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FAQs about Toxic Water Conditions: Troubleshooting & Fixing, Case-Histories

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

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

Mmm, large/stable enough volume, adequate set-up, maintenance, feeding. Careful species and specimen selection, quarantine/isolation... When/where in doubt, moving all livestock, or barring this possibility, large water change/s, use of chemical filtrants.

Re: Disease identification – 07/26/12
<Hi Tom>
Thank you again for you expeditious response.  I hear you on the length of the Formalin baths and agree that the duration I have been using might be on the high side, especially for some of the more sensitive wrasses but for years this has been my SOP and I have yet to experience what has taken place over the last several weeks.
<Mmm, well... I have done such dips... many thousands of times commercially... Can be highly detrimental... depending on the species, size, condition of the fish specimens>
 After reading your replies, this whole thing really got me started on reading up and surfing for hours on what I may be overlooking. I think I have stumbled onto something that in the next day or two will rear its ugly head.  These symptoms demonstrated by the fish were classic telltale signs of high ammonia.
<Ah yes... and coupled w/ the jump from low to higher pH, going from shipping to dipping water, deadly>
 Given the fact I was doing weekly or sometimes daily 20% - 25% water changes, each of the HOB filters have bio wheels and the sponge filters were fully seeded and rated for triple the water volume of each tank, I never really gave ammonia a consideration figuring it has to be some type of parasite or disease
<Not likely here; no>
With these acclimation/qt tanks I have always relied on the SeaChem ammonia alert badges to give me a quick visual on ammonia readings. 
<I really like the SeaChem company, the owner, his expired father, the present staff I've had the opportunity to interact w/ these past several years... and MOST all their products... but I discontinued their "Alerts" as a/the buyer for Petco in the early nineties. NOT reliable unfortunately>
The badges in these top two tanks are about 6 months old give or take. (SeaChem claims that they can last up to a year) as a result, I very rarely used a test kit except for an old API kit I purchased a couple of years ago.  Having said that, I went out and purchased a new ammonia kit made by Elos and tested each of the tanks.  All four tanks had readings between .25 and .50 so now I can only assume that the SeaChem badges didn't indicate the levels being as high as they were was probably due to their age and the API kit had long expired but now I had to figure out why my ammonia levels are so high in continuously running, cycled tanks and I think the answer was right there in front of me the whole time.   CATS LITTER BOX!!!!  Moved it into the room just before the 4th of July weekend

It sits on the floor approximately 3-feet away from the 4 tanks which are on a dual level stand. Although the litter box is cleaned every couple of days, cat urine has a very concentrated level of ammonia.  The tanks have glass canopies over them for wrasse protection and air pumps and air stones running in each along with the HOB filters and these two things combined are probably piping in ammonia.
<Could well be>
  Last night I filled a small bucket with RO/DI water and tested it for ammonia, it had a reading of zero.  I placed it next to the tanks and have an air stone inside the bucket running off one of  the current air pumps used on the tanks.  I am going to take a reading tonight and again tomorrow night to see if there is such a thing as airborne cat ammonia contaminating a tank.
<Please do write back re your observation/s>
 I know you have to be very careful with
Windex if you spray it too close to a fish tank so I'm thinking this could also be a possibility.
<Ah yes. Thank you, BobF>

Stupid mistake!!!!!   7/1/11
Hi crew...
So I'm in a bit of a panic! I bought a ph/Alk test kit from API. The company also included a small bottle of buffer. I thought I'd give the buffer a try. The problem is I accidentally grabbed the bottle of ph test and added 15 drops that to my 15 gallons of top off water and worse I also added 10 drops to my 10 gallons of water change water that I dumped in. I have about 90 gallons of water in the system and everything seems ok at the moment but I'm not sure what to do. The ph solution is bromothymol blue witch <which> seems to be alcohol based. Should I do massive water changes or have I just served my fish their first cocktail.
<Don't panic! Shades of HH Guide to the Universe! No problem here>
Stupid in Massachusetts
<Bob Fenner, backward in S. Cal.>
Re: Stupid mistake!!!!!   7/1/11

Thanks much Bob. I owe you one.
<Oooh, I do so hope you can pay in beer equivalents! Cheers, BobF>

Sudden deaths of clown and shrimp AND crab after epoxy use and water change 04/07/2008 Hi, and thanks a million for all the info you provide. I couldn't find my specific situation answered, so I apologize if I overlooked it. <<Hello, Andrew today>> Yesterday, I used some reef-safe epoxy to glue a couple of pieces of LR together. I have star polyps that don't appreciate it when the snails knock over their little piece of real estate. At that time, I also did a 25% water change (using PUR filtered tap H2O with AmQuel). <<I would suggest that you buy yourself an RO (Reverse Osmosis) unit or an RO/DI (Reverse Osmosis and Deionizer). This water from this device will be far better for you>> I'm using oceanic salt and have been since I started the tank about 7 weeks ago; the parameters in re: sp grav, temp were the same as the tank. <<ok>> I have 12 g nano cube. Water parameters are: sp grav 1.025, pH 8.2, temp 78, Ca 480 ppm, dKH 13, nitrate/nitrite/ammonia/phosphate 0. Everything is stable and has been. 16 days ago (one day outside of the livestock guarantee, curses!) I purchased 2 false percula clowns, and a cleaner shrimp. Everyone's been fine, eating, swimming, cleaning, et cetera. I realize this is quite a few creatures, that "must spend 79 dollars" to ship clause got me, I'm afraid. In addition to the sick guys, I have about a dozen snails (Turbos and Nassarius I think) as well as about a half dozen smaller hermit crabs and one bigger red-legged one. He just molted yesterday also. <<Ok>> Last night, I walked by the tank about 5 hrs after the water change and noticed one of the (smaller) clowns on the bottom of the tank, gasping. He was still swimming a bit and jerking initially, almost vibrating. The other clown was at the top near the air/water interface. The shrimp was sitting still on a rock, not moving his legs around like he usually does. <<Hmmmmm.. ok>> Well, this morning, you guessed it: dead. The other clown is now at the bottom of the tank, and one of my crabs is also dead (a porcelain crab). <<Really does sound to me like poisoning of some sort>> Does the "reef-safe" and "non-toxic to fish" epoxy have something to do with this? <<Have used plenty brands myself, and never had a reaction from it>> Or do I truly need to get some sort of R/O water? It's just crazy that they all became distressed and died so suddenly when the only difference as far as I can tell was the epoxy. <<My suggestion is to change the water, over to RO, stop using Amquel as i feel this can have an adverse reaction to the pH in a marine aquarium>> Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it. Tina Kinsley <<Thanks for the questions Tina, hope this helps. A Nixon>>

Surface poking, DO, reading Hi Crew, <Steven> I have a Fiji Bicolor Rabbitfish, Orange shoulder Tang, Chevron Tang, and Imperator Angel that on occasion swim to the top of the water surface and poke the water, <...?> the Rabbitfish more than others but all do it sometimes. <Dissolved oxygen issue...> I have more than the recommended circulation between power heads, and main pump flow -- according the recommendations on this site. I also have an oversized protein skimmer and wet dry sump. <Perhaps coupled with high nitrate, other issues> I also see lots of ripple from the pump discharges at opposite sides of the tank. I have not tested for oxygen levels in the water, but I can't imagine that they are gasping for air. Could this be just habit and something they do in the wild? Or even with all of the flow / circulation I have should I check oxygen levels. <The latter> I have a 275 gallon tank with (4) Seio 800 gph rated flow plus the main pump in the wet dry. Your input is greatly appreciated. Steven <Perhaps a surface film... Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/d_o_faqsmarine.htm Bob Fenner>

Heavy metal poisoning, too much heavy metal music?    2/24/08 Dear Crew I have had a few problems. Last summer my ozone probe went bad, I guess and the ozone level climbed too high and wiped out everything but a few fish. <Really?... How did you figure this?> I had a 500 gallon reef tank for the past 2.5 years. I gradually replaced some soft coral (colt coral and spaghetti leathers), then one day they closed up and eventually withered away. <...?> I checked the water parameters, and all was fine (ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, sp. gravity, temp, Alk, pH and etc). <...> I noticed that one of my pumps was not working in the sump and pulled it out and some rusty colored water drained out of it, however there was a backflow valve hooked up to it, so I'm guessing none of that water leaked out until I pulled it out. The fish are fine, but the only coral that is still kicking is a Porites (this one also survived the ozone surge and the nitrogen cycle). The green hair algae has died as well, but the Cyanobacteria is still flourishing. Did this pump foul things up? <Can't say from the data presented...> There is no ozone running and water parameters are fine. I have placed a poly filter in my sump, hoping to get rid of something. Thanks l.splitter <... You have a RedOx meter? Ferrous test kit? Color on the PolyFilter? Your message makes little sense to me... Bob Fenner>

Broken heater & resulting contamination 2/1/07 <Hi, David. GrahamT with you tonight.> Hello, I just did my weekly water change and realized after I poured the new water in that my heater had broken inside the bucket. <Uh-oh!> I quickly stopped before the brown cloud at the bottom of the bucket poured in. <I would be willing to bet that any of the water was fouled.> Within an hour EVERY coral closed up. <Not at all surprised. Who knows what exactly is in there...> (not the way I see my corals normally close after a water change) I'm not sure what could have been in my heater to contaminate the tank. All the fish seem fine but the Zoanthids and leathers and Heliofungia looked terrible. I quickly made another 10% water change and replaced the carbon after reading WWM. <Would think something along the lines of 75% or more would be on the menu here.> Funny I found the same thing happened to another aquarist only they were smart enough not to use the water in the bucket. DOH! <Relax, it only means they looked in the bucket a little closer than yourself. Can't beat yourself up...> I learned during that research trip that we shouldn't worry about the innards of a thermometer these days but what about the insides of a heater? <That is what you need to act on, IMO. Not sure how much/how fast carbon will remove the chemicals here, but would help to do a LARGE water change.> I'm really going to sound stupid when I say this explains why the breaker in my son's weight room was popping. < "It popped AGAIN?!?" I can see you now. ;) > I'm wondering if the electricity that was probably charging the water before I caught it could have done something more to the water than just the heater parts leaching. <I can't answer that question, though I suspect not. I think your main problem would be the electronic components/circuitry that went supernova with your water as it's "atmosphere" to absorb the toxins. You must be able to picture (through experience or my imagery) an electronic device smoking as it burns up? That foul-smelling smoke is burnt resin, epoxy, rubber, plastics etc. Each heater has their own makeup, but many are made with more than just a coil and tension-style temperature control. These models have semi-complex regulating circuits built-in that would provide the fuel for some nasty toxins in your water if burnt... but I digress. Whether you have toxins or not, or some odd chemical transformation from the prolonged exposure to current is mott at this point. You are well-served to perform as massive a water change as you are equipped to do.> I guess a lil time will tell now what is to happen. -GrahamT>
David Conway
Re: Broken heater & resulting contamination (Good news!) 2/5/07 Hi Graham, <Mmmyello!> You asked me to let you know how things turned out so here's an update. <Thank you, I relish the opportunity to hear back from posters. More so when they have good news!> I've provided pics so you can see why I freaked out. <Got'em (Yes, they are a little uncompressed, thusly, large for our server, but within reason...) but I don't see a major reason for concern, except for the appearance of the Sarco. with what seems to be algae(?) growing on it.> I had already done the second 10% water change after the mishap (5 gallons), never told you its a 50 G tank with 75-90 lbs LR. So after receiving your reply that evening, (Thursday) my wife insisted we listen and use the rest of our instant ocean up. We did a 14 gallon change. <Anything to diffuse!> Today I have done another 10%. Over the last few days my zoos have opened just little my small Sarco frag has opened to its former self so no new pic of that. My larger Sarco has remained the same and algae has begun to take over. I have had it for two months and never saw it to its shed thing so today when I saw a small amount of the algae peeling off :) :)  I pray it just decided to do it coincidentally with my heater #%$* up. Time still will tell I guess. <Sometimes we just cross fingers after "events" such as these...> My plate coral became a bumpy ball after the poison but as you can see in the pic it seems ok. <With the clown?> I'm so pissed <Soapy mouth!> at myself for my own brain-fart. I've read lots about how Sarcos can close up for a month with no worry. I hope I'm in the same boat as the other posts I have read. I'll let you know if I see something disintegrate.   Thanks  Dave   P.S. let me know if the pics I've sent need resizing in the future. <I think you are in a good place, here. In the future, if you can use a photo-editor to compress each of the pix to 300k or less (I often compress to 100k) our server will be better-off. Thanks for the reply! -GrahamT>
Broken heater & resulting contamination (Good news! pt.2) 2/11/07 Yet another update Graham, <Keep up the good work!> Well it was 8 days and two letters to and from WWM, I could stand the algae growing on my Sarco no more !! Every other coral is back to normal.  I took a toothbrush to the awful looking guy. I softly scrubbed away what I thought looked like it was peeling off. <Good idea! (Hope you got behind the molars, too...)> My Leather coral will be dead soon anyway I told myself. Next day I woke up to this!! (new pic attached) Now two days have past since, and it looks the same. <Incredible! That looks much better! You made the right decision, it seems. I suppose that will go in my repertoire of possible solutions to algae-dominated Sarcophyton..> I'm hoping for polyps to appear, waiting,. watching....oh yeah I did mean the plate coral with the clown. He looked like a little bumpy pin cushion before, but here's a new pic since it recovered from the poison. Thanks for the help is a given <Thanks for the feedback, Dave! I'm happy your problem was repaired with such success. -GrahamT>

30 Gallon Hex, As In Curse - 01/01/2006 Hi, <Hi Debbie.> I have had my 30 gallon hex for about two years. I have had various types of fish, starfish etc, but have never had any luck with it. I only have had 2-3 fish at a time, but they never seem to last very long. <Uh...wow.> My starfish even passed recently after having him for a year and a half. The last straw was yesterday, when my two tomato clowns, who have been eating ferociously on a daily basis for 6 months, just died together, after I changed the filter, and clean the glass. <Clean the glass? This doesn't happen to involve some type of household product does it (Windex or the like)?> About an hour later, I was just about to do a water change (which I do every two weeks), and noticed that they were both laying on their sides, and within an hour died. Something dramatic must of happened, and I do not know what. <Seems "something dramatic" has never stopped happening.> I did nothing different. <Then something that has plagued your tank must be through your own introduction.> I am terribly disappointed, since they appear so healthy, and then within a few hours died. Now all I have left is a hermit crab. I have live rock and a snail that is still alive, that came with the rock two years ago. I am ready to give up and switch to freshwater. I know now that it was a mistake getting this type of tank, not only because of the size, but the shape as well. Not the best for saltwater. For now, I want to keep my hex. <I read a book called Thinner once...He decided to keep his too.> Do you think that it is a good idea to switch to freshwater, considering the size of my tank. <That's up to you. I think that you are doing something to create toxic conditions here without knowing it. Cleaners used on/around the tank. Something releasing chemicals...> I was also told that seahorses may be an alternative. <This didn't come from someone who would be "happy to sell them to you" did it?!> That they do well in a tall tank. How many would I be able to keep in a tank this size, and how hardy are they? <True they do well in tall tanks, but should only be kept by experienced (as in very) aquarists. Hardy?  I can assure you this is not worth considering.> I just don't know what to do. I am so frustrated. <Understandable. Review your procedure...something is wreaking havoc on your tank. For this to be so long standing, I'm near positive it's self-inflicted.> Debbie <Other questions: Are you testing/recording water parameters? Cleaning around the house prior to putting your hands in the tank? Buying stock from one source? Was this tank bought used? Hope things do improve. - Josh>

Re: 30 Gallon Hex, As In Curse - 01/02/2006 Hi, thanks for your quick response. <Hello Debbie, glad to help.> I do not use cleaners around my tank. <Good to hear. One down...> But maybe it has something to do with my hands or arms, lotions, etc. <Very good possibility.> However, I did not use any that morning, but may there was a trace from the other day, or soap that wasn't rinsed off. <This is beginning to seem less likely a/the cause.> Who knows. <Nope. I started this crew as a who and I'm not really sure here.> How does one clean their arms thoroughly. Do you rinse them with water, before you dip into tank. <I refuse to clean anything prior to my tank (planned ahead). Then I wash from mid-bicep to finger tips with the hottest water I can stand and dry with a towel "for aquarium use only" so as to avoid detergents. Arm length gloves only used for the tank would be best. That said, I believe your problem is likely elsewhere. Where do you store your filter cartridges? Water quality testing as I asked earlier? Used tank? Second hand live rock? What is your source water and its parameters or content? Does your tank have a "rotten egg" smell? How is your water being circulated? If you kneel next to your tank and look up through the water, is there a film or sheen across the surface? Do some sleuthing here and it may reveal something.> You obviously cannot use soap. <Correct. It's possible there is a toxin of some sort in/on the tank from a long time ago. You may just need to break the system down and bleach the tank out. Start over from scratch. Do consider the questions I've posed, but if these reveal nothing, I'd start over.> Debbie <Good luck friend. - Josh>

Re: 30 Gallon Hex, As In Curse - 01/02/2006 Thanks again for your quick response. <Quite welcome. I only wish it was of more use.> To answer some of your questions. The tank was brand new, when I got it two years ago. The live rock came from a very reputable aquarium. <Shop or actual tank?> There is no rotten egg smell and no film on top of water. I keep my filters under the fish tank (cabinet) in the box I bought it in. My water parameters are all fine. And when I have had them double checked at the store, they were fine as well. <I'm about out of ideas but have a couple left. Contact you local health department, they should be able to tell you where you can get a full work up of your source water (I'd bring in one source sample, one tank sample). Covers absolutely everything, not just standard hobby param.s. Should be free of charge also.> So beats me what the problem is. <I'm sorry I wasn't able to help here. On a long shot...Gas heat by chance? Polluted air filters?> I think if I break down the tank, I will switch to freshwater, until I have room for a much larger tank. Thanks for the tip about how you wash your hands. That will be helpful, even if I switch to freshwater. Debbie <Best of luck to you Debbie. - Josh> Re: 30 Gallon Hex, As In Curse - 01/02/2006 Thanks for all your input. <Glad to offer it.> I may decide to have my water checked again. We do have well water, and I thought that might have been the problem in the past. Last year, there was a funny smell coming out of our faucets when we used the water.  It smelled like gas or sewage. The health dept. came and took water samples, but they showed nothing unusual. It went on for quite a few months.  We no longer have the smell.  And we never found out what it was.  We drink our water, but also drink a lot of bottled water that is distilled. <Hmm...Well water is definitely a possibility here. They may not have found anything "unusual" but that doesn't help you. The list of acceptable chemical concentrations from regular tap water is quite disturbing (contraceptives, chlorine, pesticides, Etc.). I would have this rechecked and ask for a specific list of the water contents.> We also have a gas heater, but it is fairly new, and we change the filters regularly. <Another possibility. The gas could be releasing otherwise nontoxic emissions. May not be bad for us, but for aquatic life...Here's an idea. Go to your LFS and buy some PolyFilter (don't let them give you anything else). If you're not familiar with it, it is a small (maybe 4"x6"), compact, white sponge/block. Cut this to fit into your filter and let it run for a while (may take a week but doubtful). This pad will actually change color according to what it is removing from your water. This should tell you exactly what doesn't belong.> Debbie <Don't give up the fight. - Josh> Re: 30 Gallon Hex, As In Curse - 01/02/2006 I forgot one more question. <Shoot.> When you say to break the tank down and bleach. Do you mean you have to replace the live rock and bio wheel as well? And what do I do with the old rock.  There are some living creatures on it, like a snail and some feather dusters. <If it comes to this, I would normally assume all was tainted. However, these sensitive creatures are usually the first to go in toxic conditions. Their survival is a bit puzzling but I'm leaning toward the gas here. Perhaps the difference in respiration methods have made the difference. Let's see what that PolyFilter turns up.> Debbie <Josh>

Paralyzed fish after Intro... No quarantine  - 01/03/2006 Hello, Bob I have a question about fish seeming to become paralyzed a time after intro to the main aquarium. I have purchased from LFS fish which seem fine in the store, eat, flinch at shadows.. etc.) I bring them home, acclimate with slow drip for several hours, seem fine in quarantine tank. <Okay> However, when introduced to main tank seem to become paralyzed from tail to head over a couple of hours. <Something amiss here... chemically... perhaps a toxin... or just low dissolved oxygen, specimens with low hematocrits...> They eventually lay on the bottom with body arched, pec fins still seem to work, breathing is labored. Other tank mates remain just fine... <They've become (classically) habituated> no problems in behavior are noted sometimes for up to 24 - 48 hours. Other species from the LFS seem to acclimate just fine, this problem is most noted with pygmy angelfish (bicolor, flame) and some types of tangs,... blue and a few clownfish.... mostly here related to false clown (Amp. Ocellaris). from same source: Petland. Please note: I recently bought 2, one died as above has been alive for approx. 4 days doing just fine. They were acclimated at the same time and container. If you have any insight into this I would really like to know what is going on. Thank you <I would use a quarantine procedure... leave new purchases in a separate system for a good two-four weeks, adding water from the main system over time... Bob Fenner> Motor Failure/Unfortunate Consequences - 02/16/06 Bob, <<EricR here>> I find your page very useful.  This is so strange that I can find little information about it. <<Ok>> Reference info: 75 gallon reef tank with 20 gallon custom refugium (inverse lighted) and 400 watts of PC and a LOT of premium live rock.  Yesterday afternoon (Valentine's Day), my wife called me at work and told me that something around tank stunk (burning smell) and was making a weird noise. <<Never good news.>> I suspected a motor failure or something similar. <<Does sound as if...>> She disconnected all the pumps.  The circulation was off for maybe 2 hours at most which has never been a problem in the past. <<Agreed, most systems would/should be able to tolerate this unless grossly overstocked.>> When I got home, after picking up flowers obviously, <<obviously>> I diagnosed the problem and found that the skimmer motor had indeed failed.  I removed it and got the main pump going along with 3 layers of carbon filter sheet in the drip tray.  I then did a head count and found that several fishes were missing/hiding.  It was then that I noticed a lot of dead critters being circulated by the main recirculation pump from the refugium. <<Mmm...maybe poisoning or electrocution as a result of a "catastrophic" motor failure.>> I call them sand fleas, but not exactly sure what they are, some sort of shrimp. <<Likely they are amphipods.>> I then smelled it, the water smelled just like a burnt transformer.  I pulled all the rock and transferred what fish I could find alive to my 55 gallon tank. <<Good move>> They were all pretty sick.  Lost my flame hawk and my sea urchin. All seven of the transferred fish that I found lived thankfully.  I got them just in time.  I then did a 40 gallon water change on the main tank, got the skimmer running, and replaced the live rock, or at least what was alive at some point previously (no room in the 55 gallon tank for any additional live rock). <<Ok>> The live rock appears to be dead rock now.  I am sure the motor polluted the tank with motor resin and possibly exposed it to some copper if it breached into the motor windings. <<I don't think any copper exposure would have been long enough to have much of an impact here.  More likely a substance within the motor housing (maybe a petroleum based lubricant) poisoned the tank.>> My wife watched for any activity throughout the night.  That is one of her favorite things to do.  She has seen some critters I have never seen like a worm that can stretch completely across the tank, and she says it happens nightly like clockwork. Nothing tonight!  The live rock has been nuked. <<Maybe not everything...likely some "survivors" will turn up.>> What is my next move? <<Large water changes...observation...monitoring of water quality.>> It's obvious the tank is going to cycle again due to the kill. <<Maybe...but the bacteria may not have been as malaffected as the macro-life.  Monitoring ammonia/nitrite/nitrate will tell.>> The water still smells slightly smoky.  I can do another major water change, or drain it completely. <<I would do a series of very large water changes, a couple days apart each, and then reevaluate.>> Other than purchasing new live rock, how do I get all those critters back or introduced into the system? <<Exchange a percentage (25-50) of the rock for "new" rock.>> Can a critter kit be purchased? <<Sure can, several e-tailors offer these.  Try a Google search re "detritivore kit".>> Any other hints other than starting from scratch? <<Can say for sure, but I don't think you'll have to "start from scratch".>> This tank was so perfect and eco-balanced, I wish my 55 gallon was half as perfect. <<Indeed, an unfortunate turn of events.>> Thanks for your time in advance, Dave M. <<Regards, EricR>>

Fish loss/poisoning  - 02/16/2006 A terrible thing happened after I had done the usual water change in my 180 gal. marine tank ( not a reef, no invertebrates). I usually change about 30 gallons every week to ten days, and I've had the tank for over a year with very few  fish losses. I have a 50 gallon sump tank which I do the water change through after turning off the pump to the main tank and then doing the r/o water transfer from a brine tank to the sump. I also have a protein skimmer.     While I was waiting for the water to heat up in the sump before pumping up to the main tank, I turned the protein skimmer on and a lot of very tiny bubbles cycled back through the skimmer ( it is an outside mounted unit with only the power head and the run-off tray inside the tank) and back into the tank. It had never done this before. In fact, it usually just pumps clear water back through the run-off tray. Shortly after I turned it on, my goby started swimming around erratically and acting disoriented. A few minutes later some of the other fish were out and swimming around in the dimly lit tank unlike they normally would do. I left the room thinking that I may have just disturbed their waking and sleeping cycle as I did the change while the lights were still on in the tank. Most of the time I do the water changes and cleaning after the main lights go off in the tank. About an hour later I went back into the room and three good sized Chromis were all dead, a Picasso trigger, a domino damsel and a large mono had all died ( I have had these fish almost a year ). The only one left was a good sized lionfish and two hermit crabs. The lionfish had stressed breathing but was still moving a little. I turned the protein skimmer back on and it did the same thing again as earlier. Doing this seemed to disturb the lionfish and I turned it off again. Within a few after turning it off the lionfish squeezed through an opening in some of the liverock and died a couple minutes later. That was my whole fish population. I am thinking it may have had something to do with the skimmer. However, I am not ruling out possible contamination from something else. I would like to know if you have ever heard of anything like this and if so, what may have been the cause in that particular case? <Bill, it sure sounds like some nasty chemical got into the system, ammonia, chlorine, window sprays, etc.  I'd get some ChemiPure or a Poly Filter into the system, fast.  James (Salty Dog)>  

Fish deaths  - 03/09/2006 Hello WWM Crew, First I love your sight.  I have spent countless hours and nights browsing the articles and FAQs.   I have been in the saltwater hobby just a year now with my current tank.  The tank was 120 Gal. until two days ago.  I just made a 48 Gal. sump out of Plexi and added a new ASM G3 skimmer with 2- 1200GPH Overflows. The whole system is being powered by a Dolphin 3600GPH Pump.  This is when my problem started.  Almost 24 hours after starting up the sump my Fireback angel was found on the bottom of the tank being devoured by my crabs.  With further inspection all of the fish were breathing rapidly.  I checked the water levels and everything seemed to be fine (Salinity-1.026, PH-8.2, Ammonia-0, Nitrite-0, Nitrate-0, Po4-0).  I just don't see how Oxygen could be the problem due upgrading to a G3 from a Jebo skimmer.  The water flow into the sump alone is also producing more aeration than I have ever had in the tank.  Next thought was the glues from the construction causing some kind of poisoning?  I used Cristy's Hot Blue PVC Cement for the pipes, and Weld-On 40 and aquarium grade silicone for the acrylic.  All glues cured for more than the recommended time before startup.  I added about 3 cups of activated charcoal, just grasping at anything.  I called my LFS, they were stumped, said all I could do is wait it out.  Today(12 hours later) my beloved Mandarin died (my first fish).  During all of this my Leathers, Mushrooms, Polyps, and Gorgonians were all open and seemed to be feeding.  All of the other inhabitants (Crabs, Snails, Cleaners, Peppermints, Clam, Brittles and tube worms) seemed to be fine as well.  Any Ideas?  The water added to the sump was all RO and sat for 24 hours with buffer added. Setup: Approximately 170 Gal. with the sump, 4"-5" sand bed on top of a Plenum filter, 80-100 LB live rock, and Corallife halide hood setup. Thanks for what you do, and any suggestions or help you have before my Blennies die would mean a lot. <I'd definitely have to say there is a chemical used in one of the products you mentioned that certainly doesn't agree with the fish.  I'd get some PolyFilters in there fast.  James (Salty Dog)> Aaron

Re: Fish deaths   3/10/06 James, Thanks for the help.  This morning while emptying my skimmer cup I found the problem.  The waste water smelled like rubber.  I had used a 1 1/2" black rubber hose about a foot long for connecting my return line.  I searched your sight and found that the rubber could be toxic.  I already replaced it with a vinyl hose, and the fish seem to be doing better now.  Thanks  again for the help and your Patience.  <Good to hear, Aaron.  James (Salty Dog)> Aaron

Tank of Doom...... Hi Bob, <Dede> I have just discovered your website and have already gleaned a lot of useful information from it. I hope you can help me as I appear to have created a monster! It is an aquarium which seems to kill everything I introduce to it. Here are some details:   a.. 200 litre / 44 Gallons   b.. Rena XP3 Canister filter (Various Media including 3 packs of PolyFilter, 1 pack of Activated Charcoal) {I have checked the flow rate ~ 200GpH}   c.. Red Sea Prism Protein Skimmer   d.. Oscillating Powerhead   e.. Large 25 watt UV Sterilizer   f.. 3 Fluoro Tubes:   g.. 40W Marine Glo   h.. 40W Life Glo   i.. 40W Power Glo   j.. Nitrite          0ppm   k.. Nitrate         20ppm   l.. Ammonia     0ppm   m.. pH               8.2   n.. Phosphate   0.2ppm   o.. Calcium       400ppm   p.. Salinity        1.023 SG   q.. Temp           26 Celsius   r.. 20Kg Tufa, 10 Kilo Live Rock   s.. Coralline Substrate <Okay> And here's the Livestock (Past & Present, Over the past 20 months)   a.. 2 Yellow Tangs (1 deceased)   b.. 3 Regal Tangs   (All deceased)   c.. 3 Anemone Fish (2 deceased)   d.. 1 Mandarin Fish (deceased)   e.. 8 Blue Reef Chromis (All deceased)   f.. 4 Green Chromis (2 deceased)   g.. 1 Flame Angel (deceased)   h.. 1 Large Cardinal (Still with us!)   i.. 4 Indo Pacific Cleaner Shrimp (2 deceased)   j.. 1 Orange Starfish (deceased)   k.. 1 Maldivian Starfish (deceased)   l.. 1 Blue Starfish   m.. 1 Dot-Dash Blenny   n.. 3 Chalk Gobies (deceased)   o.. 1 Arrowhead Crab   p.. 1 Decorator Crab (deceased)   q.. 2 Bubble Corals (1 deceased, 1 1/2deceased)   r.. 5 Various Button Polyps (deceased)   s.. 7 Mushroom Corals (5 deceased)   t.. 3 Pulse Xenia (deceased)   u.. 2 Leather Corals (1 deceased, 1 1/2deceased)   v.. 1 "Christmas Tree" Coral (Sorry, Don't know it's real name, deceased)   w.. 1 Neptune's Shaving Brush (deceased)   x.. 2 Atlantic Anemones (deceased)   y.. 2 Brittle Stars (deceased, in bits, in days)   z.. Coralline Algae (Masses & masses)   aa.. 20 Turbo snails (15 deceased)   ab.. 2 Sand sifting snails   ac.. 8 Feather Dusters (deceased)   ad.. 1 Unknown Starfish (hitch-hiked into tank, photo attached) Oh, and before I forget at least: 28 Bristleworms various (deceased) {2 of which were Monstrous ~ 18"+ ! ) <Very interesting... and good detail, relating of pertinent info.> All items were bought over time and carefully introduced, no more than 8 fish in the tank at any one time. I suspect that the two huge (about 18") bristleworms were responsible for most of the fish deaths ~ the more time a fish spent in the rockwork the sooner it 'vanished' without a trace. I also had a Decorator Crab that just disappeared like most of the fish never to be seen again, not even a head or tail to be found anywhere, it was like they were never in there to begin with. <I concur with the mystery loss sources> The other 26 bristleworms I have hauled out in the last couple of days after I noticed I had an infestation ~ they were rapidly devouring a button polyp. (its now dead and the rock is sitting out of the water drying) do I put the rock back in or just bin it? <I would return it> The worms were orange. I have also seen a few worms black and white in colour and between 1/2" to 1" in size. Thank god for the Arrowhead crab as he seems to think they make a lovely snack..... <Yes> Also, and I think it is related but my 2nd Bubble coral is dying, I lost the 1st one a long time ago, don't know why. The whole tank looks to me to be dying. Do you think it is because of the worms? Are they killing everything? <I don't think that the worms are the primary source of loss here... I am suspicious of your "Tufa rock"... and would remove this... and for sake of curiosity test it with some inexpensive livestock in another place. Does your Prizm skimmer remove skimmate regularly? These units can be a bit tricky> I feed my tank with frozen "Dutch Select Food" with one cube every other day (Marine Mix, Artemia, Mysis, Krill Pacifica & fine cockles). The food is dispersed and eaten within a couple of minutes. <Sounds good> I have read your articles and see you talk about "Cycling the Skimmer". Do you mean turning it on and off? My supplier told me that it should be running 24/7. <It should run continuously, yes. There are situations, mainly specialized types of reef set-ups... that benefit from periodically turning the skimmer off> It would be easy enough for me to do, I have spare timers. Do you think I may need more aeration? I currently rely solely on the micro bubbles from the skimmer and the drop in from the filter return. <Adding aeration is definitely a good idea... redundancy in these aspects of care is well-warranted> I carry out a 25% water change every 2 weeks with mineralized RO, I use Red Sea Salt mixed directly into the 2 x 5 gallon drums. The PolyFilter (http://www.aquariumsuperstore.co.uk/mall/biomarinepolyfilter.asp) is changed whenever it's colour change dictates it (Dark Brown all the way through). <Ahh, this is also a useful clue... remove the Tufa> The protein skimmer works fine, skimming approx 100ml waste per week. It foams nicely, but I occasionally have to increase the flow rate on it to as the water level drops through evaporation. I have had problems with "Red Slime" (Cyanobacteria) in the past but have got rid of this using "Antired" imported from Germany (http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=de&u=http://www.online-shopping-portal.de/Aquaristik /Aquaristik2515.html&prev=/search%3Fq%3DAntired%26hl%3Den%26lr%3D%26ie%3DUTF-8%26oe%3DUTF-8) ...... please excuse/laugh at the translation! The AntiRed was used 8 weeks ago (Polyfilters removed and UV sterilizer off). I have a small problem with hair algae at the moment but it not serious and quite containable. Help! Deborah <Sorry to hear/read of your trials... Again and finally I do suspect the non live-rock and would take it out. Please do follow up in a month or two with more results. Bob Fenner>

All my Marine fish are dead!!! Hi my name is Kevin I have a 30 gallon salt water tank. Some how all my fish died overnight! The fish I use to have were a valentini puffer, maroon clown, and 2 Firefish. I don't know how they died!!! Around 9 o'clock I fed my fish there dinner (brine shrimp) they were eating fine as usual. But before I went to sleep I put quick cure in my tank because my puffer had a little ich. I followed the direction of the quick cure perfectly. But when I woke up the next mourning my fish were dead!!! I don't think it was the quick cure because I used it a few times before. So my question is, do you know what killed my fish? So please tell me so I can avoid this happing in the future. >>>Hey Kevin, Sorry to hear about your fish. I can't give you a definitive answer unfortunately Kevin. However, I can tell you it WASN'T the parasite. If you put a substance in your tank at night, and the next morning everything is dead, it stands to reason that it was probably the substance added to the tank that killed them. Are you SURE you didn't overdose it? When I was younger I wiped out a tank of catfish at the store I worked at by accidentally overdosing Quick-Cure. It could also be a bad batch of the stuff. Who knows. Sorry again for your losses. Regards

Floor refinishing near reef tank Gentlepersons: We are having the wood floors in our home refinished and sealed with a water-based polyurethane-like product. It dries in less than 2 hours, although I noticed in a separate area of the house where it has already been done that there is a very acrid smell for a while.  Is this dangerous to my 105 gallon reef tank.  Do I need to take any special precautions?  Thank you. Ed Pappert   <I am a big fan of polyurethanes for table tops, floors... bowling alleys... and do recall the usual precautionary statements re not breathing too much of the fumes from their applications. Have not experienced troubles myself from their use, but do encourage as much ventilation as practical during application to a day later. Bob Fenner> Bob: Thank you very much for the prompt reply. I do intend to have the area well ventilated for a couple of days. Ed <Ahh, good. Then I would not worry (I rarely do!). Bob F>

Re: RESPONSE to question re: Floor refinishing near reef tank Greetings Bob & Crew! <Ray> This is a reply to the question posted 10/26 entitled "Floor refinishing near reef tank".   This past summer I did a floor refinishing project in my place and my reef tank came out with zero casualties. Here is what I did.   -First, I put fresh carbon in my filter and doubled it up with a poly-filter.   -I also had enough water mixed (and FAR away from work site) for a 25% AND 10% water change.   -On the project day, I turned off the lights (for heat factor) and LOOSELY covered the tank in plastic sheeting (bought a 12'x20' sheet at Lowe's) letting the sheeting simply fall to the floor with plenty of air inside with the tank.  I kept the plastic on for the duration of the project and for about 6 hours after finished.  Careful removing the plastic as it will have accumulated debris (static electricity factor) and you don't want that falling into the tank.   -Finally, I did a 10% water change the next morning and replaced the filters (carbon and poly) and closely watched the tank for the slightest change in inhabitant behavior/health (with a 25% water change in order if that was seen.....it wasn't). I had ZERO deaths among my corals, fish, and inverts. Good luck! Hope this helps! -Ray <Outstanding! Thank you for sharing your input. Will post, archive for all. Bob Fenner>

A tank of death HI WWM, I have a 55 gal salt water tank.  We have had it for about 5 years.  It has always been a problem but from time to time it seems to settle down and not kill its inhabitants.  Here is the current problem. About six months ago, it seemed we solved everything by changing the filter (Fluval) and the flow and using distilled water.  The fish were happy and the tank looked great.  The service guy came for his normal service after not doing much for about a month (on purpose), and within 12 hours all the fish died.  Everything was tested but nothing was wrong.  After about two weeks we can put fish in the tank but after the service the fish die - we think this has been happening for quite a while.  The tests show nothing. The service guy is now using no outside equipment that might contaminate the tank.  We are now (as of about 1 week ago) using all real coral.  The sand is crushed coral (always has been).  Last week we used copper but it didn't help. << Copper???  Using real coral, I'm guessing you don't mean live coral, just the skeletons of dead coral, right?  If you are using live coral and you add copper they are sure to be killed within a day. >> The service we use is very good and experienced.  They only service, it is not a pet store.  They service all shapes and sizes with good result.  So, I don't think it is the service.  They seem to sincerely want to find out what is going on - but, have no answers. << Maybe the stress of messing with the tank is the problem.  I'm all in favor of just letting it be. >> At this point there is one fish in the tank that has survived through it all.  When we put any new fish in, they die with in 48 hours, usually right away. << I think some pictures are needed, and I suggest we get someone to your house from an experienced aquarium club.  Seeing it in person is the only way to go. >> We only put one to three fish in at a time. The one thing that may be a clue is that there is a layer of bubbles on the water that do not go away.  They have been there for a few months and no matter what we do we cannot eliminate them.  (No tests for ammonia have shown a problem) << Bubbles on the surface of the water?  If so I'd suspect a oil contamination, and a prevention of oxygen exchange. >> My question is, are the bubbles an indication that something is wrong?  Do you have any ideas as to what we can do? << Lets find some local help for you.  I understand not wanting to post where you live, so feel free to just email me XXXX@hotmail.com and we'll figure something out.  I really think this tank is doomed, and we may need to start over or rethink the approach to setting it up. >> We are at our wits end. Cheers,  Judie Hulett <<  Blundell  >>

- Kalkwasser Overdose, Get Controls Out of Reach of that Two Year Old! - Hi Bob, hope this finds you and your team well. <JasonC here today.> I had a small disaster this weekend and would like you experienced opinion on the after effects of the accident. Basically I overdosed my system (200Litre) with about 20 liters of Kalkwasser last night!! <Whoops.> Usually I dose maybe 1- 2 litres over night, every night give or take. I don't have an automated top up switch, just keep the top up rate in line with the evap rate. The Peri pump mysteriously (as in having a little 2 year old running around!!) got adjusted to maximum output, and over the course of 4 hours dosed just under 20 litres overnight! <Time to move that pump out of reach. Am reminded of an old friend who's high-end stereo equipment was destroyed by his two year old son who found the volume knob very interesting.> My first reaction was, as you can imagine shock!!... the ph was 9.92 - Most of the corals had closed up, although some were fine, leather, Candycane, Favia, poly colonies. My metallic green tip xenia was open, but looking pretty jaded! I changed over 5 gals of water, but pH was still very high, added some diluted citric acid to try and temper the alkalinity. <Careful with the acid additions there... you can very easily go the other direction just as quickly.> This morning the pH is back to normal, 8.4, most of the corals look ok, just not as fully expanded, however the candy can looks pretty unhealthy as does the metallic green xenia, and most of my pulsing xenia is looking green/ grey and shriveled! So all in all not a good situation. <Yet a situation to learn from.> I was hoping you could give me some idea of the recovery rate of the corals, after being stressed out like this, if this pH spike would of effected the long term health of the corals and if you had any further advise with regards to managing the systems recovery. <Hard to say exactly... could be the damage is irreversible. It's a general rule of thumb that invertebrates are better suited to handle water quality problems as they can't run away like fish can. But a pH of 9.2 is outside of the normal bounds of a water problem. I'd give them a week or so, and keep an eye on your pH.> Thanks in advance for any advice offered. <Cheers, J -- >

Turning The Tide on Disease (Follow-up) Back to the drawing board!!!  Could I have more help? <Sure- that's why we're here> I thought everything was under control after six days of Neosulfex treatment.  Clowns were eating again and looked good...no evidence of any more bacteria.  I even added a few more days of treatment just to be safe and went to day 10 with treatment. Then I stopped.  Within 24 hours, both clowns are not eating, more fin parts are disappearing and the clear parts of their fins are now cloudy.  How can bacteria survive that kind of treatment? <That may be part of the problem, actually? Have you checked ammonia and nitrite in this tank? Perhaps the beneficial bacteria in the filter system have been substantially or completely destroyed, resulting in serious ammonia and nitrite levels...Metabolite poisoning? Just a thought. Do luck beyond the obvious here.> What now?  Should I use something stronger? <If it were me, at this point, I'd hold off on additional medication for a while...I'd execute regular water changes, employ activated carbon or PolyFilter in your system, and check all water chemistry parameters. Perhaps you may want to try some medium duration (3-5 minute) freshwater dips, say, 3 times a week.> Even after all of this treatment, I'm not sure the female will live...she looks pretty weak since she has not eaten well for over a week.  Help, Help, Help!  Thanks again. Lisa <Again, Lisa- I think that observation, good water quality, and judicious use of freshwater dips might be a better course of action than more medication at this juncture. At least give the fishes a break from the medication for a week or so before resuming treatment, if necessary. Hopefully, these steps will help. There is no 100% chance of success here, the fish may have suffered too much damage to survive-but don't give up. Keep observing them, and reviewing the disease FAQs on the wetwebmedia.com site for more information on possible causes of this condition. Good luck! I hope that the fishes make a full recovery soon! Regards, Scott F>

- Toxic Tank Questions - Bob <Acutally, JasonC here today...> Bob Just read the toxic water situations on WWM and thought you could help me with my 55 gal saltwater. <I will do my best.> As background, I did have a small saltwater tank (10g) years ago with only an undergravel (dolomite) filter.  Seemed to work fine but I did watch nitrites and found that during the initial cycle, I had to stop feeding (one neon goby) to get the nitrites to go down.  Tank was good enough that a trio of three strip damsels spawned. I also have used the natural (or balanced) aquarium idea in my freshwater tank.  (plants and water only-no filtration) Set up a 55 gal last November (is now end of Feb).  First with a reverse flow undergravel then with 3" of sand, plus an inch of crushed coral and some gravel and shells on top.  Lots of marine and other rocks for decoration and have one softball sized live rock.  Filtration is an external box type filter and a canister type. We went too fast to make the tank look good over thanksgiving for the visiting grand kids.  Everything died out (with high nitrites the probable cause-test kit maxed out solid purple/red). (have been testing for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates and ph). Slowed down and added 5 mollies.  They are still there and doing fine (and having babies).  Added a cleaner crew of which 10-20 hermit crabs, 2 anemone crabs, 5-10 turbo snails, a Bahamas star and green brittle star are still there.  Most of the algae has been cleaned up but the rocks are starting to turn light green again.  Recently added an anemone which the crabs like and it is still doing well after about two weeks.  Have also 3 yellow damsels and a blue damsel for about 2 months. <You have too much 'stuff' in this tank.> Nitrites are now remaining at 0, but ph is low (7.8-7.4 light transparent brown on the test kit). Nitrates are 20-40 (red on test kit). <You are correct about the pH being low - that is very low, too low. Nitrates are also too high for that anemone.> I placed 15 gallons in a 20 gal long (bout three weeks ago) to culture macro algae and as a possible hospital tank (open top, no filtration or circulation, 3" plays and). <That won't work for quarantine - substrate is not suitable for quarantine. Likewise, without circulation you can expect that tank to go stale...> Of course the 55 gal got a 15 gallon water change at the same time. We have attempted to add various fish from time to time with the most recent being a yellow tang and a dwarf angel fish. <With your water quality the way it is, this won't work out. Likewise, a 55 is really too small for a tang of any type.>  The tang developed white spots and attempted to teach the angel how to clean it.  Later it started breathing heavy and finally died (bout three weeks but seemed to lose color almost immediately).  It was eating the flake food, algae tabs, brine shrimp, and the blood worms.  The dwarf angel was breathing heavy and lying on his side so I decided to set up the 20 gal long and place him in there. He died within hours and was in that tank for about 3 days (was outta town). <No filtration, no aeration, no circulation - no surprise.> I then received the macro algae and placed in it the 20 gal long and removed the angel. <Plan on getting another tank for a quarantine tank if you plan to continue using this one for algae culture.> The 55g tank is now staying clear so the canister filter is turned off. After two weeks the 20g long with macro algae has nitrites maxed out on the test kit and ph up to 8.4-8.6 (test kit dark blue/purple).  It also has a baby Mollie in it which seems to be doing fine.  No food has been added to the tank. The macro algae is growing. The nitrites are not a surprise after all the angel fish died in there. <I don't follow.> The PH was a big surprise.  It is the same water taken from the 55g which never has that high of ph reading. <Could be there is a decoration in the main tank that is dragging the pH down.> So basically awesome fish like the tangs and angels do not survive in the 55 gal,  Nitrates are high (20-40), ph is low (7.2-7.4), but the crabs, sales and ugly ole mollies do fine.  What do I need to do to get to the place were the awesome fish can survive? <Fix the pH first - then, consider taking out some of the mollies - lowering the bioload before you attempt anything else.> I did try some 8.2 ph buffer.  Seem that when the ph goes up so does the nitrites. <Nitrites should be gone at this point... it would seem perhaps your biological filter is not properly established. Is there any filtration in the tank which is a permanent biological filter. With the canister turned off, and relying only on a trickle filter, you may not have an active nitrogen-reducing bacteria culture.> When the nitrites return to 0 then ph goes back down. <Look more closely at your husbandry... there is likely a chain of issues, enacted by you which are leading to this problem. If I were you, I would consider starting this tank over again, and at that time, obtain and cure some live rock to help with the nitrates and biological filtration.> Thanks in advance. Robert J. Beasley <Cheers, J -- >

- It's just like... starting over - Hi J! <Hello.> Thank you once again for your advice. <My pleasure.> Of course you know good advice means more questions.... I'm not sure which brand of charcoal filters I used, I think maybe Marineland, but I threw out the packaging already. <No worries.> I will look for Poly Filters in the future. <Activated carbon is fine for general use - the Poly Filter product is just really good at all around "bad-stuff" removal.> Now since I am trying to rid my tank of Greenex, and re-establish the biological filter, how should I go about either cleaning the filters or changing them to best benefit the tank? <Probably best to just swap them out for new media.> I thought that discarding them, even one at a time may have been responsible for messing up the biological filter the last time my whole tank got out of whack and everything died. (Then again, what do I know? ) <I think that's a pretty good guess... especially considering the lack of other potential biological filter media - like live rock.> My remaining clownfish, cardinal and wrasse are swimming sadly on their sides, and I'm not sure how long they will survive.  Is there anything else I could do to save them? <Perhaps a couple of large water changes.> When I buy more live rock, how much should I get at once? <I think this depends mostly on how your fish do, and I don't want to cast a dark cloud over things, but it does sound like your fish might not make it. If this is the case, I would get as much as you an afford and pack the tank with it... allowing it to re-cure and cycle the tank at the same time. If the fish do pull through, then you might consider re-curing the rock in a separate tank or Rubbermaid bin for a week or two and then adding to the tank.> Should it come from a particular place? <That matters little.> I have seen it labeled as coming from a variety of places. <Sometimes this affects the price more than it does the affects on the tank.> The more I think of it, the better I like the idea of the kick-in-the-shins tactic. <Me too.> Looking forward to your response once again, Thanks J! Angela <Cheers, J -- >

- Losing Fish - Hi, This weekend my husband and I set up a new tank (180 liter). We bought 4 new fish and our two juvenile common clownfish joined this tank. We used 50% of the water of our old tank. Besides fish we had put 1 live rock from Indonesia in it and some other rocks. After two days all the new fish past away. We cleaned the tank and put our little two clownfish in the hospital tank. In this tank we already had another fish and a shrimp. My husband also changed the filter system in the hospital tank with the one of our new tank. The filter system is 1400 l/H. Our hospital tank is only 30 liters. The next day the other fish in the hospital tank died but the two clownfish and the shrimp are still happily swimming in the tank. The level of ammonia was zero, Ph was 8 and the NO3 was high. The next day I changed the filter with the old one again.   Can you tell me what happened. Because I can't believe that the fish got toxified, because the smallest fish survived. I do think that there was something with the live rock, because they told me that it was cleaned but some kind of black worm came out of it. I threw it away when I cleaned the tank. <Most likely the fish were already on the downward slope when you got them. To say any more specifically than that would take either clairvoyance or dissection under a microscope, so I'm sorry I don't have a better answer for you. What type of fish were they?> Thanks Julie. <Cheers, J -- >

- Losing Fish, Follow-up - Hi But I thought with Chemipure I would not need to replace the saltwater for up to five year? <I should hope not... I've never trusted anything that promises 'no water changes' and there's no filter media I am aware of that would last five years. To keep your fish healthy, you simply must do regular small water changes, otherwise your fish end up living in their own filth. Five percent a week or 10% every two weeks is a good interval for water changes, but it's not wise to wait much more than that.> By the way, I have check my PH level, it is at 8, so it is at a healthy level. <Uhh... pH should be in the range of 8.2-8.4 so 8.0 is actually lower than it should be.> I mentioned my tank as 2ft tank not 2ft long apologize if I mislead you. <I still not sure I follow - what are the dimensions of your tank?> Cheers Terence <Cheers, J -- >

Saltwater crash I work at a pet store and we sell salt fish. Some of the fish we had have been there for months. Well last Friday everything started dying. The water was testing normal the day before but for some reason the pH jump off the charts in less than 24 hours. We lost almost everything, except what I through in our reef tank. The fish were acting really weird. They would just either die instantly or they would get really pale and just start to die. As soon as I threw them in the reef tank they bounced back to normal. Even our hermit crabs and damsels started dying. Do you have any idea what could of happened? Thanks, Tiffany <This reminds me of a very sad occasion many years ago in a retail shop I worked at where we had a "mad poisoner" (he would leave notes signed as such)... A young man was coming in and adding a vial of concentrated ammonia (cleaner) in one or more tanks in our recirculated systems... killing many animals... The ammonia would raise the pH as well. I would (quickly) check for this if you have another such episode. The effect, presence is transient so you will not likely be able to measure it more than an hour or two after. This is only one possible scenario, but something "toxically overt" is to blame here. Bob Fenner>

Massive Fish Kill I performed a water change tonight and had a major fish kill.  I followed all the same precautionary steps I have done a hundred times before.  PH, Nitrate, Ammonia, Alkalinity, Salinity are in in acceptable levels.  Any ideas on what I should look for? <first of all what size aquarium, what were the water parameters before and after you did the water change...how many gallons did you take out/replace? (maybe there were some toxic chemicals in your water like household bleach residue in the bucket.. etc.) otherwise you haven't given me enough info to solve your problem, IanB> Thank You very much Dominic

Massive fish kill 46 gallon bow front, all parameters of the tank were in acceptable prior and after 10 gallon water change.  Used aquarium only bucket.  Not sure what to do now.  It appears that everything except for a few snails and hermit crabs.  All the worms from the live rock are dead. Do I need to start from ground zero and replace everything or can I cycle it out?  Thanks for all the help. <I would start over what ever killed everything may not cycle out (chemicals) Did you test the water after everything was dead? was anything out of whack? MikeH>   Dominic

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

Question: Help, I can't keep my fish alive. I have a 65 gallon tank that has been running for 15 months. I have about 100lbs of live rock, and many hard and soft corals. I also have some serpent stars, snails and crabs. My water parameters are almost perfect. I run a Reef Devil Skimmer and an Aqua UV. In the tank I have a 1 inch Percula. Any other fish I put in there is fine for a couple of hours and then seems to go into some sort of respiratory problem. They begin to breathe heavy, start piping and die within 24 hrs. This has been a problem for the last 3 months. I have tried the following:

  • Run up to 3 bags of Chemi Pure Activated Carbon
  • Not used any cleaner in the room
  • Re arranged and cleaned rock
  • Removed substrate
  • Added up to 6 powerheads
  • 50% water changes

I am running out of solutions. What can I do? Bob's Answer: Chris, you apparently have developed a very serious toxic chemical condition in the system. A massive (near 100%) water change and more chemical filtrant (I'd try Poly-Bio Marine's Poly-Filter) may reverse the problem... do stir the gravel and vacuum it at the time of changing the water out.

Just Bad Damsels Bob: Great column!! I've been in the hobby for about 8 years on and off (and only off because my military duty takes me out of the country for long enough to kill my fish off every so often) and I have never seen a better forum for fellow salt-water fish enthusiast. Keep up the great work. Now I need some help. I recently got back from Korea and proceeded to set up a tank, my goal to be a fish/invert mix. Everything was going fine, I cycled the tank for 8 weeks and went down to the local pet store to buy some "tester" damsels. I purchased 2 4-line damsels and 2 jewel damsels and I could not resist also getting a cowry. I have never seen one before here on the east coast, so I took a shot and bought it. I acclimated the fish according to spec but almost immediately I could tell that one of the jewels was doing poorly. He died the next day, but the other damsels ate and did fine for the next week. Then the other jewel died. One week later one of the 4-line damsels died, and the day after next the other died. All the fish went from excellent condition to death inside 24 hours, except first never looked good to begin with. The first symptom was refusal to eat, then listlessness and hiding, then rapid breathing and then a red discoloration (possibly due to the rapid breathing) inside the gill area, then death shortly after. All except the last to die had slight to moderate frayed fins, I think from harassment from the survivors. The last fish to die was over a week ago, yet as I write this the cowry is scooting all over the tank eating off the glass and base rock. I tested for Nitrate, Nitrite and Ammonia, and all were within acceptable tolerances; very low or zero. I had a slight ammonia spike of course once the fish were added, but like I said, well within tolerances. Since the last death I did a 25% water change with instant ocean sea salt. I can see no parasites and no signs of infection. The set up is a glass 55 with a 220 gph canister filter (carbon and bio-bags) and one large powerhead in each corner for water movement connected to undergravel filters. Dolomite substrate. Plenty of base rock and shells for fish to hide in. I have never had trouble keeping fish alive in this setup, I just don't keep a lot - one or two 4 to 6" fish and 3-4 less than 2" fish, and in fact raised a juvenile white-spotted green moray in it a for almost 2 years with no problems. I have no idea what species of cowry I have. It has a brown shell with white splotches, and the body is deep purple with lighter 'tentacles' and a grey foot. Could the cowry be poisoning the water? Help, I am afraid to add anymore fish until I figure this one out. Damsels should last longer than this, even in a "new" tank. Thanks, Dave <Thanks for pumping me (and this query/input process) up! Spent some thirty years (dependent/dad, draftee, dependent/wife) in the DOD so, I know what you mean re being moved about... Hopefully soon, all these (let me say MANY) questions/responses will be put into a logical order and archived, opened to a flowing stream of strings from others...> <Sounds to me like you got hold of a quartet of bunk damsels. Don't think the cowry has anything to do with their loss. There are a few Net and other resources to chase down the family Cypraeidae (the cowries, natch). Some 162 spp. as I recall. (friends in common are looking to karyotype all, and have asked my help at collecting "fresh" material of a few "missing" species...). Talk with your dealer, tell him about out "conversation" and ask him for credit/replacement of the damsels. Try some from another shipment, other species (maybe some of the old standards like the 2,3 stripe "humbugs" of the genus Dascyllus, or the sturdier blue, yellow-tail Chromis...). Sometimes whole batches, shipments of damsels are "bad" for a few reasons... Once again, I doubt if the root of the difficulty rests with your system or the mollusk. Bob Fenner>

Hi, my question might seem weird, but no one has answered it so far. I'm considering buying an R.O. Unit for aquarium use and I'd like to know if this unit might be used to produce drinking water. Why spent money on two things if there is a possibility to use one for several purposes. Thank you. <Oh, or a certainty, yes. I have put a reverse osmosis in all the houses I've lived in for some time. For drinking, cooking, plants and pet-fish use. A very cost-effective way to render mains water better and better tasting. Bob Fenner>

Hi There; I really enjoy reading your column; your methods and advice are right on target! I am having a death march in my 55g reef, and I hope you can help. I have 50lbs rock, various inverts/LPS/leather/polyps, and for the last 3 years, I have had death come and go in the tank. Now, something strange is going on, and it is killing my fish, 1 by 1. They are gasping for air, and with 2 days of the gasping starting, the fish die. No signs of ICK, white spots, or anything else indicating a disease. My corals seem to be doing fine, but they are very 'puffy', versus extended, as they generally are. No inverts or corals have died, except a Sally Lightfoot that died yesterday when trying to shell. All water parameters are fine; I use an ETSS Reef devil skimmer, and a HOT magnum, filled with carbon, wave maker, & 2 power heads. I do 10% water changes, about 4 times per month, and have used RO/DI water for over a year. I add trace elements, iodine, and strontium regularly. Things were going great, until a week ago, when this started to happen. What else could I check, that would give me an idea of what is happening? Thanks for the great column, and I hope you can give me some ideas on how to stop this death march!! Michael Wasserman <Thank you for your encouraging words. Very interesting situation going on in your system... from the info. provided I can assure you one of two conditions are causing your loss of fish livestock, and offer some advice on how to remedy/end the mortality. Either the non-fishes have endeavored to compete with each other on chemical bases that are more toxic to your fishes... or, more likely, you've brought on a type of chemical poisoning yourself, with the use of your supplements AND the ETSS skimmer... Don't be shocked (or at least too so), this is a very common situation. What is happening, briefly, is that even with those almost weekly ten percent water changes, the addition of additives and semi-selective removal of materials by the skimmer has conspired to make something less than a suitable blend of salts, minerals, cations in your system. You can "re-center" your water quality through a few means, and I'd use all of them: 1) Effect a massive water change (50%), the easiest, simplest way to cut half the imbalance. 2) Give up on the supplements, or at least cut back in concentration, for a while. 3) Cycle your skimmer, maybe every four hours, daily... on/off. 4) Resort to chemical filtrants. In the short term, my fave PolyFilter, to scavenge some/much of the excess cationic material... And "call me in the morning", or get back to us when "things" are stabilizing. Good luck, and be of good fish/cheer. Bob Fenner>

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