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FAQs about Toxic Water Conditions 2

Related Articles: Marine Toxic Tank Conditions , General  Marine Maintenance,

Related FAQs: Toxic Situations 1, 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 (from outside, External, Inorganic, e.g. Metals), Marine Algaecide Use/Chemical Control, Toxic Copper Use Situations/Troubleshooting, Insecticides, Cleaners, & Troubleshooting/Fixing,

Some species, groups are much more easily poisoned than others.

Pest control...aquarium poison Hi, everybody from WWM. <Cheers> I don't know why the last month an explosion of cockroaches occur in my home (hey caramba, but we are not, pest control office you may say!!) but my problem is... I will call the pest control but I don't know what to do with my 200 litres tank. They use smoke (I don't know what kind of poison come with it) and is really effective with the cockroaches, because the smoke penetrates everything (including my tank)... <insecticides are most always VERY toxic to aquarium life. This is a difficult dilemma> Maybe you can give me a hint how to proceed, I thought cover the tank and the sump with a huge plastic lid sealed with masking tape, shut off the skimmer, the overflow and dose oxygen with a O2 tank... but I not sure if it will work or maybe you have an easiest and practical way... <if the process of "smoking" the house is only for a few hours before you can get back in, then a procedure like mentioned above may help... but it is certainly a risk. If the fumigation is to last more than say 6 hours (indeed many are much longer)... then the tank will unfortunately have to be moved. If for any reason the tank stays, use a lot of activated carbon and some poly filters (Poly Bio Marine) and be prepared to do several large water changes (gentle but large) in the first week after the treatment.> Thank you Carlos <best regards, Anthony>

Flea Problem Here's the thing -- I have two cats. They have recently gotten infested with fleas and I need to get rid of them ASAP. <What? Not the cats I hope!> My problem-I have a 65 gallon reef tank that has no cover because the lighting (MH/Actinic combo) is hanging from the ceiling above the tank. I live in a small apartment and want to know how bad will it be if I "bomb" my apt for fleas? If not, do you have any advise as to what to do, short of getting rid of the cats, lol? Thanks! <Have recently done this here... I would make sure the MH's are not able to "come on" (pull the electric cords from the wall), and cover the tank with damp towels, turn off the powerheads, any other air-entraining devices (like Venturis) and sprits away... Bob Fenner>

Does termite problem = tank problem? <that depends... is your aquarium on a wooden stand?> Hey Bob, <Anthony Calfo in your service> Help! Termites have moved in. My place needs tenting for 2 days. Got a 125 gal. FOWLR tank. <this is bad... not going to be fun> 1. Can I just remove fish and leave everything else? 2. If not, can the tank stay put covered in plastic? <alas... pesticides are categorically hostile to most all aquatic life. It may be necessary to remove the aquarium entirely. Do check with exterminator about the toxicity of his product with aquatic life. I suspect it is bad.> 3. If tank has to go, do you know a service that specializes in (or even does) this and can house my fish, rock, and sand? I live in Laguna Beach. <look in the yellow pages under "aquarium service"... there are many such maintenance personnel that are experienced with this move. Do check credentials/references though if possible> Those termite bastards. KEITH BAIM  PS Loved your book TCMA, the perfect reference guide and info source (except for missing a section on what to do if termites invade). <heehee... agreed... I think <G> Anthony>

New Tank - Big Oops  Bob, Here is a big mistake from a newbie to the saltwater trade. I have a 125 gal tank with 3-4" crushed  coral substrate, 130 lbs live rock, homemade sump. I cycled the rock and it took about 6 weeks. My levels dropped to 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, and 5 nitrates. So I added the cleanup crew from FFExpress. Within 24 hours all were dead.  <toxic shock> Started reading and asking questions as to why?? My big mistake was to save a few bucks (stupid seeing I invested so much) and use two copper shutoff valves between my overflow boxes and sump.  <Arghhhh!!!> These have been installed since tank setup and live rock cycle. Approx 2 months total time. Needless to say those are not inline anymore. So, what do I do next?  <lots of Polyfilters (Poly Bio Marine) for several months to absorb residual free copper... after a 100% water change of course> I want to have inverts and corals sometime. I have noticed your posts about using carbon and poly filters. What are your suggestions and time frames?  <after the big water change... I'm thinking double Polyfilters changes by three weeks time at least twice (6-8 weeks of Polyfilters). Then do a copper test and continue to do so weekly beginning with hardy inverts and polyps to test the water. Resist colonial anemones and snails at first (squishy inverts are more likely to draw/OD copper absorbed in substrate...perhaps more sensitive as a rule. Shrimps, crabs, for macro organisms... Leather corals on their own new rock for corals would be good,> Any help is greatly appreciated. Thank you for the information contained in your web site. Sincerely, Bob Haberkorn. <do read, share and pass along your wisdom and a good word about the site, please. Kindly, 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>

Is my tank poisoned? Mr. Fenner, <Anthony Calfo in your service> Thank you for answering many of my other questions from other sites. I now have a huge problem! I have a 54gl corner with a Fluval 304 w/ activated carbon, 55lbs of LR, 15lbs of LS, protein skimmer, and 2 powerheads. My stock list is 1 Wellsophyllia, 1 torch coral, 1 maxima clam, 1 pearl bubble, 1 Caulastrea?), assorted mushrooms and polyps, <I admire the fact that your coral selection is thematically compatible... mostly LPS corals and the others mostly low/med light and high nutrient just the same. The clam is the only oddball and is OK if kept high in the tank. I wish more aquarists were more conscientious of this... too many SPS, LPS and softies all mixed together> 1 Anthias, 1 royal Gramma, 1 citron clown goby, and 1 false clown. My water parameters have been at 0 with temp 77, Alk 11dKH, calc 390 until today. I found my pink and green cucumber dead but still had its guts intact and my impatiens Cuke dead with its guts expelled. This must have happened during the day because everything was fine until I came home. I was doing my normal water testing once per week) after I removed the Cukes and all my parameters have jumped! My ammonia is now .35, nitrites .3, nitrates 30 but calc and Alk stayed the same. I also added a piece of LR from a LFS on Saturday but all levels were normal as I was checking them everyday since the addition of that piece to make sure there were no spikes. Could it be from the Cukes or is it from the LR?  <more likely the Cukes but it is still not severe> What can I do to lower the levels before any damage is done to the corals?  <aggressive protein skimming, carbon and especially Polyfilters and good water changes> I also now know better than to have Cukes as part of the clean up critters event though my LFS said they would be great additions! Thanks for all the help. Chris <I'm really not too critical of sea cucumbers myself. They are fascinating and their toxicity is highly variable and overrated. They can be kept and even propagated. Best regards, Anthony>

Dying fish Hi bob <Anthony Calfo in your service while Bob travels> I am new to saltwater aquariums, but have maintained freshwater tanks when I was younger I bought a 130 gallons tank about 6 months back. Everything was going great until I started to notice algae bloom. I tested the nitrates and found them to be around 100mg-l.I immediately started water changes, lowering them down to around 25 mg-l. the fish seemed to appreciate the lower levels. <agreed.. good move> But when I did the last change next morning my imperator angel got a white film over his body and eyes, was breathing fast and died within 12hours. <incidental toxin in the water or parameter difference (sharply colder or pH difference in new water... should check these and adjust with every water change)> Next was a clownfish then a 7inch blue face angel, all my damsels, a cleaner wrasse, a purple tang, a Picasso trigger a Sailfin tang and a rock beauty dwarf angel. What went wrong? <Wow! Serious chance of a toxin in the water> A friend of mine told me that it was because of my frequent water change witch I did every day when my nitrates where high. He said that it dissolved their protective coating and not to worry about my tank. <with all due respect... this is not even remotely true or possible> He said to wait a couple of weeks and to add a fish to see. I did and it died two days later with a film over his eyes.  <yes... still in the water> I still have a hepatus tang and a large wrasse since the beginning and they are still in top shape. <indeed all fish have varying tolerances and you found two durable ones> All my water parameters where ok (amonia-0 nitrite-0 ph8.0 SG 1.023 temp 77.9F). <pH is way low but not enough to kill. Aim for 8.3 minimum by night and towards 8.6 by day> I was using tap water when I was doing the water changes but let it rest for a day or two and added conditioner.  <no need to rest water... aerating would be nice and buffering> I think I introduced a bacteria of some sort and can't get rid of it. <actual... it is more likely that an aerosol of some sort was sprayed in the room and absorbed in the standing water (air freshener, paint or paint stripping in the house/room... anything with a strong odor is a candidate. Read the cans for a good scare> I'm thinking of disinfecting the whole system and buying a quarantine tank. <The QT is a must. And the main tank needs a very large water change and the addition of some poly filters with the hope that they will extract the contaminant> I still have some live rock is there any sure way of disinfecting it? <may not be necessary with a near 100% water change (adjust temp, pH, salinity and oxygenate)> what do I use to disinfect the tank I have since bought a ro-di unit and will use this from now on. <do read archives on how to reconstitute RO/DI water before any kind of use or you may kill more fish> Do I have to kill my anemone? <huh?> when in the future I buy live rock how do I make sure it's not contaminated? <simply buying cured should be enough or cure it yourself. If you added live rock at the same time as the deadly water change you could have been looking at fouling from fresh live rock> Can I use chlorine to clean the tank any help will be greatly appreciated. big d <the only way you can sterilize is to remove the fish for a month to QT and trash the system. As per above, this may not be necessary. Do the big water change and use poly filters and then try a single test fish a week afterwards. Best regards, Anthony>

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>

Re: Disaster!! III Hello again, well, let me update everyone on what's been happening. The blenny is not a happy camper in the q-tank. He's all funny striped, almost white at the tail. He seems to be swimming around but he won't eat.  <I recall that the copper was tested at .40 at one point. This level is long past deadly for many marine fishes> I'm so confused with this whole q-tank business. Originally we had the filter (over the side kind) soaking in the sump of the main tank while it was cycling. <there's part of the problem... a sponge sitting in the sump will develop a little biological activity (mostly on the exterior) but needs to have water forced through it to maximize colonization. Much better to simply run the sponge in the filter as it will run on the QT> Then we put it in the q tank when we put the blenny in there. We also put a sponge filter in the q tank (it had not be in the sump previously) We cannot get the ammonia down. It was 1.0 on Sunday so we did a 50% water change and now today it's 1.0 again. Not sure what to do.  <daily water changes until the filter establishes...again, could be weeks> I changed the filter today to just a plain one that has not been in the sump of the main tank.  <I'm not sure why... all new media will set you back further. You simply need seeded/aged filter media... some patience> And we're planning on doing another 50% change tonight.  <excellent> We have a r/o unit that we use to make the water. Or should we put water from the main tank into the q tank instead of new water?? <new water please for water changes (aged water was initially for the transfer gently of the display fish). Remember to aerate RO water for 12 hrs or more first, then buffer/reconstitute and mix for another 6 or more hours. Raw RO water is dangerous as it is too pure (low pH/hardness, high carbonic acid, etc)> Any input you can give us would be great. On a happier note the blue tang is doing good. He's starting to eat although he still hides a lot and likes to hang out in the corner, but he did eat today. So, things are looking up. We just need to watch for ich now I guess. <exactly... but we will hope for the best> One more question. I noticed that when our sand sifting star came up out of the sand the other day that the clowns went nuts. I looked closely and saw a ton of little bug like things crawling all over the sand and as I looked closely I saw these bug like things all over the rocks and everything. The clowns were eating them all up like crazy. I'm assuming that these are just copepods and amphipods right??  <correct> Nothing dangerous??  <very beneficial... I wish we could culture them by the pound> I see them scurrying all around the tank. They are tiny though and don't have a claw like a mantis shrimp. One last question. My husband wants me to ask, would you recommend vacuuming the substrate?? We only have small grained sand. We can see air bubbles stuck in there though. We're hesitant to suck it up due to fear of sucking up all of the sand. What do you recommend? <course sand needs to be agitated and sometimes siphoned regularly... fine sand generally needs little help. If you want to experiment, you could try stirring the sand... but I don't bother myself> Thanks for letting me pick your brain again. Katie and John Michael <many jokes here <smile>. Anthony>

Toxic tank Hi, Having a difficult time with a new 90 saltwater tank. Turbo snails die within ten minutes of being put in the tank. A Yellow tang within two days. A small hermit crab lasted one week. <Mmm> Currently living happily are 1 Percula Clown 2 tomatoes 1 Damsel As of two days ago- a lunar wrasse and a domino which I wrongfully accused of causing the problem and gave them back to the LFS. ammonia - 0 nitrites- 0 nitrates- 10 ppm ph 8.6 no live rock <The live rock would help a great deal to modify, stabilize water quality, provide cover, forage... Please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/liverock1.htm and beyond> lighting 65 watts 10K & 65 watts ultra actinic CF Wet/dry 2 ft ^3 with t1000 protein skimmer in the sump. 1.023 SG The tank is 4 1/2 months old. I cycled it using damsels and a yellow tang. After 3 months purchased an emperor angle and everything started going wrong. The 3" long emperor died two days later. Then the yellow tang which helped cycle the tank became very thin overnight and died the next day. Waited a week and tried turbo snails and a hermit crab and a Koran angle. Turbos died after a few hours, Korean died the next day, and crab lasted a week before dying. Waited two weeks and did a water change and added a turbo snail and a yellow tang. Snail died after a few hours and tang became very thin by the next day and died. Thinking that it might be a toxin, put a large bag of carbon in the sump to try to save the tang but it didn't help or was too late. <There is "something" chemically either "too much" (like a metal) in your system or "too little" like alkalinity (do test for this)> It seems like a toxin somehow got in the tank. Things that I suspect have all been in the tank since day one, but I will list them. I used 1000 shot gun shell wads as the bio media as I have heard of other people doing this. <Yes, for folks who utilize wet-dry filtration> (I boiled them in water before putting them in the sump) Used black Plexi glass in the tank around the bottom drain to control the water which feeds the sump. Used vinyl tubing in the filtration system. Used polycarbonate plastic (Lexan) to make the sump. Everything else in the tank is very standard and purchased at the local pet store. One other questionable thing I do is mix a small amount of Novaqua conditioner to the "new" salt water before adding it to the tank during water changes. I have added no other medicines/chemicals and am very careful not to introduce pet store water into the tank. <Good accounting of your actions> I still have the carbon bag in the tank. I am thinking of doing a massive water change, say 90 gallons, to the tank but would hate to do this without knowing what went wrong because I don't want to do it again. I was in the process of buying 50 pounds of LR when all this went wrong, but cancelled the order as I didn't want to kill all that rock. <Don't worry here... the LR will not all die... but will/would change the water for the better> Any thoughts or suspicions? Thanks for the help your (recently discovered) site has given me. Scott Buske <I would go ahead with the addition of the live rock, get/use an alkalinity test kit... and likely get rid of the shotgun wadding (and not use any wet-dry media...) ultimately changing the sump to a refugium style filter. Bob 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>

Caulerpa/toxic waste spill episode Anthony, <good afternoon, dear> After the Caulerpa/toxic waste spill episode, I did a 25gal water change using the gravel vac to pull out all of the remaining bits of dead plant matter where it had settled. (water was clear when I did this) <excellent> Then, I added about 25lbs of live rock. Now, 2 days later, my water is very cloudy. <was the rock fully cured...and can you confirm that with a zero ammonia/nitrite test...or did you just get snookered again (no mail order rock, right? Its OK if you'll cure it separately, but never to be put/trusted right in display> I have battled cloudy water before, but this is a weird cloud. It has almost a yellowish hue to it, and even more strange, when the morning sun comes in, you can actually see the make-up of the cloudiness and it slowly drifts around resembling cigarette smoke. You can only see this under the right sunlight condition, otherwise it just looks murky. It is difficult to make out objects on the far side if you are looking down the 6ft length on the tank. I have been aggressively changing filter medium as it becomes clogged with this seemingly never ending supply of dead plant material, but there seems to be no more now.  <may indeed be poor quality/uncured rock...any odor? Skimmer working like mad, I suppose> Do I.... 1) Simply wait for it to clear?  <water tests please> 2) Do another water change? <yes...perhaps several> 3) Shoot myself?  <nope.. but patience and the investment into a quarantine tank for all fish/plants/rock to got through for 2-4 weeks first would save you grief> This is disturbing. On a lighter note congratulations on your spritehood! Thanks again, -Pat <thank you, the Queen Mum was shorter in person than I thought she would be when I was knighted...er, spirited. Anthony>

Re: Caulerpa Anthony, <here and full of cheer... I just turned into a sprite (the impish little imaginary creature, not the soda pop> You mentioned you would not do Caulerpa unless for a specific purpose. It was recommended to me to create a more stable natural environment, and keep down the growth of less desirable algae. Did I misinterpret that?  <nope, correct...it may. But not without disadvantages too> If this is not the case, I will not go that route again. What indeed are the specific purposes you speak of, and is it your recommendation to have macro-algae or to not go there yet? <like farming seagrass for aliotoms to encourage plankton, or mangroves for aesthetic effect, or Caulerpa to feed large tangs> Also, I took some advice from a reputable dealer yesterday and added 25lbs of live rock. (mostly Fiji) He said this would stabilize my system. (sound familiar?) <excellent... cured live rock is a good investment in one's tank's health> He also suggested distilled water or a R.O. machine to clear my problem algae. <will only help if the nutrient source of the algae is indeed the tapwater (have you found phosphates /nitrates/silica in your tap?> He told me my Brita on my tap was crap. <agreed for aquarium use> Is this good advice or was he trying to sell an R.O.? <conditional as above> I seem to be moving in the direction of a reef, as my wife seems to dig the critters more than the fish. <a common move...very fascinating to watch new reef creatures and behaviors everyday> For this, I've decided to expand my sump.  <very wise> From what I've read about pros and cons of Berlin, I think I'm going to keep the trickle anyway and add a large sump area with live rock and protein skimmers.  <heavy skimming very good> Would you agree or would you lose the trickle media for nitrate purposes? <very much so> Also, in my system, in the overflow chamber, and again post trickle I have a TON of mechanical media such as bags and bags of black diamond charcoal and "poly Filter" pads. Should this stay in a reef or should this too pass? <may be very good if you service it regularly> My apologies for taking soooo much of your time. It is very appreciated and I thank you. -Pat <quite welcome, my friend. Anthony>

Fish poisoning (chlorine, cleaning ornaments FAQs) Bob, I have been a long time fan of your website, but I'm having difficultly finding a solution to my problem… I have a 72gal tank and recently did a water change along with cleaning my d?or. I did the same as I always have in the past, but this time my fish (all young [1 ? " - 2 ? "]) all started to act erratic within seconds. My Flame Hawk fish was almost killed immediately, both my Blue and Yellow Tang laid on the bottom with quick, heavy gill movements. I pulled out the Hawk fish, first, in an effort to save him; attempts were in vain. Next I moved both tangs and my Porcupine Puffer to a reef tank that I've been cycling (nothing it but live rock). My Trigger didn't show any ill affects and I left him in the tank as I quickly pulled 50% water out of the tank and added new water. The trigger remained active and aware. I lost my Yellow Tang as he lay on the bottom of my reef tank and slowly stop grasping. Both my Blue Tang and Puffer Gasped heavily but slowly showed signs of improvement (little movements around the tank from time to time). I did another 20% water change last night and put the Puffer back into the main tank with my Trigger who was still doing well. This morning the Puffer is swimming around A LITTLE but still breathing heavy. I did yet another 20% water change today and tried a little feeding… the Trigger ate, the puffer didn't. My Blue Tang is looking pretty good still in the reef tank as he explores his environment from time to time. I am currently preparing for another 20% water change, trying to dilute whatever it might have been. My guess is that when I bleached my corals (as I have done MANY times in the past), I didn't clean them well enough before re-introducing them to the main tank.  <Very, too common> My Trigger never really showed MUCH of a reaction to this problem, and seems to be fine… I hope this means water conditions are reasonable now. My question is: The Puffer and Tang, both show a little improvement, but both still have HEAVY gill movements. Is there anything that I can/should do to relieve this? Methylene blue claims to detoxify nitrite and cyanide poisoning, should I use a bath of this assuming that a toxin poisoning has taken place; how long do I leave them in the bath? <I wouldn't move any of the livestock... more stressful than it's worth. Do increase aeration, circulation, leave all as is (including NOT changing the water... the chlorine from the bleach is all gone by now... and feed sparingly... the fishes will recover or not on their own otherwise at this point> Can the Heavy gill movement remain a permanent result of this incident? Should I continue my water changes and introduce my Tang back to the tank?  <Not permanent, no water changes, replace the fish to the main tank> Please help me out, I feel bad for my fish and want to alleviate their sufferings. Thank you, Mark (I live here in S.D., you can give ma a call if you think that you can help better over the phone) <Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

Re: Tank Toxicity, Triggerfish Hi Bob, Welcome back, and I hope Tijuana was grand... or was that Cancun? <The latter and a sprint to Cozumel> I had a situation (as described below) when you were in Mexico. Many thanks to Steve for his excellent advice. You gentlemen perform a great service to aquarists and their pets alike. <Thank you> (after the tide contamination) Here's what I did: I performed 2 50% water changes, 2 days apart. After the first, my Atlantic blue tang showed serious amounts of his ever-present ich. Just before my Tide debacle, I began raising the salinity with my weekly water changes from 1.020, and was about 1.021 when this incident happened. I had lowered it to fight the ich about 6 weeks earlier. I now lowered the SG to 1.019 over the 2 changes, and added another 25lb of very cured live rock, and a bunch of Caulerpa. Yesterday and this morning, the tang looked better than I've seen him in months. He had been getting very pale overnight, and this morning had crescent pale patches on his sides, like I believe he should. <Yes... and do change considerably during dark/sleeping times> Of the guests in my 72 gallon, (3 hermit crabs, 1 maroon clownfish 5", 1 lionfish 8", 1 blue tang 5", 8 snails, 1 very small and sickly quadricolor anemone, chocolate chip star, and brittle star) who do you believe would be the first to show the long-term affects of my possible (ok, ok.. probable) poisoning? <Depending on type/cause... the snails, crabs, anemone...> My choco appears to have lost a little weight, but I think I might just be paranoid. Also, do you have a suggestion on how long I should hang on to the anemone who has lost a number of tentacles from his move, but still has a number that are bulbous? <Hang on? As long as it's alive> I don't want to throw a viable creature away, I don't want his death to add even more pollutants into my system and kill more livestock. My clown paid attention to it the first few days, but has abandoned it - making me believe that it is doomed. <Not necessarily> Additionally, I've been planning on adding 2 more fish to my system. I'm thinking that a Sufflamen albicaudatus would be my best choice for my next addition. <I would not add a triggerfish to this mix> I'm still not extremely confident that I can properly keep more difficult specimens - and my occasional stupidity clearly reminds me whenever I gain confidence. I would also like to add a large angel, but I would wait a few months. I'm not too awfully concerned about the eventual size of the fish, because I've been itching for a much larger aquarium anyway. So, how long do you believe I should wait before adding my next fish? Would it be advisable to set my q-tank up awhile, or should I put off any additions for more than a month? <Get the larger tank, up and running first> Also, out of curiosity, I've been hand-feeding my maroon clown. Is this practice common? <Yes, common enough> I was very surprised - just after feeding one day, a krill was pinned up against some LR, so I reached in and picked it out, and the clown swam over to my hand, so I just handed the food to him. He eagerly grabbed it. Thanks in advance for your always knowledgeable advice. And, if you make it to Arizona to do any reef diving, look me up. <Mmm, am out to the Desert Marine Aquarium Society in a few months. 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>

Protecting tank from chemicals, toxins?? Hi Bob, This is the 40 gallon gal here. Glad to see that the Q&A are back up to it's usual. This is a community of sorts and we all need each other right now especially I feel. <Agreed> Anyway, getting back to the critters, Saturday I will be having my kitchen floor done (including doing the sub floor). I am worried that there will be strong chemicals including petroleum distillates that may hurt my creatures. The tank is in the LR (living room not live rock :-))! I have a fan or two and a stove fan, A/C and big windows in the LR. <Hmm> Tank critters include the Kole tang, 2 Clarkiis, the Midas Blenny, a few Turbos, a feather duster, a Rhodactis cluster, a stripped mushroom cluster, plate coral, and a Cleaner shrimp-- plus the refugium and LR critters. Do you have any ideas on protecting the tank? I really don't have another place for the critters (QT also in living room to be on GFI). Or should I be concerned? Also I may have some painting done, but it will be spot painting perhaps. When the floor gets finished I can finally put the place up for sale! <I usually turn off air pumps, pumps period, and cover with damp (not soaking wet towels during the application, drying time if possible> BTW, the floor got damaged because I was running the TWP and forgot about it as it is so slow. <Yikes, have to add this to my "reasons" for not liking this device...> Or maybe it is my great age. :-} If anybody has one of these it is cheap insurance to buy a flood alarm (about $10 from the hardware store). This is costing about $1000!! (I guess though were are having a LOT of training in perspective right now.) <Yes, but still no need to lose assets. Sorry to hear of your spill. Bob Fenner, who has had more than his share.> Your friend and fan, --des

Insecticides Bob, I realize that fish and aerosol insecticides are asking for trouble. But, I live in the piney woods of East Texas where periodic "invasion" of the home by ants and other little creatures is part of life. I think the ants are interesting to watch work but my wife says they have got to go. How can I protect my aquarium if/when there is a need to spray Bengal inside.  <Hmm, do first try water-based Diazinon... and in either case cover the system/s with a damp towel and turn off all air pumps or air-entraining devices (like skimmers, powerheads) during the fifteen/thirty minutes or so during/following application. This should be fine> I plan on covering the aquarium with a sheet (plastic better?) and turn off the cooling fan. The aquarium ( FOWLR w/inverts) has both a glass cover as well as a large, complete hood. As always, I appreciate your input and wisdom. Thom Walters <You're certainly welcome my friend. Bob Fenner>

Ocellaris clown and mandarin (and anomalous toxicity) Bob, I've got a 37 gal tank...nitrates, nitrites, ammonia and pH all look good, salinity is ~1.023 and temp is ~78F. I have an ocellaris clown, a spotted mandarin , some mushrooms, snails, hermit crabs, a Featherduster and some sponges (along with about 40 lbs of live rock). The problem started about 4 weeks ago. I bought a kauderni cardinal and watched as it absolutely refused to eat anything I fed for about 2 weeks. It looked healthy otherwise, normal respiration, no spotting and swimming normally. Then after about two weeks it started swimming funny (sinking near the bottom, I took that as a bad sign) and it was gone in the morning. I assume it made its way into one of the live rock crevices and was never seen again. A few days later I noticed a couple of spots on my clown and pseudo springeri (I didn't mention him earlier, he is no longer around). I medicated the tank with Marin Oomed...I used it once before a couple of years ago with good results. My luck seems to have changed though, the springeri got worse and died 2 days ago. The clownfish is starting to look bad (more white spots) and looks to be breathing a little heavy. I've gone through the Marin Oomed cycle twice now and it doesn't appear to be working.  <No. I don't think your problem is treatable in this way... don't think it's parasitic, but environmental...> The mandarin has also developed a couple of spots as well but seems to be by far in better shape. Unfortunately I do not have a quarantine tank.....what should I do next?? I've had the clown fish for over 5 years and really don't want to lose it. Thanks for any help. <I suggest the "standard" "drop back and punt" routine here of a succession of water changes, cleaning of filter gear, gravel vacuuming, and running a pound or so of activated carbon in your filter flow path... that and ceasing whatever "supplement" activity you're currently involved in... Bob Fenner> Chris

Contamination Problem Last week I wrote you stating I had a major problem with my system of not being able to keep my new stock for over 3 days. You stated that it might be a contamination problem or possible a lack of circulation. Well that same night I changed 20% of the water and vacuumed my substrate. I noticed a black film on some of the rock I had at the bottom of tank. It had a bad order to it (like sewage) and appeared to be almost painted on the rock. I thought this might be a lack of circulation like you suggested, so I ran out and got a power head to move my water around more aggressively and removed the questionable rock. Some days later I bought a flame angle, percula clown, and a yellow tang. All were doing very well for 4 days then I noticed that the angle and clown had slime coating or skin coming off of them looks like when you have sun burn and your skin peels). Then 1-2 days later I noticed some very small white spots on the tang, angle, and the clown. Looked like ich, so I added green x to the system. I have some live rock and inverts) <Argghhh, this material (Greenex( is very harsh... and you should have at least freshwater dipped the new fishes... Please read over the "Acclimation" and "Dips/Baths" sections of the Marine Index on our website: www.WetWebMedia.com> The next day the angle and clown died appears that no ich was on them only the dead skin that I described. I did another slight water change and stopped treatment . what is going on!!!! am I a victim of some sort of voodoo curse, or is everyone lying to me saying that a salt system is not that hard to keep??? please help. I had nothing but stress and loss of funds with my system.. your my only hope. <Please don't give up... let's let the system alone for a few weeks and chat over trying some other tacks (added lighting, more live rock) and some very hardy types of damsels to try again... Please also read over the "Toxic Tank Situations" section on the WWM site: Bob Fenner>

Help me!!!!!!!! marine aquarium problem  I have a 60gal. marine tank that has been set up for 2 months now. I have 2 Featherdusters, 40lbs. of live rock, sand bottom, 3 damsels, 1 percula clown. For filtration I have a canister filter (w/ BioChem stars, pads, carbon filtration), U.V sterilizer, and a protein skimmer. I have a triton bulb for lighting which is on for 11 hours daily. I do water changes every week by tap water threw a water purifier its for drinking) then add Amquel, reef crystals salt), and let sit for overnight while heating up with a heater. The problem is that I loose every fish I introduce into the system in about 3-5 days!!!! I lost 2 Kole, hippo, yellow tangs, x-mas wrass,2 percula clowns, pigmy, bi-color, and flame angels, lemon seed butterfly, fox face and probably others that I cant remember. The ph is 8.2-8.4 . Salinity is 1.022 . Temp is 78 . ammonia, nitrates, nitrites are always at 0 ( I test every 2 days). There seem to be no aggression with new or old tankmates. Am sure there is no poisonous display material in the tank because there is only liverock, fake coral, and some pieces of coral that were bought from a aquarium store and ran under water( hot and no detergents) before introducing. I tried many ways of introducing new fish including floating bag method, drip method, water swap method etc. Most of the fish that died looked very healthy and eating hours before death although, the Kole, hippo, and bi-color angel developed what looked like ick in 2 days after introducing then died 2 days later. All other fish just died after looking very healthy just days before. Please help!!!! I am very discouraged but want a marine system badly. Money and patients are running low.  <Something is very wrong here... could be simply a metal contaminant (check for a clamp, bit of metal in your substrate, a thermometer?...), maybe just a lack of oxygen!? Please see our website: www.WetWebMedia.com on the Marine Index, the sections on "Toxic Tank Situations", "Acclimation", "Circulation"... At any length, I strongly encourage you to pre-mix your new seawater per the protocol stored on the WWM site under "Using Seawater", to add a powerhead or two to increase circulation and aeration AND to add more lighting... to boost the metabolism/photosynthesis of your live rock organisms... We will find the root cause of your difficulty here and solve it. 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>

Mysterious deaths Hi! I have had a 55 gal. reef tank set up for over a year and the end of last month had all my fish die within a week. They were all just short of a year old. The first was my very large blue tang, he got kind of a "patchy" look to him and within a week was almost falling apart. Next came my neon Goby which went the same way, then my maroon clown. None of my corals or snails or crabs or shrimp have suffered. I also had a Firefish that has lasted thru the whole ordeal. I waited two weeks and did my normal 5% change twice, then added two percula clowns I had in another tank and within the week they did the same thing. My Firefish is still fine. I have not changed a single thing, not my feeding, not my lights, not my water change cycle, nothing. What could of gone wrong. My levels are all great, no ammonia, nitrates, nitrites, temp. is good, salt level is good, nothing has changed. How do I know what happened and how do I know when it will be safe to add more fish? Thank you so much for your help. Rene'e <Thank you for writing... two prominent possibilities loom here... considering what died, what didn't and the order of loss... Either some sort of dissolved oxygen limiting situation exists here, or an internal toxic one... Let me explain the reasoning behind my thesis. Larger, more active fishes perished first, and the new ones lost are in possession of a large gill surface area... Also, a microdesmid (Firefish) which lives in lower D.O. situations and in closer proximity to organisms which produce (naturally) toxic materials persists... At any length, if you'd like to pursue the "real, root cause" of your losses we can discuss the means of testing for this... But, I'm sure you'd rather focus on what can possibly be done to "solve" the cause of the problem... A few things might well help: a large water change, or series of same... Use of chemical filtrants (PolyFilter, activated carbon)... Placement of new live rock, Macroalgae... addition of mechanical aeration (an airstone, powerheads...)... addition of a UV sterilizer, ozonizer.... All these and a few other technologies might be employed to improve your water quality, increase gaseous exchange... Please read over the marine "Toxic Tank Conditions" section and associated FAQs posted on the site: www.WetWebMedia.com for more, and return to me for clarification, expansion on any of these ideas.  Bob Fenner>

Prime reef Have you ever heard of toxicity problems associated with Prime Reef flake foods? <Hmm, no...> Although I can hardly believe it, this food has killed in a spectacular fashion, many of my fish, mostly hawks. By spectacular I mean the fish immediately goes into convulsions, swimming wildly without control until dead a few seconds later. I also lost a Sailfin tang the same way. I've ruled out any other possibilities by water changes, salt mfg. changes and dechlorinator changes. These deaths occurred in different tanks at different times with only one thing in common, the food. All occurred immediately after consuming Prime Reef. If you have any corroborating information please let me know. Thanks. <This is my first exposure with any reports of this sort... have you contacted the manufacturer? Had your food sample tested by a lab? I would do both. Bob Fenner>

Re: potassium and prime reef Hello Bob. I wrote you earlier today describing the violent deaths of many of my fish immediately after they had eaten Prime Reef flake food. As I was reading the ingredient list on the can, I noticed at least two sources of potassium. I soften my water supply with potassium chloride salt to remove the calcium which carries an excessive amount of radium.  <Really? Fascinating...> Do you think it is possible that excess potassium in the aquarium water when combined with the food might have a toxic effect? <Quite a thesis... but no... not likely as far as anything I know...> Has anyone ever studied the effects of potassium on marine tropicals?  <Am very sure there are such studies... an essential nutrient... you could/will cause a stir with adding another "test" here...> Is the amount of potassium found in water softened with KCl dangerous to fish?  <If not dangerous to... than not likely to your livestock...> If you can offer any information I would really appreciate it . Thanks again. <I can only refer you to existing texts on "Fish Foods", encourage you to pursue a search of the scientific literature on toxicity of Potassium, its salts... on aquatic life... go see a college reference librarian with your query. They can/will help you with a computer search of existing knowledge. Bob Fenner>

Toxic Tank Hello Bob. I have a 55gal. marine aquarium which seems to be toxic to most species of fish. Most new arrivals die within a few days. The water tests perfectly ; no ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate. The pH is about 8.2, calcium about 350 and the alkalinity is about 4meq/l. I have a trickle filter, protein skimmer, and I run U.V.. The SG is about 1.021 at about 78 degrees. I also run a coil denitrator. I've heard that this type of unit can produce toxins. Is this true?  <Yes, a possibility... Would like to know what types of fishes tried, order, ease of death, appearances/behavior... but no, more important to press on, give suggestions/path for most likely chance of improvement... Have you tried changing all, as in 100% of the water out?... If this did not improve your survivability, I would look for evidence of outright poisoning... tramp metal (a clamp? thermometer?), soaps/detergents, even window cleaner getting into the system.... Is your water adequately aerated? No sign of oil film on the surface?... Perhaps the livestock themselves have been of poor initial quality? Maybe try some of the hardier Damsel species from another location this next time with the all-new water... relate back to me what happens > I would appreciate any information you can offer. Thanks. <And I do appreciate the opportunity to aid you in this endeavor. Bob Fenner>

Re: Aquarium Problems Bob (love your web site) Thank you for taking the time to consider my problems, and directing me to your web site for more information. I think the one thing I am guilty of is using the window cleaner on the glass. It has ammonia in it.  <Ah, yes... a very common cause of almost-instant poisoning of aquarium life...> That's about all I can figure, based on what I have learned from your section entitled "Toxic Water Situations". I have since purchased some glass cleaner made specifically for cleaning aquarium glass. <Good to read> I do have another question / problem. I have a Scolymia (sp) Coral in my tank. Over the weekend I purchased an Eibli Angelfish. He's very well acclimated in the tank now, but seems to like to occasionally nip at that particular coral. He doesn't bother any of the other corals in the tank at all. Is there any way of getting him to leave that coral alone?? <Perhaps by offering some more live rock, foods... Centropyges of all species do tend to pick on large polyp stony corals> Thanks again.... Pat Marren <Be chatting my friend. Bob Fenner>

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>

Dead Fish Bob  I have a 8 month old, 75 gallon reef/fish tank that consisted of 4' yellow Tang, False Percula, Clark's Eye, Potter Angel, Orange Chromis and a Royal Gramma. In addition, to this I also have an long tentacle anemone, 3 cleaner shrimp and a Coral banded. I run 2 Emperor 400 and a protein skimmer and 60lbs of live rock. I added 20lbs of live rock and within 4 to 5 days my nitrate went from 15 to 40 but everything else stayed at 0. And within 24hrs the Clarks Eye, Percula, Orange Chromis and all 3 cleaner shrimp died. I did a 10% water change the first day and then a 25% water change till the nitrate came back down and things stop dying. Do you have any idea as to why my organisms died? Thanks in advance Doug >> Two general possibilities... some sort of poisoning from 1) outside or 2) inside the system... the nitrate being a big clue. The "life" in your system (including the very real possibility of much of the uncured, or re-stabilizing live rock) started to die from whatever the initial cause was/is (a spray cleaner from outside, nicotine on some smoker's arm in the tank... a lack of oxygen in your system, overfeeding event, curing live rock...) and triggered the losses... Moving on to the more important question here (I can't bring back the dead... yet). "How to prevent such mortalities in the future"... Do consider placing some live macro-algae in your system to use up the nitrates... and adding an airstone to increase oxygen availability.... And possibly boosting your lighting to increase photosynthesis on your live rock (and the macro-algae)... that will accomplish both diminishing the nitrates (and other nutrients) and increasing gaseous exchange. Bob Fenner

Question Hi Bob. I have a problem that I hope you can help me with. I have a 55 gal. FO that has an ocellaris clown, a royal Gramma, a regal/hippo tang and a coral beauty dwarf angelfish. I had a Koran angelfish which stopped eating the foods I was offering about three weeks ago. <not good> I have a good growth of algae in the tank, so I just figured that it was grazing on that during the day. It also seemed to act a bit timid. About a week ago, I found it dead and shortly thereafter, the coral beauty stopped eating. <worse> It has also become very reclusive, only coming out of the rockwork when I feed the other fish, but never eating any of it. Twice a day I feed the fish a small portion of one of the following: marine flakes, freeze-dried krill, freeze-dried plankton, frozen brine shrimp, formula one, formula two, angel formula and dwarf angel formula. Each day I also put in either a small sheet of dried brown or green algae or a piece of a Spirulina tablet. <not your foods, feeding> Current water conditions are: SG--1.020, pH--8.3, KH--8 and a temp. of 76 degrees. I have plans of adding some cleaner organisms and live rock which would afford the fish an opportunity to graze more naturally, but I need to upgrade my lighting and filter systems first. Currently I have one-48" fluorescent tube which I plan to replace with 4-24" tubes, and an Eheim 2213 and a magnum 350 which I intend to either replace or augment with a sump and a protein skimmer. Do you think these will be appropriate for live rock, fish and a few cleaner invertebrates? <Definitely moves in the right direction... could make it three or four four footers... one an actinic... on timers> Can you think of anything that could be causing the loss of appetite in my fish? <Yes, likely poor water quality... the live rock, protein skimmer, lighting with the live rock will solve a great deal of this likely source of your problem> Even the royal Gramma is not eating as voraciously as usual. About a week before I noticed the problem I added some rocks and corals I got from my uncle who gave me his tank and all of his equipment because he was frustrated from fish loss. Could this have stressed out my fish?  <Doubtful> Could there be some contamination? I bleached and then thoroughly washed and dechlorinated most of it before placing it into my tank. I am at a complete loss. Is there anything you would suggest? Thank you. Jason Cashmore >> See the above... make a/the big water change, add the skimmer, live rock ASAP, and the lighting as you can. Bob Fenner

I have a 120 gallon tank with aquacultured live rock and live sand. It has been running for a year now. I am adding Kalkwasser and B-Ionic calcium, Selenium, and Iodine. But I seem to not be able to get the ph above 7.91. could you give me some advice to bringing up the ph? Also, I have never kept any fish for more than a month. They always seem to get "ick" and die, even though I treat with medicine. How can I prevent this? And, do you think that these problems are related?  >> I do think these circumstances are interrelated... It will take a few messages going back and forth between us to get close to the actual "reason" in particular... but all has to do with the pouring in of "supplements".... You've created a "Dead Sea" effect by using additives... a useful descriptor on two counts... no fish life can/will be supported by your present water quality... and the dissolved solids are no doubt off the scale... and being masked by your belief in the measure of specific gravity only evidencing salts content... What I would do is much simpler... DUMP the water out... entirely, while gravel vacuuming your system to throw away all the precipitate particulate material which has been/is your money in additives interacting with each other... Then... where should we begin? A basic (another entendre) lesson in calcium, alkalinity and pH... and how it is mis-managed by aquarists... to their livestock's' detriment and the "supplement" bizs' gain?  How to help you gain a sound understanding of these related phenomena...? What reference works do you have? Friends who are "reefers" as well? Ever considered "just" using a calcium reactor?... I would. Bob Fenner

Emergency Hey Bob I went to town to get some sea salt and distilled water and the smell went away.? The smell may have lasted a couple of hours. But that is it all gone. Strange huh. Maybe it has something to do with the undergravel filter. Maybe kind of a burp or something. All inhabitants are doing fine. Even stuck my nose to the water, nose smell. Wetted a paper towel with the water. No more smell. Not even the slight algae smell. The smell was there my wife even smelled it. It started kinda suddenly and stopped by the time we got home. What thoughts do you have here on this? Maybe a stinky burp from the undergravel??? >> The root cause of the anaerobic glycolysis is still in your system... and will be back... I would still do the water change, gravel vacuuming... next time your livestock may all go... Bob Fenner

Re: figured it out emergency I figured out what was causing the problem. The pump I have running the UV sterilizer has quit. Goes off and on when it is ready to. replacing the pump this afternoon. apparently the bad stuff came up out of the U.V into the tank earlier this morning. disconnected it and euw what a smell came out of it. I only run the sterilizer light about twice a week. because of raising the water temp. But usually leave the pump running. The reason I haven't notice the pump not working is because of all the other powerheads pretty much cover up that water flow. Thanks again for the help. Kevin Johnson <Ah, what a relief... good to know. Bob Fenner

Air bubbles I have a 300 gal. marine tank and have live rock and a sand base . I continually have air bubbles , mostly small ones , rise to the surface off the rock and sand. Is this normal or is there something going on in the sand that should be of concern? At one time I had a plenum but have since removed it as I believed it was becoming polluted and noxious gasses were being released from it. Tank is now better but still have these bubbles and am wondering if the sand could have absorbed something from the plenum and is now releasing it into the water. Tank life is generally good but not as great as I think it should be and am looking for reason. Thanks, Jerry Hines >> Interesting... and I agree with you... I'd be concerned to find air bubbles issuing from the sand bed... some sort of biological reactions going on there... and probably not of benefit... What to do? I would begin a regular campaign of gravel vacuuming the bed... a bit each water change/maintenance time... to remove some of the life, some of the food there.  Bubbles from the rock? Could be just exuberant photosynthesis... and I wouldn't worry about this... as free carbonates, other matter become rate-limiting, the bubbling will tone down... BTW, many brightly lit public aquarium reef set-ups have copious rock-bubbling action. Bob Fenner

Re: air bubbles Bob, hate to bother you again, but forgot to add one thing, the bubbles start in the morning when the lights come on and by lights end there are many bubbles being released and still on the rock. In the mornings when I look closely at the tank before the lights come on all the bubbles are gone. I have 10,000k metal halide, 4 of them, and the blue actinic fluorescents, 4 also. they run about 12 hours per day for fluorescents and 10 for the halides. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you , Jerry <No problems... and my opinions the same... some sort of biological reactions producing the gasses) at both sites... and I would still gently and generally vacuum the substrate, a bit each water change time, and leave the rock alone. Bob Fenner>

Lost all my fish I have a 150 tank for about 6 months with fish and live rocks along with a Lifereef wet dry and protein skimmer. Recently I purchased some live rocks from a pet store that was closing, that is when my problem started. MY fishes started to die one by one. No apparent symptom except before they expires completely there are a white film that develop on their body. Do I need to tear down my tank or is there something else I can do before adding new fish? Water quality is good, 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 0 nitrate. I'm suspecting a bacterial infection, can I add antibiotic without harming my live rocks. >> This is very bad news... and I would take the system down... at least to the point of emptying all the water out, refilling it with just freshwater... (yes, and hence killing off a bunch of the organisms that are live rock, live sand)... for a day, and then refilling it with pre-made seawater... Whatever the real cause of your "toxic tank syndrome" (biological, disease, rot from the new live rock...), this is about the only approach I'd consider...  Alternatively, and if the above doesn't work, I would consider "nuking" the present set up (with bleach... cleaning the whole thing out, using the present "live" rock as base... and placing some new on top of it... Bob "bearer of bad but useful news" Fenner

Re: problem with reef  I bought the flower pot a month ago and it died within 24 hours and 2 days ago I bought the anchor and 2inch maxima and as soon as I put the anchor coral in my tank a white secretion came out of it and I just bought the protein skimmer 2 days ago along with the coral and clam thanks  David  P.S what can I do to make this tank better  >> Time... and timing... The Goniopora (Flower Pot Coral)) no doubt poisoned the next couple of animals... and you're dollar foolish and late with the skimmer... Wait, read, have patience... take a gander at the materials stored on my website... www.wetwebmedia.com... for insights into system set-up, livestock selection... environmental disease, toxic tank conditions...  Bob Fenner

Unexplained Fish Deaths? Bob, I think I have some unexplained fish deaths. This is a new tank but I'm not too sure the deaths are related to cycle. I set up a 20g with R/O water, crushed shell substrate, one pc of live rock, two Damsels, a Penguin power filter, and a power head. I didn't even test the first week, but for the following three weeks everything tested zero.  <Maybe the system cycled... maybe not...> After week four I added another live rock, some snails and hermits and within 48 hrs both Damsels were dead. <Might be the original non-cycle period... or an easily understood "recycling" event from the new tank, new piece of live rock> Even though everything tested zero I chalked this up as tank cycle. The following week I added another live rock that had a Purple Anemone attached to it.  <Not a good move... I'm sure we're going to come to understand... Anemones are sometimes used this way... generally die, pollute, poison the water... necessitating complete breakdowns> Everything still tested zero at week six so I started the protein skimmer added yet another live rock and a Tomato Clown that has now died within 48 hrs. I tested the water and the Ammonia is at .25 and Nitrite .25 everything else seems o.k.  <Except the dead and dying livestock, and organisms in/on the live rock...> I just can't believe this would be enough to kill the clown.  <Easily> The damsels died with everything at zero  <Everything you could measure... attention is narrowed perception my friend> so I'm wondering if something else could be going on. Could that rock at week four have carried along some kind of parasite that has killed all these fish? <Doubtful> If so how would I find out without the sacrifice of another fish? <No need to do this either... Very likely the following scenario is what happened, is happening... With the introduction of successive "pieces" of live rock in a new, highly unstable system, subsequent "cycling's" are occurring with some of the rock's inhabitants contributing some toxic products... Just "wait" a good three, four weeks w/o putting in any more "pieces" and all will/should be fine> Thanks for you help, John  <You're welcome. Bob Fenner> 

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