tanktroubleshting.htm and on to the linked files above) on the Net/WWM may get you back to "start"... I do wish I could encourage you to "get into" the hobby sufficiently such that you would learn first thoroughly what you're up to, the consequences/alternatives to your choices, non-actions... Bob Fenner>

Toxic tank? Brass fittings, yep. 5/4/07 <Greetings, GrahamT with you...> I have had a salt water for over 3 years. I recently moved and took the opportunity to change my 90 gallon FO tank to a FOWLR. I basically started over from scratch. Filled the tank with RO/DI water. I took all the bio balls out of my wet dry and now I have about 90 lbs of live rock and 40 lbs of live sand. My water parameters are as follows: SG: 1.023 pH: 8.2 Temp: 80F <A touch high, but only by one or two degrees, IMO.> NH3: 0 NO2: 0 NO3: 20 dKH: 10 Ca: 400ppm The tank has been up for about 4 weeks. The rock was mostly cured so I saw no ammonia spike, a slight increase in nitrites and then it went back to 0. <If you weren't monitoring the ammonia and nitrite, then you may have started the cycle over again with semi-cured live rock.> I figured I was cycled so I added a cleaner shrimp and an orchid dotty back. About a week later, I added a Copperband and 2 clowns. When the snails I bought all died, I decided to buy a refractometer and discovered my SG was about 1.019. I raised it to 1.023. I think I did this too quickly because I have experienced a series of deaths. <Possible, yep.> First it was the shrimp, then the Copperband, then a clown and then the other clown. These all happened about one a day. I attributed the deaths to the salinity change. <Maybe, but that is a little much for just the salinity to cause, IMO.> So yesterday I added another clown that I found at the LFS for $10. He seemed fine yesterday and even ate. When I came home today from work, I found him swimming in the corner above one of the powerheads and he hasn't moved positions in the tank all night. He just keeps swimming in the same spot and did not eat like he did the night before. <I think you would benefit from taking it easy on the new additions until you straighten this out.> So now I am thinking there must be something toxic in my water? <Methinks, maybe.> But what is weird is that the orchid Dottyback is still alive and he has been in the water the longest. He seems fine and ate tonight. I can also see the coralline starting to spread. <These are indications of something right, true, but the Dottyback is resilient...> Any ideas? Should I do a water change or just drain the tank and start over? I am totally stumped... <No, I think you need to look over the system and evaluate if there could be a contaminant, and if your basic water quality parameters are correct.> I did think of two things while I was typing this...I installed a check valve on the return line when I set the system up this time. I couldn't find a plastic one so I used a metal one...brass probably. <Ah-HA!> Could this be leaching something into the water that would normally be flushed out but since this is a closed system causing me problems? <Yup. Don't use any metal in your system. Titanium and stainless are considered the safest, but I would definitely lean away from using any metal in plumbing applications like this.> Also I notice that in my sump (former wet dry) there is a little bit of a glossy film on top of the water...could that be something in the water that is killing everything in the tank? <Mmm, if you mean it looks like a little bit of soap-scum, then no. That means you should be skimming your system. If you add some poly filter to the sump and let some stuck above the waterline, it should take care of that. I reiterate: get the tests done and stop adding livestock until you have answers. Remove the brass ASAP! -GrahamT> Please help, Shawn

Cigarette smoking   - 03/26/2006 Hello, I operate an aquarium maintenance company, many of our "marine fish only tanks" are in professional offices. I'm currently putting in an offer to set up a marine fish only tank in a restaurant / bar. I've never set up a tank in this sort of environment, have anyone Wet Web Media had any experience with this? <Extensive. I helped start and run a service company of good size for nearly two decades> Does the cigarette smoking have any effect on marine fish? <Oh yes... very negative> The restaurant will be family orientated, not like a sports bar. Thanks for any info into this and of course your taking the time to reply. Jim Jesko <Just the smoke can be trouble... there are "hookah" like water filter devices you can run any pumped air through going into such systems... I encourage you to switch our chemical filtrants (activated carbon likely) once every two weeks or so. Keep the tank tops sealed as much as practical and way out of reach of the customers, and staff... tell all they are not to reach into or place anything into the tanks. Bob Fenner>

Big Mistake...How do I fix it? 100% Silicone, Toxic systems   6/13/06 I hate to bother you as I know you guys are busy helping people with real problems that can be solved but here goes anyway. I had a very badly designed sump setup (wet/dry u-tubed to a 10 gallon refugium u-tubed to a 10 gallon sump) <Yikes... U-tubes are not to be trusted...> that I tore down hoping to build something similar (no u-tubes, entirely in a 55) using the EPDM baffling I read about here. Well, after setting it up with the EPDM, I realized that the baffles were not going to stay in place, water pushing them over. I quickly used GE Silicone II to silicone the baffles into place. (I did not notice until way too late that it says "not for use on aquariums"). <Yikes... want to avoid types with "Mildewcides", other additives... Use only 100%...>   I also only let it dry for about 12 hours. <Needs 24...> I have removed the sump completely while I allow the new silicone to cure. I performed about a 50% water change. All of my fish seem to be O.K. I have no filtration at all while the silicone is curing.  So, since I have lost every SPS in my tank and all of my soft corals look terrible and my 10-12" anemone has shriveled up to about 2" I was wondering what you think I should do to help alleviate the problems and get my tank ready to house corals again? <... if it were me/mine, I'd cut away all the present Silicone and re-do this with 100%... Or, buy a new sump...> How long should I wait before trying to add any corals again? Thanking you in advance for the extreme wealth of knowledge you provide to me and many other people with this aquarium obsession. <Do take the long view here... You don't want to have mal-lingering dread re toxicity issues... cut out this "door/window" Silastic and replace it. Bob Fenner> Acrylic Nails and Aquariums 7/16/06 Dear Crew, Can having acrylic finger nails poison my marine aquarium? <Yes, make sure they completely dry before putting your hand in the tank.  Better yet would be elbow length gloves.> Jenn

Jebo 72 gallon aquarium. Al and SW... toxic   8/21/06 This tank has a tight fitting aluminum hood with pre-cut holes for filter tubes, pump wires etc. Holes are too small to accommodate my hang on CPR skimmer. I don't want to cut hood to accommodate this skimmer-anyone know of a hang on skimmer that will work with this type hood? Thanks, Randy <... Uhh, more trouble... aluminum and saltwater don't mix... This tank cannot be used with this fixture. Bob Fenner>

Re: Jebo 72 gallon aquarium, Al issue   8/21/06 Bob thanks for the heads up. Aluminum components of hood are painted, don't know if that makes a difference, otherwise plastic tank frame is cut to   accommodate glass hinged lid. Guess I could have custom cut glass and use my  coral life light fixture off of my old 55 gal. When you say toxic in what form? Gas, flaking corrosion into  tank? <The last... can be real trouble... Bob Fenner> Re: Jebo 72 gallon aquarium   8/21/06 Bob, I'm amazed at your ability to return e-mail so rapidly. <I key quickly> You are the only on line resource I trust and rely on for professional advice. I read and rely on your conscientious marine aquarist book for most everything-best 50   dollars I have spent. I will keep an eye on the painted aluminum for any signs of corrosion. <Ah, good... I would also employ a pad/unit of PolyFilter in your filter flow path here> Found a way to mount by back mount skimmer, this lid component comes off  by removing two screws and allows mounting space-also less  metal to worry about! <Very good> Thanks so much for your valuable time and advice. <Welcome. Bob Fenner>

OOOPPSS latex paint in the aquarium  9/9/06 Ouchimomma, I guy's love your site, I was just painting and uhhhhh, well I dropped a paint brush covered in latex paint into my tank.....  I just preformed a full water change to get the paint out.  I didn't know what to do!!!! Anyway, my clown is still swimming around and my corals look fine, but I want to know if there is anyway I can make there life, or hospis easier!!!! Thank you so very very much, Zach Alexander <Mmm, all should be well... latex paints are largely non-toxic... though I would have done what you did... and/or moved the livestock elsewhere If I had facilities to do so. Too late to be concerned re using chemical filtrants to remove "carrier" at this point. Bob Fenner> Gorilla Glue Reef Safe? 11/22/06 I searched the FAQs, but did not find the answer. Forgive me if I overlooked it. <No problems, thank you for looking before writing.> And have a 72gal reef.  For it, I have a 20g polyethylene drum that I plan to store my makeup water in after it is processed by my RO/DI unit. Unfortunately I have a continuous leak.  I have attempted PVC glue and silicone.  With no success. The two will not bond with the polyethylene.  I tested super glue on the surface, but it pealed off also.  I tested Gorilla Glue, it pealed off of the smooth surface but bonded fine with the test portion that have been sanded.  My questions is, is the Gorilla Glue safe to use?  The Gorilla Glue Information Pack, as distributed by the manufacturer, states it is non-toxic.  I also looked at the MSDS sheet.  I would like to get a thumbs up or down from you guys!  I have linked (as opposed to attached to lighten you server load) the information pack and MSDS below. Thank you for your help! Information pack as distributed my the company: http://www.gorillaglue.com/assets/download/GG_brochure.pdf MSDS: http://www.newpig.com/en_US/content/current/MSD-V288.pdf;jsessionid=3T2GYWVAQPUT2CTGIQVSFEQKMZCCWJVC <Well, Duane, you're in luck. People have been using Gorilla Glue for ages for coral frag placement and propagation purposes. Don't worry here, if it seals your leak, you're good. However, if you run into a similar problem ultimately with the Gorilla Glue, perhaps a 2 part epoxy, left to dry would work? Hope this helps you! -JustinN>

Stuck eel... coat hanger...  - 12/29/06 Hello again crew. <Wayne> This one I know is not a repeat question. Today, my snowflake eel got in my overflow.  He seemed stuck, and tired.  I waited for 2 hours for him to come out on his own.  He didn't...So I decided to get him out myself.  I used a wire hanger, the kind that's painted. I thought maybe there would be copper in the hanger?  Decided to take the chance anyway.  I got him out after about 30min of fishing.  He was definitely stuck. Can the wire hanger have any ill effects on my tank? WS <Mmm... don't know... am pretty sure they're made mainly of steel/iron... the paint, coating? I would be running a pad of PolyFilter, possibly some GAC in your filter flow path just to be on the safe side... and adding screening to keep that Eel in place. Bob Fenner>

Help!! Broken Thermometer   12/4/06 Hey everyone! <Hey ya!  Mich here.>   I have somewhat of an emergency! <OK> I was tooling around beneath my tank today. I noticed some, what look to be, rust spots. I had a floating glass thermo that broke when I moved my tank some time ago. I was sure I got all the beads up, so I'm not even sure that's what this is from. The spots are on the very bottom of a 3 to 4 inch aragonite live sand bed. Which means there are probably more of whatever it is, with in it. What do I do?! <Leave it alone.> I really hope I don't have to tear the whole tank apart. <I would not.> I run PolyFilter and carbon all the time. My coral (softies, one LPS, and a LTA), snails, hermits, shrimp and cucumber are all doing well. <Very good.> No fish. <That's OK> There are serpent stars and scud/Mysis shrimp everywhere. My snails breed regularly. My water checks fine, I don't know if that would effect what I test for anyway. Should I hold out and see if there will be any ill effects? <Yes.  I would not disturb the tank.> The spots are small, there are about 15 of them. Right now they are the size of a pencil point. I am pretty sure it is rust. <It may be rust, it may not be.  I wouldn't be worried if it is rust.  Your corals are not showing any sign of stress.  There are places that actually dose with iron in order to keep kelp in their tanks.  So take a deep breath, relax and enjoy your tank.> Thank you so much!! <You are quite welcome.>  <ps "I"s instead of "i"s please.> rob

Re: Some Inputs on Dying Snails Query  12/30/06 Hi everyone! I just want to comment on the problem of the dying snails (original query attached below).  I had this problem before in my fully stocked reef tank, everything was ok, except for the gastropods, who seemed to lose grip and balance, fall down to the gravel, unable to right themselves and dying after a few days.   I teach undergraduate invertebrate zoology, and I soon made a connection between one additive and the gastropod deaths: Magnesium sulfate and Magnesium chloride.  In the lab, either of these compounds is used to slowly anesthetize and 'relax' aquatic invertebrates to allow for easy dissection.  In my case, magnesium overdose was traced to the poor quality sea salt I was using at the time ( I know better now). I shifted to natural seawater for a time, and then used a quality sea salt, and my snail problems have stopped. Magnesium toxicity may also be brought about by dosing (or overdosing) on magnesium supplements.  It just may be that certain gastropods are more sensitive to this compound, become anesthetized, and become so relaxed that they asphyxiate, or otherwise become vulnerable to predators in the tank. I never did any full scale experimentation to prove or isolate Magnesium as the culprit, all I'm saying that it's worth looking into. Hope this little info helps! Best regards, Richard (Manila, Philippines) <Thank you for this. BobF>

Dead fish, toxic tank, moving livestock (Tridacna) ASAP    1/5/07 Dearest crew, <Hi Carla, Mich here.> Tragedy has struck, and this reader is frantic.  My initial hypothesis is that a powerhead in my tank jammed/overheated/otherwise malfunctioned, and my roommate called me at work saying there was an electrical burny smell in my bedroom, and she was afraid our apt. was burning down.  I instructed her to unplug the tank, and I'd be home in an hour... <Wise.> I returned to find two dead fish (and now one very dejected girl- I've had them for over a year). <So sorry.> However, as soon as my friend gets here to help me deal with the bodies (I'm squeamish... how is it that I can butcher a flounder without a second thought in the kitchen, but not scoop my little friends into a net? <Better to get them out ASAP as the bodies are just further polluting the system.> Because they were my little friends, I suppose. ANYWAY...) <Understandable, but not helping the remaining animals in your care.> My thoughts are now on the remaining Tridacna clam, mushroom polyps, hermit crabs, etc. still in the toxic water that killed my fish.   <Good thinking.> Luckily, I have another tank set up in my living room (was going to move them all to larger quarters...) which has been aging for a long while (several months... I'm a procrastinator... and the move task was daunting and now urgent). <Yep!> My main concern is this- the clam.  How can I move it, and the largish chunk of rock it's anchored itself to, into the new tank without either exposing it to air or introducing the deadly water from the old tank?   <Exposure to air will not kill your clam, though I would try to keep it to a minimum.  I would move the entire rock. Do not remove the clam from the rock. I repeat, do not remove the clam from the rock.  Place the rock and clam in a container with water from the contaminated tank and then add water from your new system.  Then dump some of the water and add more from the new system.  I would do this process relatively quickly, say within 30 minutes or so.  It's ok if a minimum amount of water from your old system is introduced; just try to minimize the volume.>   A response ASAP would be wonderful, as you can imagine I'm sweating over the fate of my remaining wet pets. *sniff* <Sorry for your loss.  It always hurts to lose a friend, in this case more than one.>   Thanks ever so much again, <Good luck and my condolences.  -Mich> Carla Re: Dead fish, toxic tank, moving livestock (Tridacna) ASAP    1/5/07 Thanks so much for your quick advice!   <Hi Carla, you are most welcome, sorry for you problems.> Blooper and Dex have been removed to bluer waters (i.e...... the dumpster) <Sorry about Dex and Blooper.  ...bluer isn't the adjective I was thinking of here!>   and I'm moving the live rock and following your clam transferal instructions.  Hadn't planned to remove the clam from his rock, but am relieved that I don't have to attempt some complicated plastic bag procedure/underwater move.  It's in a bucket next to the new tank, and I'm quickly but gradually mixing the water.   <Excellent.> Will let you know how things turn out!   <Please do, include my name in the subject line if you don't mind.> One of the powerheads was most certainly the culprit, as it smelled strongly of electrical burnout. <Happens.> Will it be safe to move some/all of the sand to the new tank, or will it contain residuals of whatever killed my fish (not sure if it was an electrical shock or a chemical contamination from the powerhead malfunction)?   <Hard to tell the cause, but I think I would wait on the sand transferal.  Do a couple of large, like 75% or more water changes.  It may be possible to transfer the sand, but I wouldn't do it anytime within the next month or so.  I would watch and see what kind of die off you experience within this tank and see if you get regrowth.  ...Though being a procrastinator maybe I should say sometime in the next two weeks so it happens sometime in the next couple of months...hehehe!> I'd planned to combine the sand from the old and new tank to create a deep sandbed... would like to keep the old sand and its good critters if you think this would be wise.   <Yes, in general I think this is a good idea, but would be hesitant to do it immediately for fear of possible contamination.  At most I would take a cupful just to seed the new tank, this would allow for growth but minimizing potential complications in the new system.> I'll be changing the filter media (Fluval canister) for fresh carbon, Chemi-pure, phos-ban, and poly filters (if I have any left...).  Anything else I should keep an eye on?  Obviously testing the tank regularly for the next couple days/weeks would be a good idea... and crossing my fingers? <All these things, coupled with a large water change or two would be helpful.  Good luck!  -Mich>

Rusty well water, dying snails, need for testing and more reading  1/5/07 Hello! Bob My name is Karl Douville <Hello Karl, My name is Mich and I'll be your WWM Crew member today!> I am contacting you because I have a 180-gallon reef fish tank and my tank does not look the way I always thought it should look like! <Umm OK, how did you think it should look?> It looks pretty healthy but I know something is just not right! <OK.  And you know this how?> I started my tank has been running for 10 month including the cycling period. <OK, still a very young tank.> I have had experience before with the same tank!  On city water. <OK.  Yikes, city water!> I just siphoned my live sand and got a lot of sediments or organic matter, but I'm not sure if it was a good idea, because I was told to not stir up the live sand? <Is good to clean areas of the sandbed, just not the entire sandbed at one time.> My nitrates are still up! About 20 ppm <Higher than desired.> I am using deep well water.  (It has rust in it, but I don't think that is my problem.) <May want to reconsider this.> I don't use R.O. but I did have a really good ultraviolet with three good quality filters! <UV will kill bacterial/microfauna present in water, but will not have any effect on nitrate levels.  RO water should not have any measurable nitrates; the same cannot be said for well water.  Have you tested you well water for nitrates?  How often do you have the wet chemistry of your well water professionally analyzed?> I have done lots of test iron, ph, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, phosphate and KH GH are all good, but yet to figure out my calcium levels because of an expired test kit witch read way to high to believe. It had no end to the test! <Time to invest in a new Calcium kit.> I have had casualties with snails at the start and I have not bought anymore since that.  (35 snails perished) <That's quite a few.> The snail would be fine in the bag but as soon as put them in they would slither around and then start falling on their backs and I kept flipping them over and over! Some liked the glass but could not go on the sand or they flipped! <I actually suspect you Magnesium levels are too high, possibly having the effect of a muscle relaxant on your snails.  Calcium levels are also likely to be low.  Would be wise to invest in these two tests.>   That's why I thought of the sand being the problem! And I cleaned it! <I don't think this is the problem.> My live sand is 4 inches deep and layered from big shell on the bottom to medium size in the middle and finer aragonite on top!  There has been no hydrogen sulphite bubbles or blackish looking sand. There is not plenum, but I put large shells on the bottom to create natural a plenum. <Would be better to have a 4 inch bed of consistently fine aragonite sand or a deeper bed of the mixed grain.  Please start reading here:   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm> I have seen copepods, arthropods, worms and none threatening bristle worms (blue and orange) in my sand. <The threat of bristle worms are overrated.> I have 3 cleaner shrimps, several hermit crabs, 2 tomato clowns, 1 yellow tang, 1 camel shrimp, 1 flame angel, 1 algae blenny , assorted mushrooms, small toad stool, some polyps that are doing pretty good and 1 new giant white carpet anemone which is not doing really good.   <Watch the anemone, has the potential to have a large negative effect on your system.> I hope you can diagnose my problem! <Check your magnesium and calcium levels.> Thank you for time! <Welcome, You seem to be missing some key facts here...I recommend you spend some time reading either on the WWM or perhaps invest in a book such as The Conscientious Marine Aquarist by Robert M. Fenner.  -Mich>

Zinc in epoxy 7/5/05 Hi WWM Crew, First I would like to thank you for your help. I recently bought and read (in about 2 days) Bob Fenner's book and am really enjoying the learning process. I got excited about aquascaping after reading that part of the book went out to the local hardware store and bought epoxy putty. I ended up with two kinds. One is Ace brand plumbers epoxy which I think will be safe, as I found reference to it being used successfully by others on the web. I ended up liking this one better and bought more of it. It is the majority of what I used. (About 5 10' sticks.) The second is PC marine epoxy. This one I am worried about because it lists zinc sulfide on the materials (5-10% of the composition). I only used one 5' stick of this. I unfortunately already used both of them to build a fairly large rock structure for my 55 gal fish and invert tank. My question to you is: Do you think that the PC epoxy will be harmful? <The Zinc is to be avoided... but over some time it should be of little to no consequence. I would place a pad of PolyFilter in your filter flow path for now... to remove this metal as it comes into solution from the Epoxy> What if I cover the exposed areas of PC epoxy with the other Ace brand epoxy? <A worthwhile suggestion, yes> And finally, if it should not go in the tank do you think that breaking down and reusing the rocks (coral skeleton) that were exposed to it would be OK? Possibly with new and extra carbon in the system? <I do think you are right here> I presently have 2 large hang on filters, a UV filter, new (3 days old) Aqua C remora pro skimmer, and an undergravel filter. I change 10% of the water twice a week using Waikiki aquarium filtered water. <Ah, "the gathering place", O'ahu> I tried calling the company and am waiting for a call back, although not sure they will be able to answer my questions. I did search this site extensively and although I found reference to a link regarding epoxy, I could not locate the link. Thank you so much. Looking forward to seeing what you have to say. Elizabeth <I would not be overly concerned here... with the size, type system, availability of good source water, use of chemical filtrants... the Zinc should be a small concern soon. Bob Fenner>

Re: zinc in epoxy 7/6/05 Hi again, In reference to the attached email regarding epoxy putty. I received a call from PC marine. They assured me that the product, once cured, was harmless in a saltwater fish tank. The said that once cured that it will not allow any water entry or react with anything. They also said that they had given this advice to others and had them use it successfully. I am still a little hesitant and would love your opinion. Thanks! Elizabeth <You did get my email from this morning? I am in agreement with the statements above. This putty should be safe once cured. Bob Fenner>

Re: zinc in epoxy 7/6/05 Hi Bob, <Elizabeth> Thank you so much for your response. I was thinking that I would have to break down my big rock structure that I spent so long on. For some reason I did not receive your response to my first email, but I went to WWM and found it. <Bizarre... the Net...> I will buy some poly filters and put my masterpiece in! <Ah, good... get some help lifting!> Thank you very much for what you have done for this hobby. I recommend your book/site to every person I see in the pet store buying unsuitable livestock. Aloha, Elizabeth <Ahh, thank you for your kind, encouraging words, good works. Bob Fenner>

Potential Disaster (HELP!) Real trouble with batteries falling into a marine sump! 7/14/05 Dear WWM Crew,     I may have experienced a potential disaster.  I had a battery powered air pump sitting on a shelf near my reef tank.  I had left a window open and a wind came up.  The shade on the window blew back and knocked the air pump into my open plenum sump.  The air pump wasn't on and because of some overhaul maintenance the sump wasn't connected to my reef at the time that it happened.  It may have sat in there several hours while I was out to dinner.  When I found it I pulled the thing out and from the battery compartment drained a black liquid. <Yikes> I grabbed a cup and dipped a little out before it dissipated.  What damage did this cause? All my equipment in the sump still works but I didn't connect it back to the main reef.  What should I replace?  What else (if anything) can I do?  Any help would be appreciated greatly. Thanks, Andrew S. <I would vacuum, drain all the water out of the sump, add a unit of Chemi-Pure and PolyFilter and allow the replaced water to recirculate through this a couple of days, then try placing a "test fish" in the sump for a few days more... Bob Fenner.

Magnetic tank cleaner/dead tangs 7/13/05 Long time listener, first time caller... Last night I used a magnetic tank cleaner for the first time, and I had quite a bit of algae on the glass (55 gal tank).  This morning, I had 2 dead tangs (1 yellow, 1 yellow-eyed black tang).  Everything else seems to be OK (arrow crab, couple dozen blue-legged hermits, 2 percula clowns, emerald crab, 2 yellow-tail blue damselfish).  PH, salinity, nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia all look fine.  Could the tank cleaning cause the death of the tangs? <Mmm, not likely. RMF> (btw - great site!  Sorry for emailing, but I searched and couldn't find anything in the existing FAQ that matched my question, but I'm sure you've answered it and I just can't find it) --Jeff Never mind...  Wasn't the cleaning, just a coincidence.  Ich.    <Not the magnets... RMF> Live rock contamination with soap 8/3/05 Hello all, I am a LFS owner and I am not a marine biologist and have a customer with what I think is a very serious problem. <No marine biologists here either, just dedicated experienced aquarists, but I am quite sure we are only going to back up what you already know...> My new customer recently moved (1 month ago) into my area and bought some fish (Pearlscale butterfly and Sailfin tang) which had been in my main tank for weeks and were doing excellent. Within a week he lost both as well as his large clownfish. (clownfish died first). So being a purchase of 7 days or less I gave a refund and said to watch for some type of bacterial problem. I told him to wait a week before buying anymore fish until he could see no other problems (he still had some damsels). <Kudos on having such a generous guarantee!  Bacterial problems are rare but I do agree with your advice, although I do think I would have questioned them more and tested there water since these fish were established in captivity and healthy.> A week later he shows up and ask for 2 more Pearlscales as well as a valentine puffer and a spotted file. Well low and behold a week later and the Pearlscale are dead. I decided to go see his tank and could not believe what I was seeing. His live rock which he states is about 2 years old (4 large pieces) looked to be having a massive die off, all the hair algae was turning white (about 85%) and his purple was turning grey. And the tank glass even had a whitish slime on it. I have never seen anything like this and being I use your sight for my personal learning I hoped to get your help. <Yikes!!  Isn't it amazing that they didn't realize on their own that it might be a bad idea to add fish?!?!?> My first thought was bacterial but also note after talking in great detail with both him and his wife I found out 2 things. The tank was torn down, cleaned and reset up 1 month ago. I then pressed them to explain how it was cleaned. Thinking toxicology I asked if they used bleach or anything of that nature and was told no, but after a few more questions I was told they used lite dish detergent to clean off some of the rock. <Yowza!  There is obviously no way to get all of this stuff out of the porous structure of the rock, and even if it isn't toxic on it's own, who knows how it is affecting the water chemistry!> At this point I asked how quickly the white took over the tank and got no straight answer. Being at a loss as to what to do I did dose their tank with Maracyn hoping to slow this down if it is bacterial but my gut tells me its toxicology and figure they should probably clean the liverock bare with a toothbrush but wished to ask a pro before I tell them anything else to do. <It sounds to me that these people knew they did something wrong, but hoped that it would just go away and didn't want to fess up to it.  I would recommend that you offer to hold any animals that are still alive at your store (with no guarantee) while the tank is re-established.  All of the equipment should be thoroughly cleaned with fresh water and the live rock (as well as any other porous media or substrates like sand, ceramic filter media, filter pads, etc.) should be discarded and replaced.> So I am asking you guys since I think you're pros and have found you to be dead on compared to asking other LFS owners who I must say I think have no clue and guess at a lot of there answers. Any ideas are greatly appreciated and a thank you in advance for any help and for having such a helpful site. Jeff S.  <Thanks for the kind words and good luck with this difficult situation.  AdamC.> Silica Beads - Late Reply - 08/02/05 Hi Folks, Have a very beautiful fish only aquarium.  The air dryer for my ozonizer burst open and about 100 beads fell into my sump. I cannot get them out until tomorrow night (have to buy a water vac). I've read up and down about the silicates in your FAQ's and all points to the fact that they aren't toxic (at least for a short time) to my little friends but do I have the time to wait until tomorrow night? Best Regards, Jeffrey <<Hello Jeffrey...Sorry for the late reply.  As you've surely surmised by now, the tank will be fine till you can remove the beads.  Regards, EricR>>

A Small Piece of Metal In a Large Volume of Water-Problem? 8/1/05 Hello crew, I hope all is well.  I have a few quick ones.  I'm in the setup stage of my tank, and I was filling up my bio ball chamber with balls, and a small staple from the shipping bag fell in and has disappeared.  Will this staple corrode and kill my livestock?  Maybe I'm just being way too paranoid, but I would hate to kill a few hundred dollars in fish over a damn staple.   <Not overly paranoid...but no need to worry. One small staple in a large volume of water will not make too much of a difference.> Also, I hooked up my external pump to my bulkhead of my glass sump and filled it with water.  It's 3/4" and the hole is a 1 1/2" which some bulkheads call for but the ones I bought don't say and the hole seems to be a little large for this particular one.  The bulkhead has a slow leak, will silicone fix this or should I try a different brand bulkhead? <I'd be inclined to try a new bulkhead, myself.> Finally,  which do think will offer better buffering capacity, Florida crushed coral, or Seaflor special grade?  Thank you again. Mike <Well, Mike- both are good products, and are equal to the task. For most applications, the Seaflor Special Grade is a better choice, however. Good luck to you! Regards, Scott F.> Aluminum and Saltwater 1016/05 Hi, I read on one of your replies that aluminum was not compatible with a saltwater aquarium (i.e. as a support above the aquarium for a light). Is this because the aluminum is toxic to the fish or because the salt corrosion will quickly deteriorate the aluminum?  <In my opinion, aluminum is fine to use outside of the aquarium and away from water contact. In fact, many commercial lighting fixtures incorporate aluminum. However, contact with salt water will corrode aluminum and aluminum can dissolve into the water and is toxic.> Also, my aquarium is a 40 gallon FOWLR tank that is only 14" deep and 40" long, and I would like to add an anemone (LT or Sebae) Would a 250w Metal Halide Lamp 6" above the water, along with my 65w 50/50 PC light, be overkill? Thanks for your help, Dustin  <I would not use more than 175w MH in such a shallow tank. In fact, although I almost recommend halides for anemones, one or two additional PC's would probably do fine in such a shallow tank. Best Regards. AdamC.>

Additives  10/6/05 Hello, <Hello> I have a 30 gallon saltwater tank that's 9 months old. It has 20 lbs live rock with coralline algae of all colors growing very well. <Good> I have a Corallife Aqualite lights (2x65W, 10000K and Blue Actinic). I have one clown and a red-striped blenny, 10 Astrea snails, 10 blue-legged hermits, 2 common hermits, a big, black striped brittle star (6in spread out - disk the size of a quarter), a few tiny brittle stars, and some random brittle worms and other kind of worms.  I have some nice green star polyps that are propagating nicely, some Zoanthids? (soft coral polyps), Sargasso, green Caulerpa, and red fern algae stuff.  All of these are relatively small. I have a powerhead and a hang-on-the-back-BioWheel-filter system (Marineland), and I have two airstones.  pH is right around 7.9-8.1.  I do not have a way of testing anything else, so this might be my problem.  Two weeks ago I stupidly added a multivitamin to my tank on the suggestion from a website. Several days later, the first of my three peppermint shrimp died, then the next day the second, followed by a brittle worm.  The corals closed up and look kind of gangly. I changed as much water as possible and cleaned the filters.  The last shrimp hung on, but died. The corals look like they are slowly coming around but they still look bad.  I think the multivitamin did it.  Nothing else looks affected.  Other than not adding a multivitamin EVER AGAIN, what can I do to help out my tank?  Are there any problems?  The brittle star spends a lot of time by the corals - is he eating them? <They are supposedly reef safe although I've read reports they may occasionally "nibble" on soft coral, but generally reef safe.  As to the vitamins, any possibility you OD'd?  Is this vitamin supplement one designed for marine tanks?  If not, then that could be a source of the problem your having.  James (Salty Dog)> Thanks in advance, <You're welcome> Armand from Georgia Confusion about copper, ignorance costs 10/18/05 Hey guys, since I can't find an exact answer after searching the forums I'm emailing you. I know when you use copper it doesn't kill the parasites hanging in the tank but only prevents them from going onto the fish from a thickened mucous layer. <Uh, no> Does the same go for formalin and malachite green, or do they kill the parasites (and eggs) through out the tank AND on the fish? <Both, all kill intermediate forms while they are active, seeking hosts... not while on the hosts generally or in encysted "resting" stages> My B/F's appetite seems to be suppressed after treating with formalin, is this normal?  <Oh yes... toxic to the max.> He was eating pretty good before I put the formalin in, now he's barely eating. He has thread like feces also, should I treat for a bacterial infection?  <.....> And which med is best for that? <...> Thanks so much <Read... on WWM, elsewhere re... stop poisoning your livestock until you know what you're doing. Bob Fenner>

Nicotine deadly to saltwater fish? Oh yes, To All Fish 11/3/05 I am a smoker and sjust (just) started a saltwater tank a couple a mounths (months) ago. (The) the started fish did just fine but now that am getting some more expensive fish the are dying. i (I) <Please people... use your spelling/grammar checkers to learn proper English!> have to (two?) clown fish that haven't died and two pajama fish that do just finr (fine). i (I) have lost a yellow tang and a Emperor Angel Juv just this morning and i (I) have last couple fish in last couple a weeks. (Any) any thought on what might be killing them.(?) (Water) water has been tested and was ok. <Nicotine (and a few other compounds from tobacco) are very toxic to most marine life, all fishes... do wash your hands, arms thoroughly and still get/use some elbow length gloves... if the house/office where the tank is has little new air circulation and air entraining/pumping devices... I would use in-line air filters as well... Bob Fenner>  

Cypermethrin - 12/15/2005 hello there, <Just skip to the bottom. Oh, and Hello.> You have heard of the idiot award, give it to me!! We fogged the house this evening for ticks, using raid max fumigator, the active ingredient is Cypermethrin. You guessed it!! I followed the directions and covered the aquarium with a sheet. Some of the chemical must have gotten past the sheet and into the water. All of the invertebrates are no longer with us. It seems that the refugium has been wiped out too. The snails, fish and corals seem to be o.k. we lost 2 fire shrimp ,one skunk cleaner and a few hermits, Luckily there was not much in the tank, the six line wrasse, Molly miller blenny, serpent star and few corals seem to be o.k. The big question is: Is this tank now junk? will the chemical dissipate? will the live rock soak up the chemical. I am hoping, being that  the invertebrates are the most delicate, the poisoning was slight. I imagine the bacteria in the tank has been affected, The refugium was full of life, copepods, amphipods, spaghetti worms, crabs and many other inhabitants. Not looking to lively at the moment. Do you have any information on anything like this, I hope I am the only one who has ever emailed such unfortunate news. I emailed the manufacturer for any info they may have. I also checked the MSDS and did a few web searches. WWM archives have helped with many of my questions. If anything is learned from all of this, I hope some information or a warning of some kind could be passed on to others I hope someone can learn from my mistake. any info on this matter would be appreciated thanks for your time Peter <Peter, I'll spare you any jokes because this isn't funny at all. I'll keep looking for more specifics but what I've found really only has a major concern for contact with water, especially aquatic life. States that it may cause long term "adverse effects " on them. Also mentions thermal decomposition products and the release of  hydrogen CYANIDE. There's a contact # but it goes to London. Hope it will help some in your course of action. I'll chime in again later with anymore. - Josh http://www.gharda.com/products/msds/Cypermethrin100EC.PDF>

Re: Cypermethrin on Aquatic Organisms - 12/16/2005 Hello there, <Peter. Back now with a little less rush. Wanted to at least send the small bit of info. I had to help what it could.> You have heard of the idiot award, give it to me!! <It's in the mail my friend!> We fogged the house this evening for ticks, using raid max fumigator, the active ingredient is Cypermethrin. You guessed it! I followed the directions and covered the aquarium with a sheet. <In the future I recommend something nonporous> Some of the chemical must have gotten past the sheet and into the water. <If you can breath through it, it can pass.> All of the invertebrates are no longer with us. It seems that the refugium has been wiped out too. The snails, fish and corals seem to be o.k. we lost 2 fire shrimp ,one skunk cleaner and a few hermits. Luckily there was not much in the tank, the six line wrasse, molly miller blenny, serpent star and few corals seem to be o.k. The big question is: Is this tank now junk? Will the chemical dissipate? Will the live rock soak up the chemical. <Could not find direct reference for the LR absorption, but it does have a half life in the water. The effect is worse in closed systems (as with all things), adheres to suspended organic matter and bottom sediment. Half life in soils from 30 days to 8 weeks.> I am hoping, being that the invertebrates are the most delicate, the poisoning was slight. <Unfortunately the LC50 (amount of a chemical that will kill 50% of a test population) is extremely low for aquatic organisms at less than 1 ppm. More specifically in the range of .00?.>   I imagine the bacteria in the tank has been affected. The refugium was full of life, copepods, amphipods, spaghetti worms, crabs and many other inhabitants. Not looking to lively at the moment. <Yes. LC50 for inverts found to be around .000?> Do you have any information on anything like this, I hope I am the only one who has ever emailed such unfortunate news. <First I've heard of.> I emailed the manufacturer for any info they may have. I also checked the MSDS and did a few web searches. <Good follow up.> WWM archives have helped with many of my questions. If anything is learned from all of this, I hope some information or a warning of some kind could be passed on to others. I hope someone can learn from my mistake. <I'm sure many will think twice now.> Any info on this matter would be appreciated. Thanks for your time, Peter <You may end up ok here, but I wouldn't risk it. If possible QT all still living and let the tank run fallow. I think one suitable sized vessel would be fine as they aren't contagious. Any adverse effects would probably show in the gills first (strongly absorbed here). Would eventually look like standard poisoning or neurological disorder. Keep up pristine water quality and diet, wait it out. You're probably going to see a bloom of filamentous alga in the main, and can probably expect a cycle. After at least a month, though I'd wait the full 8 weeks (or whatever the cycle takes) you could test the tank with some crabs. I'd give them a week to be sure. If all is stable at that time, you could gradually add your fish (not all at once). I hope this will help. In hindsight I realize the first message I sent was near useless as I'm sure your research already told you as much. - Josh> Re: Cypermethrin on Aquatic Organisms - 12/17/2005 Hello there, <Hi Peter.> Thanks you so much for the reply, the information you sent me was indeed helpful. <Very glad it was.> I used it along with other Google searches for Cypermethrin. It seems that the chemical effects the central nervous system causing paralysis and death along with some other nasty side effects along the way to the end. The product is not water soluble and can be broken down by aerobic digestion. I am glad to hear that it will leave the system, that was one of my concerns. I called the S C Johnson hotline. In their vast knowledge, I was informed to run filtration (never would have thought), well anyway they said that would remove the product from the water. I went to the LFS  and purchased a poly pad for the sump, I told the lady why I needed it, and once again, there was that look. After a bit of the third degree and a little reassuring that the chemical will come out I was on my way. <At least she didn't say "Throw in some Cleaner Shrimp and you'll be fine." Do keep an eye on the PolyFilter for its color change and remove it promptly when exhausted.> Now you may call me crazy, stupid or any other adjective that may fit, but, it is not as bad as it seems. <Nah, the award should suffice.> In total which  really makes no sense to me we lost two Red Leg Hermits, two Fire Shrimp and 1 Skunk Cleaner. The Brittle Star made a meal of one of the Fire Shrimp, at the time I thought it to be his last supper. I removed the other deceased from the tank wondering what else would be affected. I looked in the refugium and found very little life, some crabs were lying on the bottom, a bristle worm was out in some macro doing the funky chicken dance, the spaghetti worms were not moving, a few dead amphipods and no sign of a copepods. So now some time has passed, with the poly pad and aggressive skimming. I was going to do a large water change and decided against it. <I'd do it.> The reason being is the tank is very much alive now. <Excellent, a water change would only help, but as it seems may not be needed.> In the refugium, copepods and amphipods are on the move, the spaghetti worms are back to being spaghetti, crabs are alive and moving around in the macro, I have seen a few other worms and some crazy looking critter, kind of looks like an orange slug, the size of a long grain of rice. Maybe the first sign of mutation. <Needs at least one reproductive cycle.> I am wondering if the chemical had paralyzed some of the inhabitants, not being concentrated enough to kill. <Hmm, kind of like an Opium den I guess.> Just one of those things I'll never know. I tested the water, ammonia and nitrite were minimal, <Not a good sign. Hope that doesn't get worse. I would do the water change.> nitrate was elevated as it has been, hoping the deep sand bed in the refugium will eventually take care of it. <Keep an eye out for the beginning of a cycle.> So it looks like the tank is on its way back already. I am going to wait before adding new shrimp or anything else. I don't want to think about the possibility of the tank crashing. I can purchase live shrimp from the bait store and use them for guinea pigs, plus get to go fishing with the rest. I am taking this so far close encounter as a wake up call. thanks so much for your time and help <Glad all is going well thus far.> Happy holidays Peter <And to you. - Josh>

Metal clamps and marine systems Hi Guys, I have a small pump in my sump that is running my UV sterilizer. I have a stainless steel hose clamp holding the tubing on to the pump. Will that affect my water quality, and if so do you have any suggestions. Thanks, Stephen G. Mule <Such metal clamps can be problematical, or not... depending on their placement, likelihood of rusting, falling into parts of the system. I would go with non-metal clamps. Bob Fenner>

PC pin corrosion   1/4/06 How are you guys? <Great> I have quick question about pin configuration on the Corallife power compact fixture. Is there any type of substance that you can put on the pins of a bulb when you change them to prevent the pins from corroding(?) inside the end caps? <I spray a small amount of WD40 on mine and wipe off excess.  James (Salty Dog)> <<Mmm, this is a local co... the product is diesel fuel, kerosene and a perfuming agent... I would NOT spray this around aquariums. RMF>> Thanks, Greg <<I use a smear of Silastic (100% Silicone Sealant)... wipes away enough for initial contact, allows easy removal. Bob Fenner>> "PC Pin Corrosion"  - 1/6/06 Bob, Noticed your comment on this query.  My hopes were that no one would actually spray this stuff over or near the tank realizing what it is composed of.  I spray the pins in my workshop wiping any excess fluid from the pins before reinstalling in the fixture and back on to the tank.  The Marineland clear silicone oil works well also (used on the "O" rings in the magnum filters).  <I see> I do appreciate comments as such and DO let me know as I do not want to degrade the excellent information that is provided by the WWM. Regards, James <Will do. BobF>
Metal Shavings In Reef Tank - 01/08/06 Hello Crew! <<Howdy!  EricR here.>> It has been a long time since I've written, because I've been too busy enjoying my reef tank, which has been running smoothly for one year now. <<Good to hear...>> The reason why I'm writing is because I think that I just did something really stupid. <<Uh oh>> I just purchased 6 blue LED Lunar Lights for a nice moonlight effect in my tank when the metal halides go off. <<Ok>> My canopy has a shelf approximately 14" above the tank, and it runs the entire length of the 7' tank.  Above the shelf is another 14" of storage space, most of which is currently empty.  The shelves are removable 3/4" thick plywood panels which rest within a rebate that runs along the inside perimeter of the solid wood shelf frame.  I removed one panel at a time and screwed the Lunar Lights into place on the floor.  I did this for each panel until I got to the last one.  The last panel holds two metal halide lamp ballasts, and the lights were on, so I decided to screw the Lunar Light onto the underside of the shelf with the panel in place.  All was going well, until the screw driver in my electric drill began to slip, and one or two small metal shavings came off of the inside of the screw head and fell in to the tank. <<Of small concern.>> The quantity of material is certainly in the milligrams, but I'm not sure if it is enough to harm my corals, which includes a couple of Acropora, a Pocillopora, a Montipora, multiple Zoanthids, green star polyps, and a couple of LPS corals. <<I don't think you have anything to worry about.  It has been my experience the small amount of material you mention will have little, if any, affect.>> The system is approximately 145 gallons in total, and I change 20 gallons out every week, religiously. <<Excellent!>>    Do you think my corals will be harmed by the dissolution of the metal screw? <<No...I don't.>> Are there any steps that I can take to mitigate any potential toxicity issues? <<Add some Poly-Filter to your filter system.>>    Thank you for your consideration. Lou <<Regards, EricR>> Re: Metal Shavings In Reef Tank - 01/09/06 EricR, <<Lou>>    Thank you for the timely response. <<Very welcome>> I'll run a Poly-Filter in my Fluval unit that I run activated carbon in. <<Excellent>> Your lack of concern puts me at ease. <<Really of small concern in your volume of water...will be fine.>> Take care, Lou <<Regards, EricR>>

Automatic feeder in the drink... - 2/4/2006 Dear all, I REALLY NEED YOU HELP!!! I've written to you in the past and you've always been a great help, but I need help like I've never needed before. To start off with, I have a 30 gal tank stocked with two green Montiporas, one a plating type with brown polyps and green fluorescence on the skeleton, the other a branching with the polyps green. Then I have to small Acros, a white hammer Euphyllia, a number of other softies. <Very hard to keep this mix in such a small volume...> So my problem is that I went on holiday and set up a battery operated fish feeder suspended from a shelve over the tank. I've always done this while I went on holidays without problems. But this time, when I came home, the shelve collapsed and the fish feeder fell into the water. <Yikes> I reckon the feeder was in the water a max of 24 hours because I was only away for one day. All the corals were closed, and the Montis lost their green, and slime was trailing of the plating Monti. The Discosoma was tiny, and the Euphyllia was closed. Basically everything was suffering. So I immediately  changed as much water as I could, added carbon and sodium bicarb because Alk was below normal and started praying!!!! This happened a week ago. Everything still looks alive, only my xenia has dissolved. The Monti polyps are still brown as before, but the green fluorescence covering the hard skeleton is missing, and has a pinkish colour. The disco is open like usual, and Euphyllia seems to be expanding slowly. So my question is whether the green will return to the Montis???? <Possibly> I'm fearing the worst. I will do a large water change soon, and really keep parameters good, but I don't know if it will help. What can you suggest. What obviously happened was the saltwater affected the batteries in the feeder and some battery contents started to ooze out. I'm really concerned, please help if you can Kind regards, Chris <In addition to what you've done, I'd add a PolyFilter pad in your filter flow path, extend the light period another couple hours per day, and add a live phytoplankton mix. Bob Fenner> Metal Clamps/Rust   2/3/06 Hi, <Hello Matt> I read all of your comments on metal clamps but I have a real problem as I have 3/4 pipe on my return pump from my wet/dry and every time that I use plastic clamps they seem to come off which has caused some major flooding in my house (although I have been there on each occasion luckily!)<And hopefully the wife wasn't there.> I purchase some all stainless clamps and although these may eventually rust, <Depends on the grade of the stainless.> am I not able to use them at all, is the rust dangerous? I am seriously concerned as I cant seem to find a solution. <I'd just use the stainless clamps.  I've used them for years.  If one gets a little rusty replace it, they are not that expensive.  Rust is an acid, a pretty strong one at that to be able to eat our cars for supper and, in high enough levels would lower your ph by depleting the buffers.  Don't be alarmed by a speck or two if it fell into the water.> Thanks in advance for any help! <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)> Matt Incense and no peppermints   2/2/06 Hi, <Hello there> I Googled the website to confirm that there was no prior discussion of my question, which I was pretty sure would be the case.  Here goes - Have you ever heard of or had experience with the smoke from incense acting as some sort of toxin in an aquarium? <I have not> I have a 250g fish-only system with fish that have been very healthy (Sailfin tang, dogface and porcupine puffer, male/female bird wrasse, Soldierfish, spotted Hawkfish, and male/female blue jaw triggers).  I have observed some minor (?) behavioral changes the last few weeks that coincide roughly with my beginning to burn incense in the house (e.g., Sailfin tang is more territorial, shaking his head, changes shades of color more frequently; dogface puffer is scratching the sand occasionally, less boisterous; striped Soldierfish is more animated, anxious).  But, the behavior also coincides with the addition of the male/female pair of Blue Jaw Triggers (one of which promptly decided to share the soldierfish's cave). <These will definitely elicit a change> The triggers have been in the tank for 3 weeks now, so I'm not sure if territoriality should still be an issue.  My nitrates do rise between water changes, but I'm making a good 30% change every 2 or 3 weeks.  The fish all look healthy, no outward signs of disease, and all are very eager eaters.  Should I be worried about some environmental issue or are the fish just behaving like fish and working things out among themselves?  Thanks for your great help. Mike <Interesting to speculate on such inputs/patterns, consequences. I imagine that all determinate additions have some... but is it "general", like folks having larger adrenals in larger cities? With more manifestations of their secretions? An idea for the pet-fish world is to make/sell something like a "hookah" arrangement as a means of filtering air going into captive systems... Have seen such in large/wholesale operations... and the water turns a ghastly mess in a short while. Bob Fenner>

Light fixture in the sump...  2/1/06 Hi guys (gals).  I bought a little battery powered florescent light not too long ago to put under my tank above the sump (so I could see down there). Well, sometime between last night and now, the light fell into the water. <Yeeikes!> I pulled the light out but it was leaking a tannish brown substance (from around the battery compartment) and a grey substance (from around the light bulb).  I presume that the brown stuff is battery acid, and I suspect the grey may be phosphorus from the florescent light. <... not phosphorus> Needless to say, I am pretty upset at myself for this stupidity. I have an anemone that has been deflated for a few hours.  That is pretty much the only invert in the tank that I am concerned about.  I have recently moved all my corals and other inverts to another tank (fortunately).  All my fish seem to be fine so far. I did a water change of about 20galons which was all of the mixed salt water I had available.  The tank is a 74gal with 20 gal sump.  I also removed and replaced all of the filter floss which had been dyed brownish from the light.  I am currently mixing more saltwater and plan to do another water change when it is ready. What else do you recommend that I do and what do you think may have leached into the water? <Move all the livestock immediately if you can... use activated carbon and PolyFilter in your filter flow path> I'm afraid that if it was phosphorous, that I will have a massive algae bloom? <Worse> And I'm hoping that Alk was high enough to buffer any battery acid that may have leached.  If the tan/brown stuff was also rust, will that cause problems? <Yes, likely if much got in the water> What are the short and long term ramifications of this mishap?  Thanks for all of your vast knowledge. Peter <Do avail yourself of the chemical filtrants... now! Bob Fenner> Hi Alk and hi calcium   3/4/06 A chemical mess Hi- <High> I have a 109 gallon reef tank with many mushrooms, SPS corrals, <Yee hah! Head 'em up little doggies!> two clowns, two wrasses, a large anemone and lots of reef janitors. <Union or no?> It is an established tank (over 2 years).  Everything is doing fine, but I notice limited growth in coralline and all corals. I had a smaller tank previously with no substrate and always had issues maintaining Alk, ph and calcium levels but had extensive coralline and coral growth so I talked with many experienced aquarists and they recommended a plenum system for my new tank in order to help maintain ionic balance. <... Mmm, better to go with no substrate rather...> Since I had the plenum all tests have been relatively normal as you will see below except my Alk is always hi at 18dkh plus and the calcium is always around 480-500.   <... define normal> I read all of your articles and summarized that not too many aquarists have this issue and have not had the "snowfall" issue that some others had.  Here are my readings. 18 dKH, calcium 500ppm, phosphates have always been hi-over 5mg/l, salinity at 1.021, <... should be near/er 1.025> Ph is 8.4 during day and 8.3 at night, ammonia and nitrite are zero, non chelated iron is zero, chelated is also around zero but I have been adding iron weekly so I am thinking my test kit is too old. Nitrate is around 40ppm <Way too high> and the r/o water is at 10ppm <Your unit needs maintenance, cartridge replacement> (but I use Seachem Prime to detoxify).  All of my other test kits are new (Salifert test kits for Alk, ph and calcium) I noticed that since the Alk and calcium were hi the amount of skimming debris has been reduced.   <Ahh! Yes> I use a Rena Filstar Xp3 canister filter, a sand bed filter hang on filter, 2x250 metal halide lights with two Marine-Glo actinics, an Aquarium systems hang on protein skimmer and two powerheads on a aquarium systems wave timer.  I use a five stage r/o system and the water Alk level tested from it is 2.6dkh <What should this be?> with a ph of 7.0. I have little algae growth (coralline or green/red) and the only additives I have been using to try and increase coralline algae growth is Purple Up from CaribSea and Kent Marine Iron/Manganese. Other additives are Seachem Prime (only with water changes), Red sea Salt (again only with water changes) and Wardley's sodium biphosphate <... not a good idea... among other things, a source of your phosphate...> to lower ph/Alk.  The hi calcium levels spike when I use Purple Up but otherwise maintain at 500ppm. I perform a 5 gallon water change every 3-4 weeks and change filter media every 2 months. With my old system (without plenum) I would have to change 20-25% water every week and dose heavily with calcium and buffers to keep my ph, Alk and calcium normal.  I have been told by other aquarists to not change the water as frequently and this will lower my Alk/calcium levels, but this is not the case-I actually find my ph and Alk with rise while calcium stays the same. The only answers I can think of is either my liverock, base rock (I have over 200lbs) or the substrate of over 2" thick of crushed coral maybe producing the hi levels of Alk and calcium and therefore may have to be reduced or start with more water changes and or adding Wardley's sodium biphosphate.  In the past I tried this but had only a temporary reduction in Alk.  What about using acid or vinegar?  What are the dangers of this? Does coralline algae grow better in lower alkalinity tanks? I was hoping there would be a safe additive that I could use-can you help? thanks in advance, Al Standaert <Where to start here? You have a sort of "Dead Sea" effect going with the mix of chemical species present... If this were our only correspondence, I'd encourage you to re-read what books you have, worthwhile (accurate, significant, meaningful) parts of the Net... on marine water chemistry en toto... You can/could do a few things... but don't know you well enough to gauge whether you have the wherewithal to look into (sufficiently), stick with a given plan... I'll grant you a clue though: Simply adding more of anything won't help you here. What do you want to do... change out the substrate (entirely or almost), large consecutive water changes to get you (back) to somewhere you can grow corallines? Read and think this over... Bob Fenner> Heavy Metal In Deep Sand! Hi Crew, <Hi there! Scott F. with you today> I need some help!  (what's new -- huh?)  While removing a retainer on my light canopy, the retainer shot into my aquarium.  While trying to dig it out, it got lost under the sand bed.  The retainer is spring steel and contains an amount of metal probably close to that of a penny.  Since the retainer is highly magnetic, I tried to fish it out of the sand (about 3 ½' deep sand bed) with a strong magnet -- with no success.  I have picked up every piece of live rock I thought it could be under but I am unable to locate the retainer. Do you have any additional suggestions for finding a piece of buried steel in a 180g aquarium with a 3 1/2 ' DSB and live rock? <I guess a conventional metal detector wouldn't work under water, huh?> Worst case -- at least this is not copper; how dangerous would it be if this small piece of steel is left in the aquarium?   <Well, It's obviously not a perfect situation, but I suppose that the impact of this piece of metal may be minimal, given the water volume, especially seeing that it is so small. On the other hand, if it makes you feel better, you should run aggressive chemical filtration with activated carbon/PolyFilter, or other "metal removing" media, in the hopes that any potentially toxic leaching could be minimized> Currently this is a FOWLR aquarium but I am getting ready to add corals and begin keeping a reef. Your advice is greatly appreciated!--Greg <Well, short of mounting another dredging expedition, I suppose that you are just as well served to use the aforementioned chemical filtration media full-time. Good luck Regards, Scott F.> Pump Screw Dangers? (4/13/04) I was just looking at my sump, and noticed my new magnum 7 return pump has four stainless still screws holding a part on?  Is this ok? <Most likely> will they rust...I would think so? <By definition, stainless steel does not rust. That's why they call it stainless.> Should I replaced them or cover them with pvc cement or something? <I do not believe this is necessary.> Wouldn't that be odd they use metal screws? <Plastic screws are generally weak and easy to strip.> Surely this has come up? <I have never heard of a problem.> I would think screws would rust and kill the tank over time? <Again, it's "stainless" steel. Also, rust is an oxidized iron. Iron is beneficial to marine macroalgae--I add it to my tank. I am not aware of any documented harm from the metals that make up stainless steel. Here's a couple of web sites of interest: http://home.cogeco.ca/~mquill/stainless.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stainless_steel http://www.stainless-steel-world.net/basicfacts/index.asp http://www.bssa.org.uk/index.htm   (click on "Technical Information" and then on "About Stainless Steel" Hope this helps. Steve Allen>

Rust in my Marine Aquarium 5/4/04 Hi .... A quick question.  Is rust dangerous in my marine aquarium?   <yes... metals are dangerous for many marine organisms in closed aquarium systems> I have a small clamp the attaches the hose to a powerhead in my sump.  I have noticed that while the strap is stainless steel, the screw isn't and rust is rapidly forming.  Should I remove the clamp? <do get a plastic hose clamp to be safe> My tank is 6x2x2 with a 4x1.5x1.5 sump (2 thirds full) Thanks Steve <rock on my brother. Anthony>

AIRBORNE AMMONIA ENTERING TANK SYSTEM Hello all, firstly, I would like to extend a thanks for all of the work done by the crew.  Secondly, this is not a question so much as a warning.  I had a disturbing situation arise in my 'fish room'.  I am in the process of placing a few corals in a DIY acrylic grow out system.  I had been testing perimeters regularly.  The other day, while testing the ammonia level hit 1.0ppm.  I couldn't understand how this could have happened.  There are no fish, just 6 small photosynthetic coral pieces in roughly 120 gallons, none were in any state of decay.  I then tested a tank that has had several pieces of live rock for several months, this had 0.5ppm.  I then tested my make up and top off water, that hit 1.0.  I proceeded to test the water out of the DI unit, 0.0ppm, then the tap, 0.0.  I also cross checked using 3 different test kits.  At that point I concluded it had to be coming in from the air.  After some thought, I recalled that two days earlier I had noticed, through a nasty aroma, that my grand daughter had neglected the cat litter pan.  The pan is down the hall from my fish room.  I put two and two together, I was injecting the air borne ammonia into all of my water.  Since water changes were out, I immediately put an ionizer/air cleaner in the room, loaded the tanks with carbon, and placed the filter pads I had been culturing in a well established  aquarium into the tanks.  I have not lost anything as of yet, some things are not looking great, but time will tell.   The moral is if it is in the air, it will find its way into the tank. << Wow, what a story.  Here is another example.  You can set up a salt water tank in your backyard.  Wait a couple weeks, and you'll have algae growing in it.  The question many people have is where did that algae come from?  And, how can a marine strain find its way to wherever you are.  Well the answer is that tiny little spores from the ocean are actually carried all the way across the continents in rain clouds and the like.  So I guess just about anything is possible. >> Enjoy the 4th, God bless America. Ed   <<  Adam B.  >>

Brass fittings - lethal for SW creatures 8/2/04 Thanks for your quick response...but, how do I allow Nitrates?   <usually by feeding the fishes and corals enough, else by making a sodium nitrate solution (see Knops "Giant Clams" book, or my "Book of Coral Propagation" for dose and application guidelines> My understanding is that the bacteria that removes Nitrates lives in live rock, not bio balls, <possibly> or in a deep sand bed which I don't have <very true... great denitrification in deep sand beds over 4"> (2 inches of crushed coral with 10% sand mixed in).  Other than the bio balls I have a Skimmer (400 gal/hr) and the prefilters on the dual overflows -- I don't use carbon. <please (!) use carbon faithfully, or use ozone full time instead... else you will have a see-saw effect with water clarity from water changes (or not) and aging lamps/changing lamps. This can be extremely stressful to coral and other photosynthetic organisms. Crystal clear water is critical and I recommend full time use of small amounts of carbon, changed weekly> I will be getting rid of the bio balls soon. BTW, you are right. The rock is touching the glass. It sounds like restacking is in order. <no worries... this is a common mistake. We have an extensive chapter on live rock and live sand (including stacking, water flow, etc) in our latest book, "Reef Invertebrates" [see reviews on Amazon if you like]> Should I also be testing regularly for Iodine and Strontium, in addition to the usual things? <not so critical... good enough to dose regularly if not rely on small weekly water changes> I am at a loss with the coral. We realized we had plumbed using brass fittings and thought that could be a problem with the corals, <yikes! This is lethal indeed. I just answered/explained this to a chap on Reef Central. Brass is not saltwater safe at all> that maybe copper was leeching from the brass into the water. We changed to plastic fittings and did a water change and now detect no copper, <it is actually bound now into your calcareous substrates... your rock, sand, shells, etc. Including the corals skeletons themselves. Ughhh> but the corals in there are either totally dead, or unwilling to open again. <yes... a bad situation. The problem is/was the brass> I'm afraid to try any more coral until I am sure the water will support it. Thanks again for the help! R/Janet <Hmmm... this is quite a problem. Please do read into our archives about purging copper from systems and from calcareous substrates. You will need to be using quite a bit of poly filters (carbon too would be nice) for the next couple of months to try to sop up residuals and some of these liberated from the substrates from the action of grazing/burrowing species. Anthony> Lead in the Water? 7/28/04 Good afternoon "O wise ones". I have searched the archives for some help with a problem I have but there is just no practical way. I live in the mountains of Northern VA.   It would seem that I have LEAD in my water.  NOT a good thing.  But of course when you type LEAD in the Google search feature it brings up lead (the metal) and lead (as in "...a horse to water."). Anyway, we had our well water tested when we moved in the house approx 4.5 years ago and it was under 4 ppb (acceptable at the time).  A couple of months ago it was tested again and it came in at 27 ppb!  NOT safe for anything.  The samples were taken at the pump output before the house plumbing to rule it out, and the pipe from the pump to the holding tank is plastic.  So it's something in the groundwater itself.  Can't get the State to do anything about it (but that's a story for another time). We are using 2 activated carbon filters for filtering cooking water and bottled only for drinking.  Now to the question: Do you know of anywhere that we can pick up a Lead Testing Kit?  < There are lead testing kits but none are available through normal aquarium channels. I would recommend contacting your local county health department for a kit recommendation. Good carbon will remove 85 % of the lead depending on the grade of carbon.> I have been keeping 6 freshwater tanks for the past 3 years and all seems fine, but am planning to set up a 150 GAL  Marine tank soon.  Not crazy about an RO unit as it wastes mucho water.  Looking for a DI system but having no luck. Mostly want to test the water before the filters and after to see if it will be safe for my family to drink (#1 priority) and also to see if it is safe for marine fish/inverts/corals. Any idea what the "acceptable" levels would be in an aquarium environment? < Depends on the pH. The lower the pH the more soluble the lead will be and the bigger problem for the fish.-Chuck> Thank you for your time.  Your commitment and dedication to this addiction (oops: Hobby) have helped me more than you know.  You ALL are much appreciated! Tom

Ant spray and fish 7/28/04 Hello-quick question<OK< sure it's quick though? Mike D here!>, I have a huge ant problem in my kitchen<Like in the movie "Them?" I've heard about Texas ants>. My tank is a small 15 gal saltwater tank and it is set up right next to the kitchen. The apt. association sets off ant bombs to take care of the problem<OK, first off ant bombs or bombs of any sort rarely work. To get rid of ants you need to put out ant bait that they carry back to the nest and feed to the queen. You might want to pass that information on to them. Lee chance of a law suit from an allergic reaction of dead fish as well **grin>, How can I get these ants killed and keep my fish alive from the ant bomb?<This can be a serious problem as most pesticides are deadly to fish, with far less than one drop capable of decimating everything. My best suggestion is to cover the tank with a plastic bag while it's being treated, well weighted at the bottom. Don't forget to wrap the pump in a plastic bag as well, with he air lines secured with rubber bands. Seriously, I'd tell them about the ant bait as it's the only thing that actually works>

Puffer coughing blood / Rust contamination? If you have some insight into the following challenge, we would greatly appreciate your feedback. <Okay> We have had a 90 gallon saltwater tank for 2.5 years.  For 2 years, all was fine.  In the past 6 months, we first lost a Niger Trigger (the small fish), a Fire Clown (med) two months later, and now our Dog-faced Puffer (largest) is ill. The Puffer has been sitting on the bottom of the tank for 2 weeks and not eating.  She appears to be "coughing" red blood strands. <Yikes!>   We tested for nitrate, nitrite, ammonia and ph, and all were within range.  The only thing we can figure is that the hardware on the canopy has rusted and the rust have flaked into the tank.   <Real trouble> Could rust cause the demise of our fish, and particularly, the symptoms displayed by our Puffer?  We are replacing the hinges with stainless steel tonight. Thank you, <DO avail yourself of the singular product called "PolyFilter"... NOW... this will pull out the ferrous ion (iron) in your water... and you should see improvement in your livestock's health (and color on the filter pad) almost immediately. Bob Fenner>

Metals/Saltwater I read a book on fish and it mentioned that you should use non metallic in marine aquariums. What is non metallic and why shouldn't I use it?  <"Should I use it". The answer is in the word. Non metallic, anything not made of metal. Anything metallic will rust in saltwater with the exception of stainless steel and then only the better grades.> I've got a 50 gallon marine aquarium with 2 clownfish, a yellow tang, regal tang, Naso tang, powder blue tang, a cleaner wrasse and a cleaner shrimp and boxer shrimp. I haven't yet got any live rock or corals just Tufa rock at the moment. How many snails and crabs do you suggest I buy and what kind, to eat the left over food and waste? I would get about 20 turbo snails, 20 blue leg hermits, and a couple emerald crabs.  <James (Salty Dog)>

Stainless steel Thanks for your help in the past. One more quick question: Is a stainless steel hose clamp a bad idea in a salt tank? <Very bad idea. Look for all-plastic or nylon. Bob Fenner> 

Live rock metals contamination? 2/22/05 Thanks in advance for your help with this problem. My question in brief: I suspect my 75 gal. live rock/invertebrate/fish tank may have been exposed to contaminants in the incoming water over its first 18 months of existence. I've recently started using RODI water and filtering with metal removing resins and PolyFilter, but worry that my live rock and sand has contaminants that will continue to leach into the water. Question is, how do I know if this is a problem, and can I do anything about it? <seems unlikely... and what little may be, I think a PolyFilter or the like would mop up the residuals nicely> More background:   For the first year and a half, I used water from one or the other of two wells that supply my house, and some of this water also came through a water softener. Though my two clownfish have always looked fine, a BT anemone and a few soft corals (toadstool, xenia) slowly began to look unhappy. I had not noticed initially, but the bristleworms had disappeared from the tank, and the number of snails had fallen drastically. Once, a couple months ago, I had noticed that the anemone and corals looked distinctly worse after a bigger than normal water change, but thought it was because this change (about 10%) was too big. More recently, I had noticed that two snails were looking distinctly stressed immediately after a 5% water change. My son told me that snail death was likely an indication of metals contamination. <can be, yes... they are sensitive> At this point (about a month ago now), I put metal removing resin and a PolyFilter in a Fluval 404 and began using only RODI water. The snails initially looked better with the filtering, but more recently I have not seen any snails. The anemone and corals started to look better too, but in the last few days, the anemone does not eat the food I offer (chiefly Silversides). Yesterday I found a dead crab in the tank. <yikes... that's a bad sign :p> So how can I tell if my live rock and sand is now a problem?  <we can't test for what we don't know exists. Hmmm... more clearly, I hope: do get an assay done of your source water (for your safety as well as this issue) to know what kind of metals to test for in this water> Is there anything I can do about it, if it is a problem? What does it mean that the resin and PolyFilter initially seemed to improve things, but the improvement appears to be slipping away after a month (neither the resin nor PolyFilter has been changed in this time)? Thanks, Tom <you are on the right path my friend... do test that source water and continue to use PolyFilters. Very fine and appropriate here. Anthony>

Live rock metals contamination? III 2/27/05 Thanks, again, Anthony. <always welcome, mate> We're clearly in agreement that my tap water is a problem for inverts and that I should use RO/DI water, which I starting using about a month ago. <very good to read/hear> Now I'd like to cycle back to the earlier question: What about the live rock and substrate? <may be safe for all life... but even if "bad", will typically only be so for the invertebrates that have soft tissue in contact with the rocks like anemones, snails, some starfish, etc> If I'd treated with copper intentionally, I'd know the answer -- the live rock and substrate is not OK for any inverts. <little or none of this copper makes it back into the water column. The carbonate substrates bind the copper> But there's more uncertainty here about how much copper got into my tank, for these reasons: 1. My test indicating 0.30 ppm copper in the tap water is a test of total copper. I learned elsewhere on your site that a therapeutic dose, expressed as total copper, is 1.5-2.0 ppm. So my tap water is presumably not as lethal as one might think based on the .20-.30 ppm therapeutic dose (chelated copper) that is commonly cited. <actually... many sensitive fishes start suffering/dying at 0.20... drumfish, dragonets, some dwarf angels, etc> 2. I also read on your site that "cupric ion, Cu++, basically as copper sulfate, CuSO4 which due to its acidic nature, tends to "fall out", precipitate in alkaline seawater, quickly." So, could much or all of the copper in my source water have precipitated out during aging of the salt water (making top-off water the primary source of copper going into the tank)? <perhaps yes> 3. My PolyFilters have never turned blue. 4. I've lost a lot of inverts, but not all, in the 18 months the tank has had inverts. Yesterday I found the Atlantic Hairy Triton (Cymatium pileare) still alive. The Xenia is still alive. The Toadstool Leather looks reasonably good. The are a few Amphipods and a few small worms (baby Bristleworms?). The algae (Caulerpa, Halimeda, and nuisance) seem quite happy. 5. There is reason to suspect other problems contributed to the loss of inverts --- you expressed alarm about the water softener (it does use salt), <yes... the salt exchanges impart chlorides that accumulate over time... a concern with the improper use of calcium chloride as a staple, for example, rather than a fix for calcium problems> ...suspicion about the limestone acid neutralizer, and a reaction I could not decipher about source water from a pH 5.8 well that had sat idle for 6 months (even though this water was made into salt water and aged at least 24 hours). <the acidity of the source water is concerning> Your original e-mail suggested the live rock might be OK with the switch to RO/DI source water, and use of PolyFilter, and Toxic Metal Sponge. Do you still think that's true? <yes my friend> Is there anything else I could do better, beyond doing bigger water changes (which I'll start today)? <you are clearly well-read and prepared here... stay the course :)> How should I go about re-stocking the tank with inverts? <you cold try to introduce live rock from this tank into the QT tank you use to test the issue/matter. Easily removed and water changes done in QT is there is any doubt of the safety of the display rock> Again, many thanks. Tom <best of luck! Anthony>

Home Depot killed my inverts ;-) Dangers of metal poisoning All, No question here, just a story and a thank you.  I have a 70gal tank that's about 6 months old.  I got back into the hobby after a 10 year break.  I had a 30gal then and I definitely agree with your advice that bigger is better; this tank just seems much more stable and easier to care for.  In any case, your site has been a lot of help in getting me (back) up to speed. I had snails, shrimp, and some other inverts in the tank along with a modest load of fish.  About 2 months ago, the inverts started dying (mostly disappearing; empty shells, etc.).  At first I thought somebody in the tank was eating them, but I reasonably quickly moved on to think water quality, but everything was testing fine. After some additional reading on your site, I picked up a PolyFilter to see if something chemical was the problem.  After the first night, it was bright blue, so I did a copper test to confirm and sure enough it was pretty high.   The only source I could think of was a brief time when I had treated a fish in another tank with copper; I wondered if I could have done it by reusing a net or something, but it seemed far-fetched given the number of water changes since then. Back to WWM to look for more ideas only to find out in one of the FAQs that brass is 90% copper and that it leaches.  When I plumbed my sump, protein skimmer and outboard carbon filter, my LFS didn't have the right fittings so I picked some up at Home Depot, 3 of which were brass (and 2 of those were sitting underwater in the sump).  It never occurred to me that this was a problem and I wouldn't have ever figured it out w/o WWM to look at.  So, the brass is gone, the PolyFilter is doing its thing, and I'm looking forward to having inverts again sometime soon.  BTW, I highly recommend that people keep a PolyFilter around if only for its diagnostic value.  I had no reason to be testing for copper and never would have thought of it. Thanks again for all the work that all of you put into this site.  I think there are two reasons that people give up on this hobby: either something goes wrong that they can't figure out or something right doesn't happen quickly enough (lack of patience).  By posting all of the info and FAQs, and answering questions, you're doing more to advance the hobby than anyone. -John <Thanks for the story - sorry about the loss of inverts.  It's never a good idea to use metal for any fittings, especially underwater.  I will post this as a warning to others!  M. Maddox> PS: Congrats on Reef Invertebrates; got it last week and it's great. <An excellent book>

Toxic fumes - How to Handle Reef System While Refinishing Hardwood Floors Hi crew, Please can you give me some urgent advice.  I am having a hardwood floor finished in the room adjoining the one where I keep my beautiful marine fish tank. We have managed to find a finishing product which is less toxic than the ones that are normally used, but the solvent is still fairly toxic. It is impossible to move the tank out of the room and my corals have firmly attached themselves to the live rock, so removing them is not really an option. My LFS has suggested turning off the protein skimmer for the half day it will take to paint the floor, totally covering the tank with heavy plastic, and leading a pipe from an air pump outside the window into the tank to aerate the water. I could switch off the lights in that time to stop the temperature of the water rising too high - its winter here so outside temperature is not an issue. Do you have some further advice for me?  Any help will be much appreciated because my tank has been stable for months and I would hate to upset the whole balance. Many thanks.  <What your dealer suggests sounds like a workable plan, Sharon. James (Salty Dog)>  

Check Valve <Hello> I purchased a check valve from an online aquatic retailer for my saltwater setup.  The one I received is a spring type.  I inquired into it's  safety due to it's application and I was told it would be fine since the insides  were stainless steel.  I'm looking for a second opinion, any words of  wisdom to pass along would be greatly appreciated. Nick <Nick, stainless steel is a great metal for freshwater but it does corrode faster in saltwater, and in a captive system I would look for either a titanium spring model or find a sealed check valve that immerses the stainless steel springs in oil.  There are several different ways to make them, and most industrial supply stores will have such things if the LFS in your area do not have them.  If you must use the check valve you have now please watch it closely as over a few months or weeks depending on the metal, it may rust and will start killing fish and corals.> <Justin (Jager)>

Broken Hydrometer...What Now? 4.26.05 I Was using my Hydrometer to test the salinity today and it broke inside my tank. The Alcohol was not released but some of the little silver balls or weights sunk into the gravel. I do not have any fish yet because I am still in the two week waiting period. What should I do ? I know this is probably lead so I siphoned all I cold find. Please Help !!!! <Hi Harrison, I would remove all the substrate, and wash it down with freshwater, making sure that all the heavy metals are gone.  Heavy metals are capable of poisoning your fish, so do your best to get every little bit.  Good luck, Ryan> Inline Air Filter Hi Bob, James and Crew, I have been reading Bob's book, The Conscientious Marine Aquarist. Great resource for a newbie like myself. A couple months ago I wrote about my concern of smoking in house and wood stove. I appreciate James and Bob's response. Smoking and Wood Stove                                                      Hello WWM Crew,     I'm a newbie and have been researching for two months. I am ready to take the plunge. I'm planning a 90 or 120 gallon tank, wet/dry filter and protein skimmer, etc. I plan to start with a FOWLR and hope to add corals at a later time. I've heard some horror stories about using scented candles, aerosols and non-aquarium sponges. I have a wood stove (same room) and my wife smokes. A friend told me that people smoking in the house will kill the fish over time. Is this true? Is the wood stove an issue?        <Well, I smoke fine cigars in the same room as my tank. I haven't lost anything yet. If you want to be on the safe side use PolyFilters, Chemi-Pure or a good grade of carbon. As far as the wood stove, I really    don't see where that is a problem. James (Salty Dog)><<Relative to other    sources of pollution... tough call... I would wash your hands, arms before placing them in your tanks. RMF> In the book Bob notes that tobacco smoke is a concern and strongly recommends having an inline air filter. I am planning a 180 RR tank with 100g sump/skimmer and 40g refuge in the basement. I will start with a FOWLR tank and plan to proceed to a reef tank. I will have canopy on tank. Bob, can you expand on what you mean by an 'inline air filter' and on any other precautions  for smokers I should consider. <Steve, basically an inline air filter is a small cartridge with nipples on each end for connection between the air pump and air stone.  Not too many people use air pumps these days.  Skimmers are venturi driven and the UGF is almost a thing of the past.  I guess you could attach a inline filter to the venturi inlet of the skimmer.  Getting one of the new air purifiers such as "Sharper Image" brand would work well.  No filters are required.  They are a little pricey but work well.  James (Salty Dog)> Thanks, Steve - Spray Paint in Reef Tank Water - I'm looking for a little emergency follow-up guidance. I don't know what we were thinking, but my wife and I were using spray paint in our house. Normally we tight seal our 90 gallon reef tank whenever we do anything that might even potentially cause fumes. But we weren't thinking. Anyway, after a while the tank popped into my mind and I rushed over to start to seal it: too late. There was a film of red paint at the top of the water. We immediately turned the filter, skimmer, and power heads off and began to skim with measuring cups. We skimmed 15 gallons a ½ cup at a time. I called my LFS and they direct me to call Poly-bio-marine. I did that and they recommended using coconut carbon (there was none in the entire Phoenix area as far as I could tell, so I bought Kent carbon as a second-best (I hope) and their PolyFilter. Now 3 hours, with a partial water change and these media added to my Eheim canister filter, I'm hoping that the damage was caught in time. <Me too.> Now to my questions: (1) Is there anything else or something different that you recommend doing to try to mitigate damages? <No, it sounds like you're on the proper course.> (2) What levels should I now be monitoring/supplementing now that I've added the PolyFilter and the carbon? <I'd be paying attention to the color the PolyFilter turns - this is really the best item to combat random chemicals in your tank - the color will tell you what it's picking up. Have a replacement pad ready should it change rapidly. Carbon I'd be switching out every other day until things seem to have returned to normal.> (3) Is there anything else that I should consider beyond never spray painting in the house again? <Wet towels over the tank will let you spray paint in the house - I don't want to spend any time berating you over this - it sounds like you've been through enough stress and learned your lesson. You just need to always take that tank into account before you go crazy with the glass cleaner for instance.> Thanks for your help. I'm sorry to bother you with a question that would never have been an issue had I just thought before I started. <No worries. Sometimes it takes experiences like this to get us to really think about the consequences of our actions before we act. Is really a win-win in the long run.> -Jacob <Cheers, J -- >

Nitrite Test Solution  12/9/05 Hello,  <Hello Byungho> I accidentally added Nitrite Test Solution liquid to my saltwater tank.  Currently I have hermit crab and live rock inside the tank. Are they safe from the hydrochloric acid? Please let me know and thank you for your help.  <Not completely safe. Depending on how much solution got in the tank and how large the tank is, you may experience a pH and alkalinity drop. I'd do at least a 20% water change. James (Salty Dog)>  <<And drop a PolyFilter in there, ASAP!  Marina>>

Metal part in reef system  10/6/05 Hi crew at WetWebMedia, <Hello there!> I have an unusual question. I have recently installed halides on my canopy <this is probably your problem>, however, while I was doing that, the Phillips tip of my screwdriver fell in the tank.  Instead of recovering the metal piece, I decided not to bother and left it in there. Now, the past 4 days I've been getting a tin/bronze or kind of brown coloration on my sand/substrate <sounds like the start of an algal or diatom bloom>.  Do you think it's possible the screwdriver tip is leaching? Will it create any problems with the fish or corals if left inside the tank?  It'd require to partially tear up the tank to find and recover it.  Any ideas would greatly be appreciated. <Well, it seems to me that the increase in light has fueled this.  Is your temp. elevated as well?  Not uncommon when upgrading lighting, indicative of excess nutrients/organics.  I don't believe the metal would cause this so quickly, but it should be removed if possible.  Try attaching a magnet to something long and go fishin'.> Thanks, <Quite welcome. - Josh> Dimitris. Re: Metal part in reef system  10/6/05 Thanks for replying. <Gladly.> The tank's temp is at 82 F. Very hot in FL recently and my A/C plus a 8 inch fan is the only means of cooling the system. I was thinking about attaching the magnet and try to recover it, but I didn't see exactly where it fell. I have 150 lbs of live rock in a 157 gallons acrylic tank. I am just concerned in case any chemicals are leached into the water/tank, that's all. I will do some water changes to address the diatom problem. The screwdriver tip has been in the tank for 2 weeks now. I tried looking for it in the over flow/tank, but I couldn't find it. I'll try the magnet thing ASAP. <Sounds good.  I wouldn't be too worried unless the tip was already badly rusted or covered in chemicals/cleaners.  Try to work the tank in grids so you can take some breaks, the tip should be heavy enough to stay put. - Josh> Dimitris

Metal object contamination 7/4/05 Hi! I was cutting something on the top of my 90 gal reef tank yesterday and a small bit of the cutter's (Exacto) blade broke and fell into the tank. The piece is about 1 or 2 square millimeter. There is 135lbs of LR in the tank and a 5" fine DSB so there is no way I can recover it. <Actually... ferrous... should be able to be fished out with a magnet> Should I be worried about the piece of metal rusting there? Thanks! Dominique <Not likely a problem in this size system, LR... Bob Fenner> Reef tank frustration (alkalinity, toxicity, invert.s...) Dear Bob, <cheers, love... Anthony Calfo in your service> I hope you can help me with this one. Actually I'm embarrassed to even be asking for help as I am by trade a professional aquarist, working for an aquarium service company for over 15 years, with 4 years prior experience in general fishkeeping before that.  <no worries at all... impossible to be an expert on all things. And a pleasure to learn a lifetime long> I was there at the inception of the reef keeping hobby!!!! So here it goes, and please don't tell anyone. <nobody but the thousands of daily FAQ readers> I have a 35 gallon reef tank with live sand and live rock. It has 2 internal powerheads with connecting sponge filters, and the back filter is an Aquaclear 500 that has a sponge and carbon. I do 15% water changes weekly, sometimes more recently because of my problems. My water chemistry is as follows: pH 8.3 Temp 76F Salinity 1.021 KH 20 and Nitrate 10 ppm. I have 0 Nitrites and 0 Phosphates. I know the KH is a little high, which has just happened recently to add to my problems.  <your dKH is actually sky high and endangers your system for a precipitous fallout. Please do water changes until you get closer to 11-12 dKH> And the problem is, any invertebrate I put into the tank seems to go into a coma. They don't die they just act like they are drugged or something, and a leg of my serpent star fell off. It's insane!!! I deal with reef tanks all the time and have never run across this.  <just curious... have you tested your magnesium or manganese levels or used Crystal Sea salt mix?> I have 2 fish, 1 Royal Gramma and 1 Yellow tail blue devil both of which are very happy and healthy.  <indeed.. all different tolerances than inverts. Still... do consider using a PolyFilter to check for color change and indication of a contaminant> I checked for copper also which only had very slight traces, probably coming from the pipes in the house.  <strange... should be zero. Definitely consider regular use of PolyFilters in the system> I have even gone so far a to have a $160.00 water test done on my water which comes from a deep well. That tested out good except for higher than normal levels of Manganese, which they said was not harmful. But could this be poisoning my inverts?  <Bingo!... they were wrong and you win the hairy Kewpie doll that bares an unsettling resemblance to Danny DeVito> After I put the crabs, starfish or snails in the tank they seem to be ok for several hours until they just slow down and stop moving. Their not dead just not moving, however some do die. I am totally frustrated and emotionally upset, I love these animals and take pride in my good husbandry.  <understood and agreed, my dear> Something is eluding me, even my boss can't figure it out. I hope you have some ideas. Any help will be greatly appreciated !!! Sincerely, Deborah  <indeed...such invertebrates have great sensitivity to metals of all kinds where fish are more tolerant. The PolyFilters are great for absorbing metals. Do consider pretreating water to screen it. Best regards, Anthony> Cheney Wells, Maine

Water filter and brass fitting Hi everyone- <<Hi... JasonC here..>> I was hoping you could give me some advice on a water filter system I have. <<Is this filtration for the tank or water purification for mix water?>> Is it ok to have a few brass fittings in a water filter system for my 125gal FOWLER aquarium water? Two of them are on the output side of the filter. <<As long as the brass doesn't come in contact with salt water, you will probably be fine. The salt water will have a corrosive effect and will leach some metals into the water passing through it. If these fittings are for your tank - don't do it.>>  I could not find the fitting needed in pvc. <<Check the following URLs and see if you can't find the parts in PVC if this is for your tank: http://www.usplastic.com and http://www.plumbingsupply.com >> Thank you again Den

Tank problems since place tented for termites hi bob (or one of bob's minions). <<Minion JasonC here...>> You are truly the hobby's best friend. My place was tented for termites 2 weeks ago. I removed all fish and L. rock (leaving sand and water) and shut system down. Oh, and for the record a minion recommended taking tank out. Then I let tank run for 3 days before restocking. Added rock and small guys first, then big fish 3 days later. I've got UV, P. skimmer and carbon all in sump. Bioballs in the overflow. Some problems since, but I think they're more the result of the place that kept my fish than anything termite related. <<Or both...>> Oh, and like an idiot I didn't fresh dip any fish upon return, something I ALWAYS did after every purchase (after reading TCMA). The problems were as follows. RS Sailfin scuffed around snout (net related?) Sohal scuffed even worse (same area) and had what looked like a small pinkish pimple on right fin (could it have been lymphsomething or other) Happy to report that those guys now seem healed. <<Oh good.>> My tank has 2 cleaner shrimp and a cleaner wrasse (all over a year old) and they've just put in for overtime. May even form union! Now for the first time ever in my tank a fish, my blue tang, is showing ich, and my Queen angel seems lethargic, less colorful, with some faint blotches. Both spend a lot of time over by shrimp. Tank temp is around 80, which I'll raise a few degrees. Salinity around 1.023, which I'll start to lower today. How much fresh water in and salt water out to get a 125 gal from .023 to .018 and over how many days should I take to reach it. Also how do I get it back up, and when. <<By adding extra-salty [1.025-1.030] water slowly, over many days. When is hard to say.>> I might also throw in a neon goby (I've had 2 in past but they only lasted ~ six months) before taking more drastic measures. I'd sure appreciate your thoughts on all this. Thanks. KEITH <<Keith, my thinking is thus - many times problems that present themselves as parasitic are actually induced by stress. Treating the problem as parasitic would only increase the stress, and eventually there is no battle to win - the fish give out. I would really consider the possibility that there are chemical contagions [can we call them that? - nasty organophosphates and the like] which are terribly bad for people let alone fish, remaining in your tank. This is one of the reasons they tent the house. I would pick up a Poly-Filter [name brand] or two and run these in the circulation path of your system. Make sure there's nothing in the water that will foil all other efforts to bring about a cure. Then you can work at whatever parasitic problems remain with the typical therapies. Cheers, J -- >>

Minion Jason C, termite tank update Hey Jason, <<Hi...>> Wow, has sh## been going south in tank since I last wrote about fish being returned after tenting. Still think it was brought back from where fish were kept (one fish didn't even go back in my tank, I gave it to my dad, and it died in two days). <<Interesting.>> My Tank deaths include cardinal, bi color blenny, Gramma, coral beauty, diamond goby. <<Sorry to hear of your losses.>> I lowered salinity to 1.018 and the remaining fish seem to have recovered. No more sign of ich, though my queen still looks like it has what could be a skin fluke. Questions How long should I keep my salinity at 1.018?? <<Not too long... I thought when we left off last, you were going to quarantine and treat these fish. I've personally never had any long term luck with 'just' lowering the salinity. You'll get much better results from running the tank fallow during this hyposalinity period. A typical fallow period should last about six weeks - treatment with hyposalinity shouldn't go on for more than one or two weeks. You'll begin to cause more problems with stress if you continue too long.>> How long should I wait before adding fish? <<Well, if you brought one home today and quarantined it for a month, you'd likely be in good shape by then.>> Will ich come back? Never had it before in 19 months. <<Ich can always come back... in fact, it's almost worth saying that you can never be rid of it without harsh chemical treatments. What you can do is always quarantine, and do everything you can to keep the fish healthy and stress free. Usually in these cases, even if there is ich, the fish can deal with it on their own terms and usually do just fine. If there are continued sources of stress, then the fish's immune system becomes compromised, and it makes things hard for them to deal with - they get ich, the ich reproduces and they get more ich and things get ugly from there.>> Thanks, KEITH <<Cheers, J -- >>

minion Jason C...PolyFilter only? Hi minion Jason C. <<Hi...>> Thanks for rapid response. When you suggested poly filter for termite related fish and ich question earlier...does that mean "Only", or would you still raise temp and lower salinity? <<I would work on one thing at a time in the main display. If you have separate quarantine tanks at your disposal, you could potentially try and treat the ich there, but... the name of the game at this point should be stress elimination - increased temperature and lowered salinity will not really help reduce stress so much. As for ich treatment, these actually work better with the fish out of the tank - speeds up the life cycle of the parasite, which could make them more virulent depending on the state of the system. Try the Poly Filter for a couple of days - if you find the thing turning colors quickly, then you know you've got contamination problems - if it stays white or turns brown from organic matter, work on the ich.>> Cause I just bumped up thermometer 2 degrees and took out 5 gal of salt water and replaced w fresh water. Wondering how green Bubbletip will react to changes. <<Oh... I didn't notice that inhabitant before - I would think "not well" - invertebrates don't do well in low salinity. The shrimp "might" make it through 1.018 but all bets are off for the anemone. Perhaps try instead a regimen of pH-adjusted, freshwater dips for the fish.>> Of interest--a hermit crab and small snail were accidentally left in tank during tenting AND BOTH SURVIVED! Cool, huh? <<Well - maybe... I mean, if everything else were hating it and these were the only things that survived... not so cool then. In my mind there's just too many reasons to be concerned about the pesticides.>> Also, the blue tang and Queen angel are both looking better than they did yesterday. So am I probably, I might add. <<I know the feeling.>> They're both constantly over at the shrimp station. <<That would be a good thing, as Martha Stewart would say... or perhaps she isn't saying that so much anymore.>> Oh yeah, and how do we know you're not just some neighbor kid of Bob's? <<Uhh... you don't ;-) Because I live in Massachusetts? Or what if I was a Mira Mesa neighborhood punk - what then? Cheers, J -- >> 

Possible metal poisoning? Hello All! I was wondering about something...we had a brass t-bar pipe on the top of the tank, and it fell into the main display, along the back wall. It was there for about three days, before we realized it was missing. Could this be the reason my polyps, Xenia, and torch are all shrunk in? Did the brass poison the water? I've done a 40 gal water change (tank is 140 with 40 gal refugium) but this hasn't seem to have helped. I tested for the usual - ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, all are zero (well, nitrate only slightly pink - heehee) and ph is 8.2 - 8.4. Calcium may be a little high at 450. Otherwise, everything is fine, but plants are still shrinking: daisies, mushrooms, Xenia, torch coral, and Devil's Hand. Thank you for any help you can give! -Cathy in Texas <Alright Kathy, this could have caused your problem. Brass contains copper compounds which can be problematic. Also, you make no mention of carbonate alkalinity, but you should test and maintain Alk. For possible problems involving metal contamination  I would suggest Poly Bio-Marine Poly filter and water changes. Hope this helps!  Craig>

Sudden death of Tang and Mandarin I 'had' a yellow tang.  He had been in my aquarium for about 2 months.  All of a sudden, he started jerking back and forth.  Then, he jetted from one side of the aquarium to the other, flipped on his side and was dead instantly.  No gradual thing, no prolonged distress.  He just suddenly died. What could have happened?  It was like a sudden heart attack or something. <not likely a heart attack... and not likely a disease either. Definitely sounds like a response to a toxin in the water or a skewed physical parameter. Common household toxins include underarm anti-perspirant (dipped your freshly caked pit lately?) and anything fragrantly fumous sprayed recently (aerosol air freshener, burnt Teflon coated pan, paint stripper, etc). Fumous agents easily get absorbed into the water... often effect fishes but not inverts> Then, an hour later, my anemone ate my mandarin goby.  Unreal! <although the scaleless mandarin is never recommended with anemones (an unnatural mix that usually ends up with the mandarin getting eaten within the year)... the death of the mandarin tonight with the tang makes you wonder if the mandarin wasn't stressed and dying/dead by the same factors as the tang. My suggestion is a full water test, then a large proper water change (temperature and salinity adjusted, and a good dose of activated carbon (change after days/one week)> Thanks M. Linkous Bluefield, WV <best regards, Anthony Calfo>

Re: sudden death of tang Thanks for the quick response. That is probably the reason!  Air Freshener.... My wife is crazy about that.  We had just put a plug-in unit in the day before. <to be specific... the plug-in gels that warm up and dissolve slowly seem to be harmless. The dangerous variety can be spray aerosols (of any kind)> All of my parameters are OK.... PH, salinity, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite.  I gave it a fresh batch of carbon.  How often should I change the carbon? (Monthly).  I have a Pro Magnum canister filter. <for routine use of carbon, I prefer one small portion weekly instead of 4 portions monthly> Thanks again for your immediate response. Michael <our great pleasure... kindly, Anthony>

A Change For The Worse? I have just discovered this site while searching the Internet for answers to a problem I am currently dealing with.  I've spent several hours reading many of your reader's questions and have found them most interesting and some very beneficial. <We're glad that you find the site useful!> I have recently upgraded my marine setup from a 58gal glass tank to a 100 gal acrylic tank. <A nice upgrade!> The original setup was 11 years old and has mainly been fish only.  I completed my migration a couple months back without incident.  My current setup includes a sand substrate (about 3" thick)  (50lbs from original tank and 50lbs of new), 20lbs of live rock, and 50lbs or so of base rock.  Lighting includes 4 - 48" fluorescent (2 actinic 03 and 2 full spectrum).  Inhabitants include blue throat trigger, Huma trigger, panther grouper, yellowtail blue damsel, tomato clown, purple tang, 2 curlicue anemones, some green mushrooms, some polyps, a rock/flower anemone and a few snails.  The majority of the fish were in my original tank for about 2 years.  The damsel has been there for 7 years and the purple tang and most of the inverts are fairly new and have been in the tank for 6 to 9mos. <Nice mix of fishes- but I got to tell ya- it's really gonna get crowded in there in the near future...You have some fishes that can get quite large, and unload considerable metabolic waste in the process...Keep up with those water changes and other maintenance!> I have a home-made sump with bio-balls, blue filter pad, and polyester pad. <Clean and/or change those pads regularly, okay?> Venturi protein skimmer in the sump powered by a Mag 500gph.   I also have a couple gallons of bio balls in the overflow.  Since the migration, everything has looked great.  Fish doing well, inverts open and very full.  I regularly add iodine, trace elements and stress zyme.  I Usually do a 5 gallon water change every 4 to 5 days. <Excellent!> Over the last couple of weeks I have been fighting green algae growing on the sand and tank surfaces.  I have also noticed many bubbles originating from the sand and rocks (I saw a problem similar to this from a reader in your toxic FAQ).  I just assumed it was CO2 from the algae growing on the sand.  Every other day, I wipe down the tank surfaces with an acrylic pad and stir up the sand.  When I stir the sand I did smell an egg odor which I assumed was H2S. <Not good, if that's what it was...> Within the last week this odor is no longer present and the water has the usual salty smell.  The bubbles from the sand have also decreased.  A couple days ago I noticed my blue throat trigger wobbling some and breathing faster than normal.  The next day all of the fish were hiding and the purple tang was laying on the bottom also breathing fast.  I ran all the tests and found nothing.  I also took a sample to my local marine dealer and his tests matched mine (PH 8.4, NO2, NO3 and NH4 at or near 0, S.G. 1.022 and water temp 74F).  My plan of action was to add an air stone directly to the tank and I did a 15gal water change.  Within 8 hours, the inverts looked markedly better and the purple tang looked and acted normal again (I never figured he would recover based on the way he looked earlier). <Good thought/action> However, the blue throat was still suffering.  I did another 10 gal water change today.  The inverts are almost back to normal and all fish except the blue throat look good and ate well today.  The blue throat is still laying on the bottom with triggers extended.  His eyes look clear but are sunken.  His abdomen is also starting to thin.  His overall color looks good but fins are starting to look tattered. His breathing also seems to be normal.   I did a fresh water dip for 4 minutes but have not seen much improvement.  He is still in the main tank but isolated in a clear polycarb container with holes drilled for water flow.  I think my tank water flow is inadequate. <That is a distinct possibility...another excellent hunch on your part!> The water movement is not nearly as quick as what I had in my 58.  I am using a Mag 700gph to return the water from the sump and the output of the sump is divided between 2 returns which are each split again between 2 centipede returns in the tank.  I also removed a small power head I had in the 58. <Brisk circulation is important to the types of fishes that you have in this tank, for a variety of reasons...I'd do what I could to kick things up a bit> My questions are: 1) any hope for the blue throat (I hate to lose this specimen because they are not very common and he was such a healthy fish)?; <Well, in the absence of any other signs of disease, we may have to assume that some type of metabolite poisoning may be a factor. Hard to be sure from here...I'd keep up the water quality and circulation/aeration enhancements and hope for the best> 2) Any clues as to the sudden change in the tank (there has been no pesticide treatment in the house, no smokers and no chemical vapors that I am aware of)? <Just a theory here. Did the bubbles that you noticed "coming from the sand" seem to originate under the surface? I'm thinking that maybe you were observing the normal denitrification that occurs in sand beds, and you may have disrupted the process by stirring the sand, possibly releasing some toxic metabolites in the process...?> 3) Is my substrate too thick causing the buildup of gas?; <Frankly, if it's fine sand that you're using, you may want to go a bit deeper. And I would not disturb more than say, the top 1/2" of the sand. Let the sand bed do its work> 4) Do I need to increase my pump size or add powerheads inside the aquarium (I really wanted to prevent the power heads for aesthetic reasons)? <Well, perhaps you need more water movement, including some disturbance at the surface of the water to create better gas exchange. You don't have to use powerheads; you could use external pumps in a closed loop linked to static returns or rotating devices, such as Sea Swirls, for better distribution of currents> Thanks in advance and great website! Scott <Well, Scott- you made some great observations and some nice adjustments. Just keep exploring your options to enhance the circulation and gas exchange here. Keep up the excellent water change schedule, put your protein skimmer into overdrive. Be prepared to find larger quarters for your fish as they grow (and they will!). Hang in there! Regards, Scott F>

Re: Sudden change in fish and invert behavior Last night I did make another change.  While putting together my homemade filter (a couple months ago), I glued two containers together with a household adhesive called "Goop" which after some reading contains "toluene".  Upon researching the mfgs website,  they recommend not using this product if it comes in contact with food or drinking water.  I know ... STUPID move on my part!  However, to my defense, I did see that the product was waterproof so I figured it would be safe (should have checked it out first!).  Anyway,  I have removed the parts with the glue and am now waiting to see if things improve.  The reason I am suspecting this as a problem is that the containers I glued together are starting to come apart which might indicate that the glue is dissolving.  The anemones were starting to withdraw again yesterday before I removed the contaminated parts and the fish were not as active as they were this weekend after the water changes.  So after removing the parts, I changed out my carbon with fresh and replaced the polyester pads.  I also did another 5 gallon water change.  Hopefully things will look better tonight when I get home.  I did call the glue mfg support number and am waiting for a return call.  I'll keep you posted and thanks for the advice.  I am also sending a URL in a separate e-mail to a site where I have pictures of my old and new tank and homemade filter. <Sounds good and you get an "A" for quality detective work! David Dowless> Thanks, Scott

Re: Exterminated Afternoon Fellas, Got home to my apartment yesterday to find the exterminator's business card sitting on my kitchen counter... like a death certificate.  So, okay, its my fault.  I knew he was coming... didn't know when, but I knew it... and forgot.  Therefore I didn't protect the tank in any way.    <Ohh> I've got a 5 month old 55G FOWLR (hopefully will upgrade to a reef one day) which currently only holds 2 Damsels (taking it slow).  Earlier that day, I had what I'll simply call a "skimmer issue" (Not worth getting into... but just picture water-soaked smoke-fuming power outlets... its been a tough week)  I was working on cleaning all of this up... but then had to go to work... leaving the hood of the tank off.  So clearly the surface of the water had no protection what-so-ever from the insecticides.  Its been about 24 hours however, and nothing is dead.  And if it applies... I have a crappy Sea-clone and emperor 400 filter... crappy... but hey... its only 2 damsels. I've consulted the FAQs... but the questions that deal with this issue are more about prevention rather than recovery.  So here's my questions: I haven't been able to get in touch with the exterminator... but if I do.. are there any specific question I should ask that might help in the recovery process? <What did they do? What did they use? Are they familiar with the materials' effects on aquarium life?> If all the fish are currently alive, does that mean I'm in the clear? <Likely so> If they do die, is there much more I can do outside of water changes and carbon? <Not really> Any suggestions?  Will I still be able to one day upgrade to a reef or have I done some kind of permanent damage here?  Do my fish hate me? <Can't tell> Thanks so much.  I'm very appreciative for the answer to this specific question... and the answers to my other 7 thousand questions which had already been asked and posted on your site.  Its a fantastic resource. Sincerely, Rob <Thank you, Bob Fenner>

Stainless steel I'm wondering if it is ok to run stainless in reef tank. well ill tell you what I'm doing. I just came across a new Culligan drinking fountains the ones that chill&heat .some one dropped it broke the holder for the water .so it leaks water at top, other wise perfect so I took it, customized it. it had a 2gal.stanliss bull that water went in and chilled. so had a brilliant idea so broke out tig wilder turned bull into perisherpot like device. no other metals in system. George tested, put small in pump I can chill and heat no problem I'm using a CAtm 3ooo sump pump in 5 gal. bucket. with a Honeywell digital temperature control wired in cooler. less then 2 min. 37 degree water heat just as fast. now on 55 gallon barrel 10 1/2 mm 37dere water . been holding 80 degree water 48hours now .played with some more designed to fit under  tank hook up in series with pluming. what to know if stainless steal ok before I attach to system. I also have another project need some knowledge .ill ask latter.. <Mmm, you could use this chiller with an exchange coil of some sort but not exposed directly to seawater... it will rust and pollute the seawater if it comes in direct contact. Bob Fenner>

Tenting for termites Hi.   <Hi Dave, Don here today> I have read  The Conscientious Marine Aquarist, and I thought it was excellent.  I have not set up my 125 gallon tank yet, but I have a couple of questions.  If I set up my tank and then need to tent my house for termites, what is the recommended procedure?  If I enclose the whole structure (oak stand, acrylic tank, oak hood, under cabinet sump, etc.) in heavy gauge plastic sheeting and make sure it is sealed, is anything protected at all? If I remove the fish, will the water be contaminated, and will the inhabitants of the live rock die, and possibly the fish if I add them back? If I have the house tented with the new tank and cabinet inside before I start to set it up - no water or anything else - will the stand or the acrylic tank absorb anything that will later be toxic to the future inhabitants? <Sorry Dave, but the easy answer is NO. Basically, the tank cannot be subjected to this. Read here for more http://www.wetwebmedia.com/toxictkfaqsii.htm> I thought it would be good for the oak stand and hood to get a coat of paste wax before I set up the tank.  Is this inadvisable, or can it be done if enough time elapses before water is added to allow the solvents to evaporate? <Hmmm, the stand maybe but I would not chance the hood> Thanks for listening to a newbie.  I'm sure that you are busy, but it would be nice to get your expert advice before I make a dumb mistake. Thank you for your contributions towards influencing conscientious aquarists (by the way, exactly how is that word pronounced?). <See here for help with than www.m-w.com. Don> Dave

Re: Tenting for termites Thanks for the reply Don, much appreciated.  One clarification:  Do I understand you to say that even the bare, empty acrylic tank and empty oak stand should not be exposed to the termite house tenting treatment?  Do the materials retain the toxins that can be released into the water after the tank is filled later? <I don't know about retaining toxins, but do you want to chance it? I wouldn't. If you decide to leave it in place, then seal it up as tight as you can> Thanks again. <Good luck, Don> Dave

Major Crisis! -- Ammonia-Tainted Salt? -- Need advice ASAP to save fish. Crew: <Hi Steve, Craig here.> I have been struggling with a mysterious ammonia spike for nearly two weeks now. I have attached at the end of this e-mail my previous communication with ScottF about this for background. I initially found the brittle star alive. The ammonia spikes continued despite frequent use of Amquel & AmmoLock and water changes of 20% per day. In fact, the ammonia just seemed to get higher. I have begun to fear that my biofilter has died. On Monday, I pulled the LR and found all of my brittle stars dead or dying, so I pulled them all. (Unfortunately, I had not read the Amquel fine print to learn that it lowers the pH--got down to 7.5--probably what killed the stars.) I cut way back on feedings. Today, the fish were obviously not acting normally--rather lethargic. All my snails are dead or dying. My Red Sea ammonia test kit read at least 8! Nitrite 0.2. <Sounds like dead or dying animals breaking down to ammonia, now to nitrite. Quite toxic.> While preparing to move my fish out of the tank into an 18G Rubbermaid container, I decided to check my newly-prepared water (made from R/O from my LFS and Red Sea salt to a SG of 1.035 & pH 8.4). <One, this is a good move to find the cause of ammonia. Second, is this a typo? Do you mean 1.025 SG?  If 1.035 this is a big problem. Red Sea Salt mixes to 1.023, 8.3 pH and 2.5 mEq/L Alk. Mixing to 1.025 is fine. Did you add buffer or calcium to this ordinarily lower level salt mix?> It tested positive for ammonia at 0.5! I tested the R/O water with a FW kit and ammonia was zero. I then opened a new container of Red Sea salt and mixed it with R/O water and it tests zero. <0.5 wouldn't be the cause of the 8 in your main. It isn't acceptable, but it would be utilized by your biofilter capacity if all else was normal. This could have caused your problem by killing or stressing your inhabitants or simply been one cause, amongst other larger ones. What type of hydrometer are you using? Check plastic hydrometers with a decent glass model and hopefully the above SG is an error, or we've found a good part of the problem, elevated SG.> My conclusion is thus that somehow the other container of salt that just ran out was tainted with something that caused it to have ammonia. Is this possible? <Certainly, either at home, in transit or in manufacture. More likely the first rather than the later, although not impossible with salts in any event.>   As I try to understand this disastrous chain of events, the only thing I can figure out is that I have constantly been adding ammonia to my tank with each water change since I started using the now-empty container (55 lbs) several weeks ago. Interestingly, I was having a lot of problems with ammonia in my QT using the same salt. If this Red Sea salt is the cause of this crisis, I will never buy that brand again. From now on, I'll be testing any water I add to my tank. BTW, the RedOx has been running 200-260 despite running my Aquazone 100 full-bore 24/7. It was easily kept at 350 running at 75 before this started. Now what do I do? I have added a lot of AmmoLock & Amquel to the tank. Currently tests at RedOx=260, pH=7.7, ammonia=8.0. Since the fish look OK right now & I need to get some sleep, I changed out 15 gallons (total system capacity is 100) with water testing no ammonia. I put in some HBH ammonia pads into my power filter. Do these actually work? Will re-check in AM. If still elevated, should I take the fish out (lots of work removing LR to get at them)? I would keep them in a Rubbermaid tub while doing massive changes on the main tank. I'm still concerned about my biofilter. Would Fritz-Zyme help get things back in shape faster? I am very worried about my fish. Any other ideas/suggestions? <I would stop all these additives, they complicate the issue with their chemical reactions. I would first check the SG issue and mix to 1.025, checked with a reliable (not plastic) hydrometer. I would test that water for ammonia, and finding none at all, would QT my fish and any other critters I could save in a proper size Rubbermaid.  Then find and remove all know dead materials from the main tank, refill with enough new water to have a decent ammonia level and recycle the main, which has obviously had a biocapacity event leading to high ammonia/nitrite, and low RedOx. This may have been exasperated by all the ammo additives and ozone. I would stop the ozone and additives and run a clean system to cycle, perhaps with a known quality salt, like Instant Ocean or Tropic Marin, and use it for the water changes in both the cycling tank and the Rubbermaid QT as it will have ammo/nitrite soon enough as well from the fish, but is manageable. I would run fresh carbon in the filters and make sure there is nothing there to produce ammonia in any way. Lots of work, but the main should cycle fairly quickly if you have resolved the sources, water, possible salt, dead animals, overfeeding, lost biocapacity, filters. The presence of nitrites suggests a couple of weeks. Don't rush and test with good test kits to verify.  Best wishes, Craig>

Re: Major Crisis! -- Ammonia-Tainted Salt? -- Need advice ASAP to save fish. It was a typo. The SG is 1.025. I use a refractometer that cost me $120. The ammonia is still very high in the main tank & the fish do not look happy. I am warming the water in the Rubbermaid right now. I have another 18G tank that I will fill to split the fish between while I fix the problem in the main tank. I will be changing brands on salt shortly. <Sounds good Steve, sorry to hear of your troubles.  Let us know if we can be of further assistance.  Craig>

Paint fumes My wife wants to paint the room that my tank is in and I'm worried that the fumes might kill the inhabitants. Is it unsafe, and if so, is their anything I can do short of moving the tank? Thanks, Eric <Most modern water based paints are alright, oil would be a problem. As a normal precaution I would turn off all air intakes (powerhead injectors, air pumps, skimmers, wet/dry filters, etc.) and cover the tank with a damp towel(s) while the actual painting is happening. Best to wait for a good warm day with plenty of ventilation, perhaps an exhaust fan to remove the paint fumes.  Craig>  

- Drywall / Joint Compound -- Cloudy Water - Thanks again for this service that you guys provide to us! <Is a pleasure to serve.> I have a question regarding my initial setup, I have a tank that is in wall and viewable on both sides.  During the renovation drywall dust and joint compound fell into the tank.  I have cleaned out a good portion of it before putting the initial water into the system but was told by my aquarium guy that the rest of it would be ok and filtered out.   Well the white clouds in the water have since coated the insides of the clear vinyl hoses running between the tank and sump.  Because it wouldn't settle out, I have drained out and wiped down the entire system (except for the hoses) and refilled. The water was obviously very clear when the tank was filled, but it then clouded up (residue in hoses) and is slowly being filtered out.  But it has been a week now that the residual cloudiness is not clearing.  I am at my wits end now, could you suggest how to clear this water up? <You might see if your 'aquarium guy' has access to a diatom filter - these are capable of removing very small particle sizes and would likely polish your water pretty well. You might also try some activated carbon to see if that filtration method will catch some of this dust.> I plan on having a reef tank so water quality is a must! New setup 150g Perfecto 48"x24"x30" WxDxH tank AMiracle XL Mudd Sump in basement (approx 35g?) (14.5' head) AMiracle (CPR style hang-on overflow) with a Rio 2600 rejuvenation venturi powerhead to check valve on top of overflow. (trying to make 2 Durso standpipes) Gorman Rupp 510 1" Sea Swirl return 2 x 175 wt MH 2 x 65 wt Ultra actinic PC Thank you. - Cloudy and Frustrated <Be patient... you will need this trait over and over again while developing this system. Cheers, J -- >

Potential Metal Contaminants Hey Guys and Gals, First of all, your website is amazing.  The wealth of knowledge that you provide for everyone is truly invaluable and I'd like to thank you for providing it.  I have two quick and related questions that I can't seem to find the answer for.  First of all, I have a Mag drive 12.  On the packaging it says that it can be used submerged.  However, holding part of the casing together are a number or metal screws.  If I submerge this in the sump of my marine tank, do you think they could corrode and leach contaminants? <If you are concerned, cover the screw heads with 100% silicon.> Also, I'm in the design phase of my tank and I'm working on the plumbing aspect currently.  I'm trying to work out a way that if the power goes out water won't siphon back into my sump.  I'd like to have some of the pump return outlets below the water level in the display tank and I'm not totally confident in check valves.  With that, I was thinking about installing a solenoid sprinkler gate.  However, I noticed that there is a metal part inside the plastic casing.  I'm not sure of what type of metal it is, but I'm concerned that it might corrode as well.  What are your thoughts on this?   <I have never seen the sprinkler gate so the best I could say is contact the manufacturer. Instead, I would drill a small hole (1/8") in the return pipe just below the water line of the tank. Then when the power goes out, the hole will break the siphon when the water goes below it. Hope this helps, Don> Thanks,  Derek

Food dye Ok,  I'm going to take a chance and ask what may be considered a dumb question (if there is such a thing).  Is it ok to use food dye in a tank with no livestock (except LS/LR) to see how the water flow is in my 90 gallon tank?  I'm thinking this might help me better position powerheads and inflows. <Yes, safe... and a good idea. Have seen such use in limnology classes, demonstrations in relation to thermoclines, other phenomena in aquariums> Thanks so much for the great website and books. Mark <Thank you for your kind, encouraging words. Bob Fenner>

Fumes Hello,      My apartment complex does yearly carpet cleaning. When they do this the fumes from the detergents--or whatever it is--are very strong and overpowering. I could barely breathe last time. I did not have my salt tank set up then, so I am wondering about this being a problem for the fish. Do you think it might? Anything I might do to cut down on possible bad things....? <It could certainly have an effect. I would, when the carpet is being cleaned, make sure that the protein skimmer is off and the tank and sump are covered snugly.>    Thanks, Lance <best, Chris>

- Wrong Hose - <Hello, JasonC here...> Well I've just experienced my first, and hopefully last, sudden die off of fishes. <I'm sorry to hear this.> Actually 2 of 8 fish and the rest seeming a little stressed. Inverts and corals (all soft or mushroom) seem to be mostly unaffected. Anyway the circumstances leading up to this go as follows. Late last week the pump running my skimmer decided to stop working. Seeing this I checked into my LFS's to see about a replacement. Well they all wanted A LOT of money for the Rio 2100 so I ordered from an internet seller hoping it would arrive in a timely fashion, which it did. Since I was ordering I decided to help my circulation by adding a SCWD mechanical wave maker. To the point, when I received the gear yesterday I immediately got the skimmer running again and decided to hook up the SCWD. I used auto heater hose (new) as I had some around. I know this was brand new and I rinsed as well in plain tap water. Is this hose leeching something into my water or is this an effect of the skimmer not running for almost a week? <I'd put my money on the hose.> I did a small water change while the skimmer wasn't running and nitrates are only reading .2 with a Salifert kit. I also took a sample to the LFS today and they could not find any ammonia, nitrites, nitrates or phos. I'm confused. This is the same type of hose used to hook up a dishwasher or washing machine just without the metal ends. <Neither typically have seawater running through them...> I would think this is safe. <Nope.> Is it, or do I have to use some special, ultra mark-up "aquarium hose"? <Any hose suitable for food or beverage service - vinyl, etc. I would not use black rubber hose. Cheers, J -- > - Follow-up: Wrong Hose - Thanks. I think it was the hose as when I took it out you could almost see an immediate difference in respiration. Much better. Although I did lose my tang as well :( <Sorry to hear about the Tang. At least it's a mistake you won't make twice. Cheers, J -- >

It's The Water...(Unfortunately)! Hello Wet Guys, <Scott F. dripping here today> I have 2 brittle stars and both have a cut on their body. I battled a condition in my tank a week ago with not washing out a sump before I bought it and I think a chemical got introduced into my system. The starfish don't move much anymore and it looks like some of their guts are hanging out. I have made 2 large 50% water changes with 2 smaller 50% water changes. The fish breathing heavy but have recovered. I have worked my butt off on this tank for the last week but I suppose my work isn't over. What do you think this is a result of have you heard of starfish doing this before? <Well, usually when a starfish appears to be eviscerated, it is an extremely serious problem from which the animal may not recover. The best suggestion I could make is to keep outstanding water quality, keep an eye out for possible infection (use antibiotics if necessary), and observe the animal carefully> Also I have run about 64 ozs of carbon over the last week. I hope I don't have to replace all of my live rock and live sand. any help would be appreciated. Jason <Well, Jason, it's hard to say. It really depends what the chemical introduced was. Compounds like copper can be removed with chemical filtration media such as PolyFilter, aggressive water changes, and the passage of time, although it may be bound up in the rocks and substrate for many, many months. Testing would reveal the possible extent of the problem . Other chemical compounds, such as household cleaners, etc., can be removed through the aforementioned methods as well. Just be patient, and keep working at it. Don't give up. Regards, Scott F>

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

Canopy Paint - 9/24/03 Can you suggest a paint for the inside of a light hood over an open reef tank?   <tub&tile or swimming pool 2-part epoxies work very well and dry hard/non-toxic. Else, any baby safe latex paint that you coat with polyurethane will be fine if above water> I have some bathroom paint lying around and was hoping to use it. The problem is it contains a mildewcide. <alas no... it is very toxic to aquatic life because of the anti-fouling agents as you have suspected> I was hoping to use it if  I sealed it with a few clear coats of polyurethane. <not worth the risk> Is this even all that critical, since most of the surface area of the hood will be covered with reflectors for the new T-5 lights? <agreed... but still not worth the risk.> Get that next book going, I am out of good reading material. <writing it as we speak <G>.> Thanks as always, Ken <thank you, my friend... Anthony>

Broken Hydrometer <Hello! Ryan with you today> My hydrometer broke while I was doing a water change. <Ouch!> I think not of the weight balls got in to the aquarium but it is hard to tell. <That's good, weight balls are usually composed of lead.>  The hydrometer had this red liquid (alcohol?) for the thermometer. The place where it broke was in the changing water tank.  That had a really oil like odor after wards.  All my fish appear to be ok. Any recommendations I am not quite sure what to do? <Watch your livestock very carefully for signs of stress, and prepare quarantine containers now.  Run some extra carbon, perform a 10 gallon water change every day for a week.  "Dilution is the key to pollution!"  At the first sign of stress (most likely heavy breathing) quarantine your affected animals.  Best of luck!> My tank is a 175 gal Marine set up with 80 to 90 pounds of life rock and a wet and dry filter Thanks

Toxic Trouble? Hi Scott, how are you doing, hope you're doing great. <Can't complain!> If you remember I wrote you about a month ago, telling you about the near tragedy with my clown trigger. Well, every thing was fine, every body was happy, till I purchased the protein skimmer. <Uh-oh..> If you can remember, I told you that the skimmer barely fit, in fact the skimmer pump was not totally horizontal in the ground, it was about 45degrees inclined, so as you can imagine, I had to put more water in the wet/dry filter, because I was afraid that the skimmer pump did not get water and burn up. <A good move on your part> And it was fine working for about a week, but I wanted to arrange all of the parts to be place as their supposed to go, so I put the pump totally horizontal (sitting on the floor perfectly), but now the PVC elbow which connected the body of the skimmer with the skimmer pump didn't reach, So that day my plumber was in the office and I told him to help me build a connection made of PVC to join the skimmer body and the pump. it was a little bit difficult building that connection, so He recommended a black car radiator house (made of material like rubber tire), MISTAKE, MISTAKE, MISTAKE!!!!, It fit so well and the skimmer was skimming so perfectly, that I thought that nothing could go wrong. I was very WRONG, the next morning, My clown trigger and my puffer were DEAD. and my Miniatus grouper, and my eel were very sick, I call Immediately the owner of the octopus's garden store in San Diego (Ron), to give me some advice, I didn't know if it was better to take my 2 live fishes home or not. He recommended to do a 30% water change, so I did, for 3 consecutive days. <Another good move on your part...> The fish look much better now, in fact the eel ate yesterday and today, but the Miniatus is not eating, since Saturday, well at least I haven't seen him eat. <It's hard to say what went wrong...Did you monitor water parameters? I cannot imagine that the skimmer could cause some kind of "crash" in the system...> Now I am afraid to turn the skimmer on, I all ready went to purchase at aquatic warehouse some the proper house for the skimmer it is a connection with 2 PVC elbows, and flexible PVC, that fit perfectly and the skimming work perfectly and is all properly install. I all ready wash the skimmer, and I notice that every time I turn the skimmer on the eel goes above the pump return, as if it was not receiving enough oxygen, or maybe he likes it there, but the eel never spend time in that spot of the tank before the incident. <Curious...> Question, If the skimmer is to big, could it affect the oxygen return of the fishes???? <I doubt it...Skimmers generally assist in oxygenating an aquarium...I wonder if the hose contained some kind of toxic compound? Try some activated carbon and Poly Filter to help remove any potential toxic substances> What is your advice on how to feed the Miniatus grouper??? <My best advice here would be to continue attempting to feed the fish with a variety of meaty seafoods, in the hope of enticing him to eat...Don't give up- if he is healthy, he'll start to feed again! Do monitor water parameters to assure that everything is up to par in there...> Inside the wet dry filter, does it affect the way the venturi pump of the skimmer is pointing (point to the carbon filter or to the return). What other observations and recommendations can you give me??? Thank you for the advice, I am sure the thing that cause all of the problems is the radiator house, If you have other opinions please let me know. <As we both mentioned, I would look at the radiator hose as a potential source of toxin- either from the composition of the hose itself, or from some chemical that may have been in it previously...> As always thanks for your advice, time and attention. att. Juan Santos <Sorry to hear of this trouble, Juan...I hope that things start looking better- keep up the good work. Regards, Scott F.>

Paint in My Tank well I was remodeling the master bedroom this weekend. I used a paint sprayer on the walls. I knew there would be quite a bit of fall out so I was sure to keep the bedroom door closed and the windows open, so that none of it would drift into the living room where the  Reef tank is. Well, apparently that didn't work. Later that night I noticed some fall out on the center brace of my tank and my euro-reef skimmer <great skimmers that is all I use> was going nuts. (I had to lower the outlet tube all the way down to keep it from over flowing the collection cup). < that is normal when something has been introduced to the aquarium. I would throw some new carbon and a PolyFilter just in case> My tank is primarily SPS and amazingly they have showed no ill effects from the situation they are in. full polyp extension and feeding at night) All water param.s are fine. am 0 trite 0 trates < 5 Ph 8.1 dKH 11 A 420. I assumed that all of this fall out increased the surface area of the water in my tank and that is why the skimmer is going crazy, so I did a10% water change last night (I painted on Sunday.) Well, I woke up this morning and my skimmer is still going nuts. I need to know what I should do? should I be worried?  thanks in advance you have been very helpful in the past. <In my experience euro-reef they will settle down on there own. you can try pulling skimmer out and rinse the whole thing out with fresh water. As long as the corals look good I would not worry. Hope this helps Mike H> Jason Auringer

Petroleum Distillate Contamination - Dear Crew Members, I am a computer activist and have many cooling fans the same room as my 30 gallon marine setup. I regularly oil these fans with a valve oil that states on the label, ingestion may be harmful, contains petroleum distillates. I don't think there could be more than 5 drops on a fan at any given time. I awoke yesterday morning to find one of the fans fell off a shelf into a ten gallon tank I am using to keep brine shrimp, this was after I had fed my fish from the tank, possibly ten/ml of the water containing shrimp from the 10 G tank. When I awoke this morning, there is a dull coat on the top of my water in my 30 G tank, looks very much like oil. <This may not be related... tanks often have an oily sheen on the surface.> I have a damsel that has grown to be rather large, the kind with five black stripes, this tank has been in great constant operation for over a year. The damsel appears very white and yellow in color except of course for his black stripes. He was VERY eager to eat as much as he could. Also some white mucous was protruding from his vent. The other fish have net yet woken up after about an hour, but I can see that they all are breathing properly. <If it's that early in the day, then what you are seeing on your damsel is likely just it's night pattern. Many fish's colors fade while they are sleeping.> Do you think they are poisoned with distillates? <Probably not... would expect a more adverse reaction if so.> There could only be a fraction of a drop, my anemones, (bubble tip) are doing very very well, but my urchin is moving very slowly. <I've never seen an urchin move fast.> What should I do? <Run some activated carbon in your filtration loop, keep up the observation.> thanks so much, --Jim <Cheers, J -- >

- Petroleum Distillate Contamination, Follow-up - Activated carbon has been running for 5 hours now, In both my penguin 330 and my Fluval 204, oily sheen has disappeared and fish appear normal. My damsels night pattern is almost completely black though and this morning it was very bright white, and usually my other fish wake up quickly. Hopefully everything is ok. <I think it will be.> Thanks so much for your quick response and accurate information, WWM is definitely the best most sincere place on the net to find information about marine aquariums. <My pleasure.> thanks again --Jim <Cheers, J -- >

Heavy metals... including ferrous, in a marine system Hi, I have asked you guys questions before, but this one takes the cake. I have a 55 gal, 4 months, 11 LR, skimmer, Penguin 330, all levels very good, no copper.  Ok, in the past I have asked questions in reference to water filters since my DS reading is over 500 coming out of the tap. I had some misconceptions about resin filters and I didn't understand at the time that if a filter is spent that it actually rendered worse water then to begin with. I didn't have a DS meter at the time and I was actually replacing my tank water with water that had a DS of 560 or more. Oooh!!! Well the interesting thing is that my fish didn't seem to notice. I have Chromis, Goby's, Blennies, Damsels, and a horseshoe crab.           I bought a chocolate chip starfish and even though he was in the water from hell he lived for almost a month. The one that I bought to replace him only lived a few days, I tried hermit crabs, they only lasted a few days. The fish are fine, and I think the horseshoe is also. I am a little confused.           A breakdown of my questions: A. The gunk that I mistakenly dumped in my tank, is it filtered out by the filter as I have been told or is it just present? <little or none is taken out by the filter feeders here. Do consider water changes to dilute all with better quality source water> B. Is there a way to find out if there is heavy metals in your tank? <using a PolyFilter will help here by changing color to indicate what if any metals were absorbed> I haven't seen any tests for that and since all my other tests are fine, I figure that has to be what is killing the inverts.           C. This is a really strange question. I use a magnetic glass cleaner and I noticed chunks of substrate that were stuck to it. <yikes - Ahhh... seems to me some metal contamination in your sand> It appears that I have pieces of iron in the crushed aragonite that I used. I am not sure how much, I am going to try to see how much I can pick up. Is this normal? <not normal... and it is a serious threat if not the cause for your invertebrates deaths> If I had a high iron content in the initial water I started out with, could it form iron chunks as I am finding?   <not likely. Your metals in the sand are more likely (and not entirely uncommon) a contaminant in the sand. Sifting out with the magnet will likely be good enough though. You may not have to remove the substrate. Anthony>

It's In The Bag...Or Is It? Greetings Gentlemen and Happy New Year, <Same to you! Scott F. here today!> I am back to the hobby after about 25 yrs and have been back in for about 6 months, lurking in your fabulous site for about 5 months. <Glad to hear that! Sounds like you're well into the fray again!> My dilemma; 3 days ago I placed 2 felt-type bags over my returns in the sump to control bubbles, worked like a charm. Last evening I noticed a general closing up of my inverts, fish were fine. I noticed a post in a faq about these types of bags "harboring nitrifying bacteria" and no further info on this effect. I did a 20% water change and I noticed a slightly different odor to the water. This morning the inverts were at about 85% and again fish were fine (just hungry!) parameters throughout the issue were: PH 8.2 Sal 1.023 Temp 77 NH3 0 NO2 0 NO3 0 Ca 350 PO3 .25 SET UP: 175 bow front, corner overflows 40 sump, 3 powerheads and wavemaker ~250lbs of LR,2 inches of live Arag ASM Euro-clone skimmer, (about 1-2 cups a week) PC lites 4 daylight, 4 Actinic FISH: pair Perculas, flame angel, yellow tang, purple tang, Sailfin tang, Banggai INVERTS: Torch, Octo-Bubble, Zoanthus, Sun Polyps, Star Polyps, Goniopora know, I know), BTA (again, I know), purple mushrooms, Green Mushrooms, colt, fox and open brain. Everyone was doing great until the bags. Could a negative effect manifest itself so quickly? and if so, cause the above reaction from my charges? Regards, Walter <Well, Walter, it could be a number of things. There is the outside possibility that the filter bags were not rinsed before use, and that some type of toxin was discharged into the water. Perhaps it was "used" previously for some other application, and some kind of toxic compound was retained in the bags.  It is also possible, however remote- that the flow rate has been compromised somehow, creating a drop in oxygen...Way out there, but in the realm of possibility...With your animals on the way to recovery, I'd continue to monitor water parameters and keep a close eye on things...Hang in there!> PS: I make it a point to patronize your sponsors, your commitment and breath of knowledge are second to none in this game. <Thank you so much for the kind words and support! We enjoy bringing this site to you, and are happy to be able to share with our fellow hobbyists! Good Luck! Regards, Scott F>

Toxic Tank Situation  lost another new fish, 4 days. all existing livestock healthy and active.  every time I put a new specimen in it's like dumping it in the love canal.  no visible signs of stress or disease. <Yes, and now perhaps it is time for me to offer a more complete, satisfying response to your toxic water situation. Irrespective of its origins your "tank has a problem" that can/should be addressed in a systematic fashion, ahead of your trying any more livestock in the way of fishes.  If it were me, mine, I would engage a few successive (with a few days apart) largish (20-25% each time) water changes with pre-mixed water, gravel vacuuming the tank's gravel in the process. Do hold off on any/all additives, especially the panacea "ich" remedy you've been using... and place two units (containers) of either Chemipure or equivalent activated carbon in your sump/filter flow path... let's wait a couple of weeks during this process, and after, place a couple (as in two) of sturdy Damsels (Dascyllus aruanus, melanurus... Chrysiptera cyanea...) and see how they fare... along with a "cleaner shrimp of the genus Lysmata"... show this note to your friends at the NJ super shop and they will know what I'm about... Stick with me Pat, the aquatic world is soon to be yours. Bob Fenner>

A Residual Problem, I Think Best To Re-Start... Hi Bob, Its me again with a new question (concerning marines). I have a new tank (approx. two months) with a regal damsel in it. While this fish has survived up to now, no other fish did. The symptoms are rapid. The newcomer will immediately start to shrink (like losing water) and will die in a matter of hours (one day the most). Although I am sure this is some sort of osmoregulation dysfunction still I do not understand why the damsel survives and feeds normally. I did a mistake and added a heavy metal solution a long time ago but then I changed the whole water 2-3 times. What do you think ?? Thanks, George <Well, many Damselfishes are tough, tougher than most other commonly kept marines... and I think you have a malingering metal situation... If it were me, I'd dump the system, replace the gravel and any other material you can't clean up/off with a mild acidic solution (dilute vinegar should do...) and start again fresh... Keeping, replacing the Damsel after the job is done. Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

Floating thermometer (broken... metal ball-ballast in tank...) Mr. Fenner: A floating thermometer broke in my salt water reef aquarium and I think some of the metal beads may still be in my aquarium. Should I be especially worried? If this could lead to a disastrous consequences, what should I do to remedy this problem? Thanks, Vince <Yes to being worried... perhaps lead, maybe ferrous... at any length, bad news... if it were my tank, I'd siphon out all the possible gravel areas and CAREFULLY sort through (sort of like rice, beans, what have you, ahead of cooking for rocks, sticks...) and then rinse it before replacing (freshwater is fine here). Bob Fenner>

Paint Fumes Hi Bob, I am considering some renovation work on the interior of my house which would include re painting the walls. I am concerned that the fumes may be harmful to my 110 gallon emerging reef tank. Obviously I'm aware of not letting any paint splatter/drip into the water but what about the fumes? Are the fumes something I should worry about? Is one type of paint (water base latex or oil base or other type) less "dangerous" than any other.  <Mmm, yes... some paints have more VOC's... especially some of the oil-based enamels, stains... but no great danger given a couple of easy preventative measures... Right about "painting time" for the room area (if can be closed off by doors, towels at the base...) cover your tank/s with damp towels, turn off all air-entraining devices like powerheads, Venturi-type skimmers, and "bubblers"... Provide new air circulation as you're painting, after... and all should be fine...> I have a feeling I'm worrying too much. As always thank you so much for your expert opinion. <You're welcome. If you'd like to "practice" your painting... I do have a few projects here... Bob "Huck Finn" Fenner>

Brass valve Hi Bob <Steven today.> I just finished setting up my 100g tank that I will be stocking with coral and fish. I stocked the tank so far with 150lb of live rock and 2" of live sand about 5 days ago. Everything is going great, I am now waiting for the tank to finish cycling. Last night I panicked after reading about the effects of copper on reef tanks and realized I had installed a brass electric solenoid for my top-off water between my RO unit and the sump. When I installed the valve I knew that copper and reefs don't mix but I did not think that brass on the top-off side would have any effect, especially since a lot of people use tap water that probably runs through copper pipes. I removed the valve immediately, do you think I will have any problems with copper in my tank with the top-off running for the past 5 days? I am planning on getting a copper test kit today and I was thinking of doing a premature 20% water change. <Jim, I am unclear about something. Was the brass valve submerged or even near the saltwater or was it merely connected to your RO unit far away from the saltwater? I think it was the latter. In that case, you are probably OK, but I would definitely get another valve and test the tank water. -Steven Pro> Thanks, Jim

Paint fumes and fish tanks Hi Bob Fenner (or however is answering the emails today), I just bought a house and have some painting to do in the living room before we move all of our stuff in (saltwater fish tanks included). Of course I will NOT be painting while the tanks are in the room (there will be nothing in the house while I am painting), but how long should I wait to set the tanks up in the living room after painting? I know the fumes stick around for a while and was wondering is this is a concern with fish tanks. Any suggests? Thanks for any advice you might have! Have a good day. Jana <With water-based products a day should be fine. Oil-based ones I'd hold off a good two, three days. Bob Fenner>

Paint Fumes Good morning my helpful friends, <cheerio! Anthony Calfo in your service> Well after spending what seems like the whole winter setting up and building the wall and area around the reef tank.....whew!...we have to paint. The rest of the house is not standing up to the clean beauty of the reef tank...not by a long shot...the fish are complaining about their digs.... I keep hearing horror stories about paint fumes.. . <generally a big deal... anything strongly fumous is a concern with pets/fish> so any advice, once again is appreciated. I would love to Bin the knots on the new wood around the tank and frankly have some places all over the house that need that...Bin is alcohol based and fast drying but scary...what do you think? <clearly known to cause fish deaths... personal experience here. A little at a time though in a very well ventilated room I could live with... just not painting sheer walls> After that, all the paint that I will use is latex.  <generally safe> But I need to paint a lot. Due to the fact that spring is here already the marathon painting that I had intended to do this winter will not happen, summer is not the time that landscapers do home improvements, but a room or so a weekend might be possible. It is not possible to close the tank off from the rest of the house. I read about the wet towel over the tank (tank and sump)  <generally a great idea> but I'm not sure how long to leave them on....suppose for instance that we're painting all day in an adjoining room or in the room that the tank is in? I don't feel comfortable leaving the tank off for all that time....and it sounds like leaving the pumps off is also important.... <you can run an airstone or two from an air pump set outside feeding a long line of tubing to the tank... also close the doors in this room only, open the windows and have a large inhalant and exhalent fan in each window> I should mention that the tank is really built into the wall but of course the air has to come from somewhere and before I get too wacky about pumping fresh air around the darn thing I'm hoping that there is hope for live fish with latex paint. <again.... latex is generally safe in well ventilated spaces. Do run heavy carbon and PolyFilters during and afterwards...change carbon frequently (before and after)> It seems like no matter how hard I try to find the answers to these questions on my own I still keep relying on you guys. Thanks again for being there. Helene <no worries...best regards, Anthony>

Live Rock, Protein Skimmers, Hypo, and general setup Dear WWM Crew, <Anthony Calfo with the follow up> Steven - thanks for your recent ideas about what caused my wipe-out and how to avert it in the future. Upon searching the tank for contamination sources, I did find that my magnet wall-cleaner was leaking and allowing rusting metal (iron?) to get into the tank. I'm sure this was a contributor to lack-of-health in the tank.  <not good indeed> I'll be using water changes and PolyFilter to get rid of the contaminants. For now the tank has stabilized and a few of my fish are still alive and back to normal. <very good to hear!> I'll also be changing how I conduct quarantine tanks to Bob's typical recommendations of using main-tank water and filter media to fill the quarantine. After I've concluded a quarantine with nothing coming down the pipeline, I plan to shutdown the quarantine and bleach the equipment.  <OK...agreed. Simply keep a sponge filter running in your display sump or tank at all times for a ready, mature biological filter on demand> What isn't clear to me is how to deal with live rock. Certain invertebrates and fish will need a live rock to keep them happy, and perhaps to provide some extra biological filtration in quarantine. What is the process to safely return the live rock to my main tank? Is the process any different if the quarantined fish developed a disease while there? <with or without disease... 4 weeks without any expressed disease symptoms (as in after a disease occurred, counting from the first day the fish looked healed in that tank on) and the rock will have cleared customs <G>> Other questions...I'll be using hypo/fixer/thiosulfate as my dechlorinator. The hypo powder packaging says that once mixed the solution is only good for two months. From my photography days I know that fixer can go bad and get exhausted. For the purposes of dechlorinating water, how long can the solution be kept? <it is a good habit to mix solutions and supplements that can be used in 2 to 4 months. Over 6 months is generally to be avoided. It is all so quick to mix, please do use small, fresh portions> I have a 60 gallon tank with no sump, but about 60 pounds of live rock and a Prizm protein skimmer. This site, my lack of skim, and my algae problems tell me that the Prizm is completely inadequate.  <BINGO... kewpie doll for you!> As recommended by this site, I'm thinking of going to the Aqua Medic Turboflotor 1000 Multi. I know the Turboflotor 1000 is generally recommended, but how about the 'multi' version that can be a hang-on? <agreed about the brand... but I have no experience with the Multi. Do also consider Aqua C hang on model... very efficient and slim line> If I go to a non-hang on skimmer, can they be plumbed alone without a sump?  <most not easily except for Tunze rail mount models. Do consider a sump in the future... they are so very functional and useful!> My setup is about three months old. Please take a look at my setup and see if in general it seems sane... Inhabitants: 3 green Chromis, 1 pajama cardinal, 12 red-leg hermit crabs, 2 Mithrax crabs, 2 queen conches, 1 sand-sifting star, 1 green abalone, 1 cleaner shrimp <nice selection of peaceful livestock... and I really LOVE the abalone!!! They are great algae eaters> Substrate: 2" of sugar-sized aragonite substrate with a little Aragamax live mixed in <this will become a nutrient sink in time and fuel nasty nuisance algae. It is not deep enough to be anoxic for denitrification but too deep to be fully aerobic. I say ideally 3 inches or more (5+ for great nitrate control) or simply have 1/2 inch or less. Bob and I differ on this point for the record> 60 pounds Fiji live rock 4 55W Power Compact lights, 7200K and 10000K 2 160GPH Powerheads 1 125GPH Powerhead <you can definitely use more water flow for coral and reef invertebrates... more like 600-800 GPH turnover) Protein Skimmer - Prizm, but to be upgraded <soon! Money well spent!> Millennium 2000 hang-on power filter 2 150W Heaters of course Temperature: 79 deg F pH: 8.3 Alkalinity: 3-5 mEq/L Salinity: 1.023-1.024 S.G. Nitrate, Nitrite, Ammonia: 0 Phosphate: 0.03 mg/L <Hmmmm.... pushing high on phosphates... do test source water and discover the nature and severity of this accumulation. .04+ is an algae bloom for most folks> Calcium: 385 ppm Algae: brown micro and green hair, no Macroalgae. Thanks for all the tremendously helpful information! Mark Belding <best regards, Anthony>

Q. My Question this time is that all of my snails died. I installed a set of brass Quick Disconnects to my filter line to make it easier to remove and clean. About five days later I noticed some of my snails on their back and not trying to get up. I touched them and they would move, but very slow. A few days later they were dead, they smelled very bad. One anomaly to this is: I have three, three spot black damsels, that look great and are swimming well. In fact their color is better than it was a week prior. All Ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, and salinity are in spec. Any Ideas????? Heavy metals? or Cu poisoning? I asked my local marine shop, they had no clue. Thank you again A. Yikesville! Yes, get the lead and the brass out and remove those fittings! Brass is an alloy of Copper (about 90%) and zinc... both toxic to marine life. Both heavy and toxic... btw, your damsels may be looking brighter because, yes, they are being poisoned. Remove the disconnects, and change a bunch of water, maybe add some PolyFilter, and say thanks. Bob Fenner, who can't believe the bit about the local marine shop; go elsewhere!

Can't figure out what it wrong Hello, We have a 150 gallon tank that is about 6 months old. After going through the maturation process we tried to stock it with fish, we would add the fish and they would be fine for about a week and then die. We keep a close eye on the ammonia, pH, nitrate, and nitrite, all were zero when we added them and it was zero when the died. Every time we add fish they look really healthy eat good and swim with no problems, but with in a week to 14 days they all die. What are we doing wrong? We have read several books can't find anything to help. It seems the only thing that I can keep alive is a pacific cleaner shrimp, and he looks kind of small in this big tank all by himself. Thank You, M. Pinkston <Somewhere, somehow something chronically to acutely toxic has made/is making its way into your tank. A few ideas come to mind. Ammoniated "window" cleaners being sprayed around, soaps/detergents coming into contact with your water (through a communal bucket, sponge...), "tramp" metal sneaking in through your gravel, decor (some "lava" rocks cause this, and often an iron test kit will reveal it), even a metal thermometer... any metal contact... I know it must be discouraging (to put it mildly) to keep losing your fish... so I would make the big move: Dump the tank, remove the gravel, clean and dry it, spread it out and look for signs of metal introduction. Re-set up the tank, add some live rock (this will really help) and put the shrimp back in. Wait about a month and introduce some fishes. If the new fishes seem to be going sideways, add some PolyFilter in your filter flow path and get back to me about what color it changes...Bob Fenner>

Broken Hydrometer...What Now? 4.26.05 I was using my Hydrometer to test the salinity today and it broke inside my tank. The Alcohol was not released but some of the little silver balls or weights sunk into the gravel. I do not have any fish yet because I am still in the two week waiting period. What should I do ? I know this is probably lead so I siphoned all I cold find. Please Help !!!! <Hi Harrison, I would remove all the substrate, and wash it down with freshwater, making sure that all the heavy metals are gone.  Heavy metals are capable of poisoning your fish, so do your best to get every little bit.  Good luck, Ryan>

PC bulb broke.. parts in tank 8/14/05 Hi Crew, <<Hi - Ted here>>     Sorry... I don't feel like I have time to search the FAQs on this one.  I just had a SunPaq 6700/10000K dual daylight bulb break over my 125 reef tank.  It appears that tube was filled with Argon  and some of the bulb shards fell into my tank. I'm concerned about the phosphor, et. al., leaching into the tank. I removed the shards ASAP but there a few small pieces I haven't been able to get out yet.  I also posted to the 911 board but it looks like it's a little slow.  I'm stressing out because I don't know the composition of the phosphor, or it's toxicity.   Fortunately the tank was mostly covered (the shards fell  in through a hole in the top). Please pardon my brevity (between checking the board and writing this I've been cleaning all the tiny shards of the top of the tank and mixing some water).  Any  suggestions? Anyone know the probability of and/or toxicity of Argon and Phosphor in a reef tank? Right now the tank is only a FOWLR w/light bio load. <<I would not be overly concerned. I would remove the shards as best you can and run carbon to remove the chemicals introduced.>> Thanks Tom <<You're welcome and good luck - Ted>>

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