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FAQs about Toxic Water Conditions: Wipe Out/New Tank Syndromes

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

Number one all-time killer of aquatic livestock: Stalled establishment of bio-geo-chemical nutrient cycling... Microbial wars... A need for "dynamic equilibrium"... yes, an oxymoron like government competency...

MASSIVE TANK CRASH !!! Typical Xeniid die-off, cascade event        2/20/14
Hello Mr. Fenner,
<Dai>
I have a 210 gallon reef and everything was doing well until last week.
A thriving colony of Xenia (6") suddenly withered and died overnight.
<Happens>

Thinking this is typical of Xenia, I did not think of it until I started to see black spots appearing on all of my finger leather corals the next day.
<Oh... when Xeniids (do) crash, one needs to be making huge water change-outs, using chemical and physical filtrants, possibly moving other livestock elsewhere>

In a matter of two days, they look like they were sprinkled with charcoal and died. All my zoos closed up and my GSP stopped opening.
<Cascade event... use these two words in the search tool on WWM...>
Both of my cleaner shrimps and Coco worm died. The skimmer is hyperactive and the water is cloudy. I then had to remove all the rocks with dying corals out of tank and moved the live corals to my 55 gallon frag tank.
<Good>
 So far, they are doing OK. At this time, the main tank has no corals but only mushrooms that I couldn't remove as they were all over.
There are three filters totally rated at 270 gallons running with carbon right now since two days ago.
<Ditto>
 Last night, I noticed the mushrooms are recovering and some patches of GPS start to come out. Nitrate is @ 20.
The rocks that were covered with dying zoos are left in the garage dried and this weekend, I will scrape them off because I don't want to deal with their toxins. 
<DO WEAR gloves IF touching the water or Zoanthids... TOXIC... Better to vacuum as much away as you can... to the toilet... leave the windows open. SEE WWM RE ZOAS>
The fish appear to be unaffected. So these are my questions:
1.       What is the cause of my crash? Xenia poisoning the tank as they died?
<First them, then other Cnidarians in reaction>
2.       When can I scrape off the dead zoos from rocks and place them back into my main tank?
<Weeks... >
3.       Should I a massive water change like 50%? So far, what is left in the main start to show signs of recovering.
<Yes, yes and yes>
4.       What will be my next steps?
<Reading>
Thank you so much and I appreciate your input very much! Dai
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
RE: [EXTERNAL] re: MASSIVE TANK CRASH !!!       2/20/14

Hello Mr. Fenner
<Dai>
Thank you for your guidance and to return the favor WWM has done for me, I will make a donation to your website (I am so guilty... Should have done it years ago...) . From now on no more Xenias. My LFS is willing to let me trade in my rocks so I will do that than risking being poisoned.
Dai
<Ahh, good, thank you. BobF>
RE: [EXTERNAL] re: MASSIVE TANK CRASH !!!    2/24/14

Hello Mr. Fenner,
At this time all my snails and shrimps died and I would like to know if this will have an effect on the copepods
<Not likely... different tolerances>
  population in the aquarium since my Mandarin fish relies on them . I notice that he is out more than usual indicating that he is hungry and can't find the food? If so, how so I provide his diet short of trying to take him out which is impossible due to a large tank with rocks?  Dai
<?... Read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/mandfdgfaq2.htm
the linked files above. B>

Can't keep anything alive in 125 Marine tank.... used/re-set up, wipe-out syndrome/incident     1/15/14
Hi Guys,
<Plus some gals>
I have kept marine fish since December 2006, starting with a 55 tall and have never had serious problems until recently (I even successfully moved them from Lakewood to their new 125 gal home in Seven Hills & they were fine for 3.5 years after the move). I even had some of my original fish 6 years after I started in the hobby!
In October 2012, when hurricane Sandy hit, we lost power for 6 days. A generator kept the tank warm and some filtration/aeration, but that is about it. All but 1 fish survived that ordeal, but sadly soon after they all started dying. I assumed at that point it was due to the stress of the power outage. When the last one died, we decided that it was as good of a time as ever to do a full reset (our stand was falling apart and needed to be replaced, so that was the reason for starting over and we wanted to run fallow to rid a minor Ick problem).
<With you so far>
By March 2013, new set-up is up & running, original 125 gal. tank, original live rock re- cured, new sump up and running (eshopps sump w/ micron bags, skimmer, UV Sterilizer, heat, and carbon bag), ran fallow for 5 months to be sure to clear parasites, clean-up crew in place (turbos and hermits) and all numbers point to a cycled tank. I add 2 Maroons (with proper acclimation) which both die within a day.
<Mmm>

Test water, everything seems in order (PH 8.0, Ammonia ~0, Nitrite ~0, Nitrate ~5.0, temp 78.) 25% +water change, wait a week, retest, numbers come back similar so I try again with 2 more perc this time in a 20 gal. quarantine tank (filled with water from DT). They lived in quarantine for 2 weeks and then I tried again to introduce to DT (all parameters WNL). These both die within hours and the clean-up crew starts dying off. I took water to LFS, they confirm parameters WNL, and recommend adding Nutrafin cycle before adding new fish (possible mini-cycle?). So the same routine, 25%+ water change, add Nutrafin cycle, waited a week, retested, numbers were all good, so got 2 more Percs, quarantined at least 2 weeks, but upon introduction to DT: same thing, dead within hours! I also introduced a cleaner shrimp at that time which lived in DT for at least 7 months. I got a final pair of percs, they lived in quarantine for 5 months, but died within 2 hours of introduction to DT!
<Something toxic here; biological it seems (rather than non... e.g. metal>

 (During these months, I let the DT run fallow with some turbos and a few blue-legged crabs, & that cleaner shrimp, performed water changes at least twice a month if not weekly, & monitored tank parameters.) It also appears currently that there is not much if anything living from the clean-up crew. I don’t understand since the QT was set up with water from the DT, so it has to be an immediate problem with livestock entering the DT. I have obtained fish from 3 different LFS, so it can’t be an issue with that. QT & DT are changed with water from the same place using the same methods, both have heaters that keep temp around 78, filters, protein skimmers, & lights on similar schedules. Parameters tested are temperature, salinity, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH. If anything, the QT parameters tend to be worse/spike more due to small volume. The only differences between the tanks are that the DT has live-rock & live-sand & the QT does not. The live-rock is what was in the previous tank, but the sand was new when we set up the “new” DT. We went through the same process of curing and then cycling as we had the previous two times.
The DT parameters when I lost this final set of fish shortly after acclimation: 8.0 PH, 0 Ammonia, 0 Nitrite, under 5.0 Nitrate, Temp 78, skimmer and UV working properly. Everything lives in the quarantine, nothing lives in the main tank....
Thanks in Advance,
Don
<These so-called "wipe out syndromes do happen at times; more so in older set-ups... "something/s" become established; produce metabolites or such that poison new livestock. You can read re others recorded experiences by searching on WWM re the two words: wipe-out syndrome. I would bleach/nuke the system... drain, rinse... re-fill.
Bob Fenner>

Re: Fish Dying in Reef Tank   10/19/13
Thanks Bob for the quick reply.  A few questions if you don't mind.  I was performing 50 Gallon water changes weekly to rid the Nitrates would this have help reduce the toxicity? 
<Yes; but an expensive, short term solution only. I would read, consider long-term means>
When you talk about biological poisoning do all the other species of coral in the tank die or just the corals next to the one releasing the toxins?
<Not necessarily any dying; but the fishes first>
When you mention aggression, do you mean the corals will grow and over take the neighboring coral or will it poison the whole tank?
<Please read where you've been referred. These sorts of physical, chemical, biochemical means of competition go on continuously... sometimes more  vigorously, with dire consequences>
This was quoted from one of the FAQ pages I've read on WWM "Regarding chemical filtration, I use Purigen in an attempt to keep trace elements in the system. Do you know how this product compares to activated carbon in regards to filtering allelopathic compounds?
<I do... neither are really useful>"  All I read about on WWM is to remove the toxicity in the water you have to run activated carbon.  Can you please clarify.
<The compounds involved are mainly terpenoids... a large class of cyclic hydrocarbons... NOT removed by most of the common chemical filter media used by hobbyists>
I'm going to perform a 100% water change and continue to run activated carbon and poly filter (unless you advise a different approach), is this what you recommend?
<At this point/juncture, yes>
  How would I know when the toxins are removed and if it's safe to add fish?
<Unfortunately mainly through "bioassay"; exposing fish, invertebrates as test subjects>
Could high Nitrate say 30-40ppm in a reef tank cause a toxic warfare?
<It might indicate something that could trigger such an event; though NO3 by itself is generally not a big issue>
Would SPS and LPS in the same aquarium give off minimal toxins since their both hard corals?
<No... some "real winners" like Galaxiids, Euphylliids win out over most all other Scleractinians... >
Thank you for your help and good sense of humor.
Joe
<Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Re: Fish Dying in Reef Tank   10/19/13

O forgot to add this.  These worms were all over the sand bed after the incident. Do you know what they are and what causes it.
<Ah yes; coming out because they are either being poisoned as well; or seeking dead fish as food. BobF>
Thanks,
Joe

DEVASTATING LOSS!!!!!   1/22/11
Hello WWM Crew,
<Amanda>
I am really hoping that one, any or all of you can help me with my extreme situation. Chris handled my Nitrate problems a while ago, I did everything he said, and everything worked out perfectly! Thanks again for that!
However, now I am at a huge loss for words and devastated . . . I lost every fish in my tank on Wed. night! I was doing my *routine* (been doing it for a while now) monthly cleaning and water change on Tuesday night.
<What does this entail exactly?>
All parameters were good, nitrates a little high, but that usually goes back down once I've done the cleaning. Anyhow, so I cleaned the tank like I normally do, did about a 35% water change, cleaned everything,
<How? What is everything?>
vacuumed, cleaned filters,
<And this>
etc. Once everything was set back up and running, I kept the lights off for about an hour to let the poor little fishies relax (a normal routine). When I turned the lights back on all the fish seemed fine, normal behavior, they were even eating like normal (little piggies I had).
The next morning things were as usual, I tested my tank before I went to work and all parameters were good.
<Good>
Now, to the gloomy part...I got home from work and everyone was belly up except for my Nassarius (4) snails, pods galore (no more mandarin) and about a million bristle worms. I, of course, cried for hours (in front of a very sympathetic husband I might add, since this little hobby was his idea while he was in Iraq) and could not for the life of me figure out what happened. I have been checking my tank everyday since then and everything tests fine, all param.s are good, my snails are fine, but now the worms are everywhere, I just don't understand what happened.
<Mmmm>
I'm almost to the point of giving up this wonderful hobby, but I wanted to speak with you all first. I would have contacted you sooner, however, all the fish are gone and I was hoping something would show up so I could figure out what happened on my own.
That is not the case, accordingly, do you have any ideas what could have happened?
<Many, but need more data>
Would it be of any benefit to just vacuum everything and start all over?
<I would just wait, leave all as is for now>
I've read the articles, and almost everyone of them says bristles will not kill the fish, however, I didn't realize just how many I had until now. Any suggestions, help, answers would be greatly appreciated! Thank you so much.
~Amanda~
<My first, and best guess w/ what you've presented is some sort of "cascade event"... triggered by the maintenance, water change (does happen)... Some of the life in the system reacted negatively... poisoning (not chemicals that hobbyists have access to tests for) at a later date (the next day) your fish life, but not the other "incidentals" (e.g. the worms)... Do please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/toxicwipeoutf.htm
and other of the linked files above... Do you understand my guess here? Bob Fenner> 
Re: DEVISTATING LOSS!!!!!   1/23/11
Mr. Fenner,
<Amanda>
I apologize for being vague in my e-mail, monthly tank maintenance includes:
cleaning the filter and media, heater, protein skimmer and all algae growth from the glass, any minor salt buildup and vacuuming the substrate, as well as a water change.
<Mmm, sounds pretty all-inclusive... the issue am trying to emphasize is that one doesn't want to be "too fastidious" re such periodic clean ups...>
Param.s are/were Ph 8.4, SG 1.24,
<Over a few decimal points>
Nitrites 0, ammonia 0,
temp 79/80F. I have read the articles you sent me, thank you so much for all your help, looks like I will just wait about a month and keep cleaning the tank. I guess I don't know what else to do since all my readings are good.
<Really this is best...>
Thanks again for all your help.
~Amanda~
<A pleasure. BobF>

Sudden Cloudy water! Worried for whole setup : \   1/21/11
Dear WWM crew,
I haven't done tests yet, will do after I send this. Everything was fine last week. Just got a brand new pink tip anemone.
<... A Condylactis sp.?>
First, I didn't think that clownfish would reside in this, and the owner of the store told us it would,
<Even from different oceans, sometimes they do>
so of course my husband wanted it.... Pretty sure we were lied to, but we shall see. Secondly - the problem is that the water had gone cloudy. I'm talking, like I acclimated the anemone over the course of
2hrs, didn't use drip method, but I use a turkey baster (fish tank only turkey baster) and add about an ounce of water every 15 or so minutes. He did fine, looked awesome when he was added to the tank (this was last night).
This morning, he was stretched out, looking good, turned the lights on and he turned towards it a bit... All is still good. Lunch time, my husband and I went out for lunch, took approx. an hour. came home to cloudy water. I KNOW that it wasn't cloudy before we left - but man that's quick! Also, all fish are looking fine (2 clowns, 3 mollies, 4 chromis, 1 green mandarin, 1 bicolor Dottyback, 1 cleaner shrimp, 3 small hermit crabs, 1 brittle star, and a few baby snails, and a small hammerhead coral.... I think that's
it).
<Mmm, highly likely there is something of a tussle going on twixt your new Anemone and the Euphyllia...>
Our setup is one 55 gallons tank and one 20 gallon tank, both overflowing to a sump below. Total, we have close to 90 gallons running, cycling throughout. What could be the cause of this awful cloudiness? What do I need to do to fix this?
<The above... and removing the Anemone to a separate system pronto... there are other precautions you could/should take. Stat!>
We have never seen this problem and our water has been crystal clear, my husband and I were just remarking about it how clean and clear it looked last night. OOO, also, the anemone, as of right now, has started to close up. Like it's deflating and starting to hide within its body sort of. I'm very concerned for all of our life forms.
<I am as well>
Let me know if you have questions I hopefully can answer.
Thank you for you time,
Alicia
<Mmm, please go here: http://wetwebmedia.com/Googlesearch.htm
insert the words:
Anemone Allelopathy
and read the cached views. Soon. Bob Fenner> 
Re: Sudden Cloudy water! Worried for whole setup : \   1/21/11

Thank you for your response Mr. Fenner.
<Welcome Alicia>
Glad to hear my clowns "Brownie" and "Lady" may host!
<Ahh!>
Our tests were great as of yesterday (after I sent the email)
Salinity - 1.024
pH - (approx) 8.3
Ammonia - 0
Nitrite - 0
Nitrate - maybe 5
The hammerhead coral and anemone are not in the same tank (will not be and have not been). Is this still a problem?
<Ah no>
Only the clowns, and the anemone are in the small (20gal) tank. They do share water with the 55gal through the sump system.
<Oh! May well be interacting then. Do read here:
http://wetwebmedia.com/cnidcompppt.htm
and as much of the linked files above as you can stand>
I was looking around my tanks, inspecting if you will - and feel I need to mention that our largest, most favorite piece of live rock (home to the Dottyback and coral and usually the shrimp) has white fuzz/slime/crust.
It's not "new" it's been around for a few weeks. Could this have any effect?
<Not likely; no>
My husband also wants to note that we put calcium in it water a few days ago as well.
<This could>
I will be moving to anemone into a small Qtank, along with some water from the other tanks, we'll see how it goes. All other life forms still seem fine. And all of this JUST in time for our tank heater to break as well... ugh Picking one up in about an hour, for the time being, I have kept my house a bit warmer (lol) in order to try to sustain the life of our tanks.
Thanks for all of your info!
Sincerely,
Alicia
<Thank you for your follow-up/further input. BobF> 

Non emergency Query; SW wipe out event  3/19/10
Hi WWM Crew,
<Beth>
The new site looks great! I haven't been here for a while. My reason for writing today is to see if I can find some answers as to what went horribly wrong this past week resulting in almost a complete loss of my tank. Ok so
the facts. 75g FOWLR. Had - 1 Dogface Puffer 3" - 1 Radiata Lionfish 3" - 1 Clarkii Clown 1.5" - 1 Coris Wrasse 4".
<Mmm>
Tank had been running over a year since set up. No problems no sick fish.
I had been watching a Powder Blue Tang at the LFS for about a month.
<Acanthurus leucosternon... need more room than this by far... And your 75 is already overstocked... and are VERY susceptible/carriers of Protozoan complaints>
He was healthy and happy. I had tangs in the past and really missed the excitement they brought to the tank. After checking my water parameters.
(0 Ammonia, 0 Nitrite, PH 8.3, SG 1.024 and Nitrates >20ppm.) I want to add that I had not planned on keeping this tang or the others in this tank permanently, a 200g is still in the plans as part of our home reno.
<Oh!>
So I brought him home one day and put him in a small 20g QT. It was the only QT I had. I had also purchased a Sebae Anemone because the Clownfish was pretty territorial so I wanted to give him something to defend. They
were both
<The tang and anemone? I would not do this>
in the QT for 2 weeks and doing fine when I went ahead and transferred them to the main display. The anemone was not looking good the next morning so I took it out immediately. The new tang and all the residents looked fine, swimming, eating etc... The next day my dog face puffer presented with black spots. The tang still looked ok. By that night the tang was also covered in spots but his were white and the puffer seemed to have both black and white spots. I gave the puffer a freshwater dip as he was the only one I could easily catch without stressing. I started to
raise the temp and lower salinity (slowly) and sent my husband after some Kordon's Ich Attack.
<What do you think of this product? I've yet to find anyone that considers it a consistent performer>
The next morning the tang was dead. The day after that the Lionfish was dead. The clownfish the next day and my beloved "Puppy" the dogface puffer this morning. The Wrasse? Oh he's fine. Not a spot on him and seems
fine. During the course of those last 3 days I had given the DF Puffer 3 more freshwater dips but they never seemed to help. I hadn't been very successful getting the salinity down because we had to go get freshwater to
use. It all happened so fast but the temp was up to 85. In all my years of keeping fish I have never seen Ich wipe out a tank like this. If the tang brought it with him why did it not present until after he went in the display?
<Happens... subclinical>
Was it the anemone?
<Mmm, could definitely be a contributing cause... but there is likely some sort of "cascading event" that took place here... with the Lion, Puffer releasing toxins in the water from being overly stressed period...>
Did it release toxin in the tank lowering their defenses?
<Could be>
All these questions run through my mind. I just want to try and learn what I did wrong so I don't repeat my mistake. And maybe as a bonus someone else can avoid a devastating loss like this.
Thank You
Beth Greathouse
<I'd get that new tank up and running... use your QT and 75 for staging areas for stocking the 200. Bob Fenner>

All fish died??? Tank Wipeout. Little to go on. 3/4/2010
<Hi Anthony.>
I don't know what happened and don't know what to do.
<Ok>
I have a 120 sw, I had 2 tomato clowns, blue damsel, 4-stripe damsel, royal gramma, 2 Lopez tangs...they are all dead...they did not show any unusual behavior, no signs of fin disease, ich, etc., no swimming toward the top, no listlessness, everything was fine.
<...>
All readings were what they always are.
<What were those readings? Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, pH?>
I've had this tank for over a year and most of the fish came with it when I got it (over 3
years in an established tank - moved the whole tank when I bought it).
Anyway, I came home from grocery shopping and all of them are dead including
my zebra snail. Also, now the bristleworms and micro stars are out of the sand (about 4" of sand) even with the lights on which we very rarely see - especially the micro stars (there's also about 250# of live rock).
<It almost seems as though the tank was poisoned. Has anyone done any painting or spraying around the tank? Could something metallic or toxic been dropped in the tank? Is it possible a pump stopped\shorted out?>
My questions are #1...why? Do you have any idea?
<With the information given, I would have no way of knowing.>
And, #2...what do I do now?
<You need to investigate. Test the water, look in the tank for anything that isn't supposed to be there. etc.>
Should I empty everything and start all over with the cycling and everything?
<Ultimately, yes.>
Should I only do a partial and let it go without adding any new fish? I mean obviously I'm not going to add any fish for awhile. What are your recommendations as to what I should do? Thanks so much for your help!!!!
<Without further information\test data, anything is suspect at this point.
Run a full battery of tests and have a read here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/toxictk.htm see if anything in that article or any of the linked pages could give you a point in the correct direction.>
Anthony
<MikeV>

Tank crash-->starting over 05/19/09
Hello,
<Hello Dave>
Background:
I have a 140 gallon (6') tank with a 30 gallon sump/refugium. The tank has approximately 60lbs of live rock with a shallow live sand substrate. The tank was up and running for two years with no problems until my Strawberry Dottyback died and dis-appeared amongst the live rock. Cyanobacteria resulted, cleared this and hair algae and brown algae (diatoms?) covered everything killing most corals. I have been fighting this for the past 6 months. The tank is presently recovering from the hair algae outbreak. All live rock is presently removed and being recurred to eliminate the nasty stuff. As a result I now have a cloudy tank (algae bloom?). My prized 7" Regal Tang has just died (probably stressed by me constantly cleaning this tank).
<Having no live rock in the tank at the moment could be part of the problem. The live rock in a tank your size is likely doing most of the denitrification.>
I believe my problem to be absorbed phosphates. I originally set-up the system with normal tap water. I have now been using Osmosis water for the past 4 months changing 30 gallons weekly, scrubbing all rock and glass.
<Continue this, remove as much algae as possible from the tank, the majority of your phosphate is likely in use by the algae. >
Unfortunately I even attempted using chemical additives which I believe did more harm than good.
<Likely true.>
Hopefully recurring the live rock with some new pieces will eliminate the issue. I will be adding a phosphate remover in the future along with upgrading my skimmer.
<Both great ideas.>
My two questions:
Do you suggest any further action to allow my tank to recover?
<I would continue the cleaning, water changes with makeup water made from RODI water, and nutrient export through skimmers, and removal of excess macro algae in your refugium.>
After the tank has recovered, live rock has been added back and system allowed to balance. I would like to add more reef safe fish. Presently I have two paired Sebae Clown fish, Green Star Polyps, Xenia and a Long-Tentacle Toadstool Leather Coral. I would like to add more coral & an anemone.  What would you suggest if starting over: Corals that appeal (lighting 96w power compact daylight, actinic & moonlight): African Blue Coral Cespitularia sp., Colt Coral
<Colt coral is one of the more allelopathic corals commonly sold. Please search WWM for the term "allelopathy" before purchasing.>
Leather Finger Coral Sinularia spp.
Colored Mushroom
Button polyps
Florida Rics
Digitata
Candy cane
Bubble Coral
Any suggestions?
<This sounds like an attractive mix. Most of these should be keepable under 96w daylight power compacts.>
Brown Powder Tang
(2) Small regal tangs
<I would stick to one of the above tangs in this size tank.>
Bullet Gobies or Lawnmower Blennies
<Once again I would stick to one of the above blennies.>
Sixline Wrasse or Mandarin (after tank has re-matured)
Fox face
Coral Beauty
<Either the Foxface or coral beauty may end up with a taste for coral in the future. But they would be fine in this size tank.>
Thanks in advance Dave
<Your welcome, and please continue down the path of recovery for the tank, before adding any more livestock.
Josh Solomon>

Dead Fish, Recycling tank... env., SW  12/1/08 I have a 110 salt tank. I use a cleaning company to keep the tank clean and working properly. We replaced all the tank equipment, so everything is new. The last two cleanings within 24 hours all the fish have died. <!> It seems that when they are done cleaning the Nitrates go up to 50 and the nitrites go up to 30. What could case this? <What are they cleaning and how is the tank set up. Are you using live rock? And they replacing all the filter media and in the process removing all the bio-filter? How heavily is the tank stocked and with what fish? Something is causing the tank to go through another cycle.> They said that they bleach the coral. Could bleach do this to the water? <If they do not thoroughly rinse the coral then yes.> We are at a loss for why this keeps happening. Charlie Drago <My guess is it is time to find a new maintenance company, having this happen twice is unacceptable.> <Chris>

Cloudy green water... SW, algal world, die-off...    7/31/08 I searched your site but didn't find anything that really relates to my problem. I have a 55 gallon FOWLR tank (hoping to covert to a reef tank) that has been running for about 2 months. I cycled it with some new live rock and some from my old established tank. Ammonia, nitrates, nitrites and phosphate are all at zero. <Wow!> PH is 8.4, salinity is 1.025 and calcium is 250. <Mmm... a bit low... and your alkalinity?> Two nights ago I did a 10% water change, cleaned the power heads and replaced the carbon filter. The next morning the water was a cloudy green color. It appears to be some sort of dissolved algae which, by the way I have a lot of in my tank. <Mmm... see below> Red slime, hair, and lots of green. You name it I've got it. I also add strontium, calcium and PhytoPlex for my future corals. <... I would not add the latter... for future anything> I've done tests twice since then with excellent results but it keeps getting worse. Now I can barely see my fish <?!> (1 pink spotted goby and pistol shrimp pair, 2 false percula, 1 orange tailed damsel, 1 royal Gramma, various hermit crabs and snails and a peppermint shrimp, which don't seem to mind it. But the day after the water change I tried to add a green chromis and it was dead the next morning. <Trouble, you betcha> I'm totally stumped about this green water situation. Any suggestions on what to do or what is happening would be great. Thanks. Jamie <I suspect... as a good guess... that the listed lack of available (by your measure) of basic chemical nutrients (e.g. Nitrate, Phosphate), show these to have been limiting factors in the growth of the stated algae (they were "scarfing it all up")... along with calcium as a needed co-biomineral... With the addition/change out of the carbon, the "scales were tipped" with a massive die-off event of some of the algae occurring, this resulting in a good deal of their death, dissolution... and consequent coloring, poisoning of your system... For now, you need to do damage control with restoring present water quality (likely through some massive water changes)... going forward, you need to formulate a plan to control algal proliferation... Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/avoidingalgaeproblesm.htm and the linked files in-text and above... till you understand what you're up to, against. Do write back re specifics if you have questions, doubts, suggestions. Bob Fenner>

Re: cloudy green water  7/31/08 Thanks for getting back to me. How much water do you suggest that I change and how often? <... a bunch... see WWM re. B>

Dying salt water fish  6/30/08 Let me start by saying we are new at this whole salt water fish thing. <Glad to hear it...a great hobby to be involved with, welcome> We bought a Yellow tang, clown fish, a cardinal fish, goby, a scallop & 2 blue & yellow damsels ALL have died & we do not know why. <Mmm...special requirements for the scallop, others aggressive, territorial, require large aquariums> (The tank was set up for 2 weeks before the "big" fish were added) <But was it cycled? Only water tests could have told...and this is a lot of fish to add suddenly. Also, this implies you had 'small' fish in the tank....read on wetwebmedia.com re fishless, humane, proper cycling> First we noticed black dots on the tang which we did some research & found out it was ich <Not ich> which we treated with "Clout". The tang cleared up we thought all was good, replaced the filter, <Between medicating and changing filter media, you have eliminated any cycle you had. Water will become toxic...> 3 days later our goby died, then the scallop, then yellow tang, then our clown fish & finally our 2 damsels. The tang went from being really bright yellow to white yellow spots in like 1 1/2 hours then started gasping for air & died in about 2 hours. The clown fish all of a sudden got covered with this white cotton looking stuff (we are assuming lymphocytes, but not for sure) <Not Lymphocystis....water mold or bacterial colonies> & died over night. Following the next day or so our cardinal fish had a little fin rot then a bloody looking eye & died with in 2-4 hours. The next day we noticed that the 2 blue damsel were becoming covered with a "mucus" looking film over them & rapid breathing (which the clout also said they treated) & they died.. I at this point with a 3 year old crying over the fish dying, went & had our water tested, everything was fine. <Everything not fine...buy some fair to good quality water tests (NOT dip-strip or similar) and recheck. I suspect ammonia and nitrite poisoning as the culprit here.> So I guess at this point we are really lost in what is going on with our fish. If you could please help. <Give cycling and stocking, medicating, a good read on wetwebmedia.com...I'll also put in a plug for Bob's book, The Conscientious Marine Aquarist. I have a copy and it is a bible for reef establishment> Thank you for taking time in reading & helping us. <Not a problem. With some research and a second try (based in this research- patience is key!- you can have a splendid aquarium.> John & Shala Young <Benjamin>

Saltwater die off... wipe-out syndrome f'  03/19/2008 Hello Crew. Since you've been so helpful in the past, I thought I'd try my luck here with a problem plaguing a customer of mine. A little over a year ago, he set up a 110 gallon saltwater aquarium (6' tank). Everything progressed fine through the cycle and the first fish until he had a nicely stocked tank with some mushrooms and Zoanthids spreading through the tank. The tank itself has a shallow sand bed, about 50 lbs of live rock, fluorescent lighting, 2 Koralia 4 pumps (1200gph each) and a Corallife Skimmer. The fish were fed a variety of foods, mostly frozen ala Bob's recipe from CMA. After almost a year of running fine, he had a sudden die off of all but a couple of fish. He hadn't been quarantining new additions, and I'm pretty sure it was a gill parasite that got them. After this episode he removed the remaining fish to his newly set up quarantine tank and let the tank run fallow for 6 weeks. The last of the fish were replaced in the tank at this time, with no signs of anything wrong with them through the entire 6 weeks. This would have been November last year. In the new year he started adding new fish again. He'd buy 1-3 from me at a time, from the same system, quarantine them for 2-4 weeks, then introduce them. All was progressing quite well until about 4 weeks ago when over a two week period, every fish died. I did a full range of tests on his water, and everything was well within acceptable ranges. He does a 10 gallon water change every week. All of the inverts and corals are cruising along as if nothing has happened. Following is a copy of his e-mail to me describing what he found. "James the only things i noticed with the fish was that they were always going to the cleaner shrimp to be cleaned, the trigger had a white dusting on it's body, they ate normally till they died there was no scratching but the fish would all of a sudden just bolt across the tank like they were startled. The first thing I noticed was the fins started getting a white patch on them then they would go whitish instead of staying clear and as it progressed the fish would move up the water column and stay in the power head flow. Once the fish were at the top of the water column it would be within a day or 2 and they would be dead. This whole thing happened over at the most 2 weeks. That's it aside from the Blenny acting nutty from the time I got it." All of the fish coming into my store get a medicated bath (from Bobs article on this site), a freshwater dip, and copper treatment if there is any sign of flashing at all. Fish from the same systems were sold to many other clients and customers with one death out of all the fish. The rest are still doing fine. Any ideas on what could be the culprit, be it a disease or something else? One of my customers suggested stray current, but it's not something I have a lot of knowledge on. Thanks in advance for any help you can give. Regards, James Foley Thunder Bay Aquascapes www.tbaquascapes.com <This "sort" of circumstance I have logged (along with others) in the category of "wipe out syndromes"... This poor "catch all" term is unsatisfying in that it neither identifies root cause/s, nor addresses probable cures... Nonetheless, I/we have cataloged a few occasions, here: http://wetwebmedia.com/toxicwipeoutf.htm Most commonly, I'd guess that these involve microbial origins... "something" gaining large enough population size, some aspect, by-product of metabolism poisoning, weakening other (macro) life... But, there might well be Protozoans involved, perhaps simpler chemical series... At any length, the approach to "solving" these syndromes has most often involved the scenario you describe above... removing fish, perhaps other life, allowing the system to run sans them... in the hope of lowering pathogenicity of the causative agent/s... Another avenue to explore is enhancing the "diversity" of a given mal-affected system (by adding mud, refugium, ozone <a favorite>, spiffing up skimming, adding more/new live rock...)... The last, desperate approach is to dump, nuke (chlorine usually, though some folks use Formalin... toxic! Leave windows wide open...) and rinse with freshwater, fill with fresh, rinse w/ fresh, re-fill the tank with saltwater, re-cycle... I am sorry to be so vague here... But this scenario cause/response is the best I know currently. The choices again are: To do as this customer has with fallowing the tank, adding more "diversity", and lastly, dumping/nuking... Bob Fenner>

Toxic marine tank  7/31/07 good <The beginnings of sentences...> morning, I am asking this query on behalf of my daughter she has been keeping one marine tank for about 18 months with much success however yesterday she bought her usual 2 buckets of fresh water and did all the tests. when <Are capitalized...> she got up this morning all her fish were dead she is devastated. she has been to the shop with samples of her water and they said everything was ok <Let's say that everything they tested for they considered okay> she just had a toxic tank <...?> which was unfortunate and said these things happen can you please give us any information or your views on what can have happened and can she avoid this in future. ( by the way her shrimps crabs etc. are ok) kind regards Elizabeth Gabe <Mmm... a bunch to discuss here... Need info. re the set-up, history of this system; the livestock, foods/feeding... Please have your daughter contact us, after reading here: http://wetwebmedia.com/toxictk.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Re: toxic marine tank -- 07/30/07 Hi Thank you for your reply I am afraid I can't give you all the details you asked for, she is too upset to talk about it right now. <I see... Well, best to wait then... no rush... Leave all up and running as it is for now> I will tell you what I can. The tank is 50 inches long 24 H 13 W She only feeds once a day and that is frozen shrimp <Mmm... again, really need to know more for sure...> I think ,I know it is frozen cubes sold in a block and some liquid she calls snow <The Little Fishies product? This is worthless> that is all that I am aware of. The tests are always OK she is very meticulous about tests and the moment any one is not 100% she takes a sample to the shop, I also know that this is very rare. The tank is about 18 months old, and the water change is done every 3 weeks or so. 2 buckets 25 litres each. The fish were Clowns 1.damsel 2 domino 1 puffer <Yikes... an untenable mix...> I do not know the kind of fish the others are as she only calls them by name. altogether she had a total of 10 fish, bearing in mind they were all small. She still has about 3 shrimp and 2 crab and turbo snails. It is this( toxic tank syndrome )that we do not understand is it a rarity. we still tend to blame the water change. Kindest regards Elizabeth <Have her read and write when things settle a bit. Cheers, BobF>

Toxic Tank(s); Myth or Just Mystery?   8/8/07 Good evening Bob & Crew, I'm glad you're still here because my water quality is not. Where, oh where, has my water quality gone? If this helps, this is the story of a Butterfly in a 10gal. treatment tank (for ich), and a Purple Tang in a 20gal. QT tank at the same time. Sorry about the length of this. I don't know how to keep the nightmare short. I was minding my own business, QT'ing my Longnose Butterfly (Sponge Bob) in a 10gal. tank with an Eheim hang on filter, heater, LR and Sand (tank was four months old, already housed 4 fish for QT for my 72gal. display) when this fish came down with signs of ich after about two weeks. Water quality was stable in this tank from the beginning and throughout this entire period (Temp 76-78, SG 1.021, <Too low> PH 8.0-8.2, Ammonia 0, Nitrites 0, Nitrates 0), including an additional week after I noticed the symptoms while I educated myself on my options. Fish was still behaving fine and eating Frozen Mysis. The fish never had spots on his body, only a few on its tail and one fin. With the help of your FAQ's and advice from the Crew, I moved him to a new 10gal. with no LR or Sand, raised the temp to 80-81deg., lowered the SG to about 1.019, and set up the tank as a treatment tank with a 4" PVC T-Pipe only for a hideout. Removed a Carbon filter that I didn't know had carbon in it after a week of testing Copper content at zero (duh! - thanks Bob) and then, finally, treated effectively with Cupramine following all directions for about the first of the two weeks while the copper tests were reading what they should be with a new test kit and no carbon filter (.4-.5). Spots were disappearing. Everything "seemed" as if it was finally going well. While all this is going on, I had to purchase a 20 gal. tank and equipment to QT my Purple Tang that had just arrived at my LFS after a four week wait. Ran 20gal. for a couple of days first and everything was testing ok (as above). I special ordered this Tang and had to take it. (Side Note: can you believe $200.00 was the cheapest I could get one? <Yikes! Where are you?> Another branch of same LFS chain wanted $500.00 for one they had in the store!?) Butterfly was originally scheduled to be in the display tank by the time the Tang arrived - ya right! During the second week of Butterfly treatment in the newly stripped treatment tank, I was checking water conditions in the Tang's 20gal. QT tank (no treatment) and was horrified to find that the readings were off the map for ammonia! (Yes... Maxed out) I didn't test anything else. I set a new land speed record on a panic 75% water change (which completely freaked out the fish) and it was still testing positive for ammonia, although less so (about 1.0). I did another 50% water change with some water I had just mixed. Still testing positive but less than .25 on the "not very accurate" color chart. While I was scratching my head and pulling my hair out over this, it came to me that I should test the Butterfly's tank just in case. I had only tested for copper for about the last week and he didn't eat the day before. Readings were elevated across the board! I had read that you might get artificially elevated readings for ammonia, but not nitrites (off the chart) and nitrates (approx. 40). I decided that newly mixed water can't possibly be as bad as this and was mixing and changing as fast as I could to do one 90% water change followed by a 50% water change and I was out of salt, and energy. I did check my source water and it tested negative for Ammonia, Nitrites and Nitrates. I picked up more salt and some Ammo Lock on the way home from work the next day and did more water changes with Ammo Lock over the next few days until the readings were "barely" registering by color. I added ZOE to the Butterfly's treated water because he wasn't eating. Things in both tanks finally seemed to be getting back to "almost" normal. The Butterfly started "nibbling", but not for long. Believe me when I tell you that in the middle of all this, I was on the verge of just packing it all in. I was looking for a huge sewer! Looking after my four month old 72 display with fish and corals (which is fine through this whole ordeal, somehow?), trying to treat this Butterfly (readjusting Copper treatment after each water change), trying to watch my new Tang, trying to figure out why my two tanks went toxic (by the way, I did remove uneaten food in the Butterfly's tank when he wasn't eating, but maybe not fast enough - sometimes I waited until the next day, but we're talking about very little food, and this doesn't explain the Tang's tank - he ate Mysis and Spectrum Pellets like a machine) Oh, and did I mention that I had another 10gal. housing the invertebrates that I had to separate from the Butterfly to treat it? What did I get myself into? Whatever it was, it was way too much for a rookie. <Take your time...> Now if this wasn't bad enough, at the end of that week when it was time to remove the copper treatment (two weeks and spots not visible), the Butterfly wasn't eating again. Before I was going to do another partial water change and replace the carbon filter, I noticed that now that my Tang looked grey and was not well at all. I immediately tested the water and found Ammonia at approx. 0.25 but the Nitrates were off the chart and that's where I stopped testing. He had been in QT for just over two weeks and this was the second time this had happened. He never had any signs of ich, or anything else visible, so, not having any better ideas, I (GULP!) basically threw him in my display tank. A move I hope I don't regret. Within an hour his colour was 80% better and he was swimming around starting to establish himself in the tank to my Coral Beauty's dismay, and now the Hawk has two bosses. Of course, the Butterfly's tank is now testing badly again, too. Ammonia approx. 0.25, Nitrites off the chart and Nitrates about 20. (Please forgive the approximates. These were mostly panic measurements. The tests were performed properly, but the recording and exact timeline were not) I placed him in the now vacant 20gal. after I did more emergency water changes on that one, and by last night, things were, again, back to barely reading any signs of trouble. Now I'm figuring that I will do a 25% water change every day for the duration of his stay in there not to take any chances. When I siphoned out 5gals. of water tonight, he just fell on his side on the bottom of the tank and started laboured breathing. Now what? I immediately tested again and after one day, the Nitrites were back up to 0.5 from barely noticeable last night. I retested my mixed water that I was going to use for the change (conditioned tap water, Instant Ocean Salt, SG still low for the Butterfly at about 1.020, temp at about 80deg., mixing for about 20hrs with a Maxijet 400 Powerhead) and it tested ZERO for Ammonia, Nitrites, and Nitrates. This time, again for lack of a better idea, I basically threw the Butterfly into the 5gal. pail with the Powerhead. He immediately started to swim against the mild circulation from the powerhead and is still doing so. That was about two hours ago. (Is this 400 Powerhead too much with this fish in the 5gal. pail? I don't want to work the fish to death swimming since he hasn't been eating. I originally had a 600 in there but it definitely looked like too much) Forgive me if the information is not expertly laid out, but I'm so rattled at this point, I can barely keep my story, or my eyes, straight. <Am... a bit lost here re your intent... Quarantine does not entail having no bio-filtration...?> I can not, for the life of me (and my fish), figure out what is going on here. It's as if these two tanks were cycling, but both tanks are completely bare save for the pre-washed & well rinsed PVC Pipe in each tank. Can waste from one fish and some sponge in a filter kick off this type of cycling activity in a completely bare tank? <Mmm, yes... the cycling microbes can/will live in the water, on the glass... can just as easily be supplanted...> When I started my first 10gal. QT tank with 10lbs. pre-cured LR and sand, I never saw any readings like this and I ran that tank for months and QT'd four fish without any readings, or problem at all. I've been through more salt water on these two tanks in the last few weeks than I think I've ever used on my 72 changing 10gals about every two weeks. Right now, the 72 and everyone in it (knock-knock) seems to be doing well as far as I can tell, (although obviously I am no expert), the Tang seems to be doing quite well in the display. His colour looks much better. He is not overly active. He hides from people still, but otherwise swims around quietly picking at the rock and exploring the tank. I'll keep my eyes open and my fingers crossed with this guy. The Butterfly, as mentioned, has taken up residence IN his "water change" bucket with water testing fine, for now. Do you have any idea what can make a bare tank (or two) go downhill so quickly? <All sorts> I use the same water, procedures, etc. on my 72 gal. and have NEVER had anything like this show up. If these fish somehow, by some miracle, survive two rounds of this punishment, I will rename them Guinness and Ripley's. If they don't, then I will of course feel very badly that this happened while they were in my care. Any light you can shed on this one will be greatly appreciated. And again, sorry about the length. Mike <Without much stability... from system size, diversity, buffering mechanisms, differing micro-organism groups can rapidly populate, their by-products seemingly poison a "bare" system. BobF>

Re: Toxic Tank(s); Myth or Just Mystery?  8/9/07 Dear Bob& Crew Thank you for your prompt reply. Unfortunately, even with enough water changes to fill a swimming pool over the last couple of weeks, this Butterfly did not make it. Very sad. I managed to save the Tang by putting him in the 72gal. display, but I could not risk putting the Butterfly in there after only two weeks of treatment for ich, even though he "appeared" to be symptom free. He had not been two weeks untreated without symptoms and I did not think it was wise or fair to expose the display tank livestock to this risk. If I understand correctly, either this fish failed to survive a bare tank that was going through an unexpected (by me) cycling process, or this tank was being poisoned by the by-products of rapidly populating micro-organisms, and in either case, three or four water changes a week of at least 50% were not sufficient to ward off the ill effects. <I am in agreement> The original QT tank that I set up with cured LR and sand never showed any signs of cycling, like my 72gal. did with the uncured LR, and I did not expect this with a bare tank. Unlike my Butterfly, I live and learn. Even though it was recommended that I discontinue QT'ing with LR and sand because fish can pick things up on their fins from either and it can be tough to distinguish these from ich spots, I will put LR and sand back in the 20gal., wait a couple/few weeks to see if it will cycle/stabilize before trying this again. This is what worked for all the other fish. <Good> Well, at least the panic is over and I have the advantage of time again on my side. Thank you Mike <Thank you for sharing... Your comments will save many other animals, and hobbyists grief. BobF>

Starting over, poisoned tank   12/4/06 Hello WWM, <Greetings to you!  Mich here.>   I had a marine reef tank for almost two years and suddenly everything went haywire and almost everything is dead.  <Hmm...not good.>  To rid myself of whatever poisoned my community, and to start over, should I boil each piece of live rock to make sure that nothing is left (thus making it dead rock, ha ha, ugh), boil all the filters, in short, boil everything so that it is all sterile?  <All depends on what exactly happened.>  This has been a horrible weekend.  <I'm sorry to hear of your troubles.> How should I start over with all the material and equipment that I have?  <Boiling seems a little radical to me.  It would sterilize your equipment and should kill the life in your rock, but really only eliminates some of the biologically based problems.  It will not address toxicological, chemical, or environmental issues that could be affecting you system, which could potentially be helped by the biological filtration that has already been established.  I would recommend trying to figure what happened.  Is this a disease issue? a contamination issue? a toxicological issue?  An environmental or temperature issue?  Have you tested your water chemistry?  Did everything decline rapidly or slowly?  What was lost vertebrates, invertebrates, corals or vegetation?  Many possibilities here. Thanks,  <You are welcome.> abra

Hydrogen Sulfide - 01/01/2006 Happy new year to you all, <And to you Will.> This weekend I had the pleasure of stripping down my 60 (UK) gal marine tank for the 2nd time, what a way to end the year but with a nice slow leak...? Anyway all the rocks corals fish etc. are in a nice spare tank set up with heater, filter, skimmer, and sand is in a vat with water and a powerhead. However my sandbed seems to have been producing hydrogen sulfide instead of nitrogen, kind of lucky the tank leaked in retrospect. The sandbed is about 4 inches deep I should imagine, maybe a little under, I have a bout 240lph of flow through the tank <excluding skimmer>. What's causing the hydrogen sulphide? Bed too shallow? Not enough flow? Wrong bacteria proliferating? <Anaerobiosis, organic build up. Flow must be leaving dead areas.> And other than the smell what effects does this substance have? Suppressed pH or is it actually toxic? <Hmm....Being from lack of oxygen, the pH would be depressed, could have a random "die off" of all livestock.> FWIW soon I shall be upgrading from a Prizm skimmer to a v2skim 400, will this help problems, the Prizm never really does much <other than irritate the family with it's gurgling and bubbling> <Will likely help as will better flow. Good surface turbulence will help gas exchange.> Thank you in advance, Will <You're welcome. - Josh.> Re: Hydrogen Sulfide - 01/02/2006 Thank you, <You're welcome Will.> With regards to flow I shall put the 2 800lph pumps at each end and I have a 900lph which I shall put in the middle, I was thinking of placing in the middle of the tank with a powerhead aiming through the rocks, would this be a good idea? <Hmm...You've kind of lost me here. Are these new pumps? These weren't listed earlier. At any rate, I would direct the two 800 pumps slightly downward from opposite ends (so they converge in the middle. The 900, I would mount high on either side of the back wall angled slightly upward and across the tank diagonally (enough to push the surface up about a 1/2 inch). The current will form a slight arch, coming down in random locations because of the surface turbulence.>   Should I point the two 800's at the front glass or just through the tank aimed slightly at the surface? <I would just aim them at each other, toward the rock.> Thank you again Will <My pleasure. - Josh>

- Ammonia Spike, Help! - Good Morning - thanks in advance for your help. History of tank: been up for 5 months 45 gals 75lbs live rock 20 lbs live sand 2 powerheads 201 & 301 Amiracle SL-5 Hippo Tang Six Line Wrasse 15 - 20 % water changes every 2 weeks using a water tap purifier. Test water- no ammonia) While I was away last week , some of the snails in the tank starting dying - When I got home all snails dead - 2 hammer corals dead - star polyp, spaghetti coral looking real bad. Ammonia levels super high as high as 70. <Egads!> Did a 15 gallon water change immediately. Later in the day cleaner shrimp died, still ammonia level high. Did another 5 gallon water change that night. Next morning all corals dead - ammonia level still high. Removed all dead coral, moved live rock around found some more dead snails and removed them. Did another 15 gallon water change, and last night a 5 gallon change All that is left in the tank is the Hippo Tang, six line Wrasse, Sally light foot crab, and about 5 red & blue crabs. Ammonia - 60 Nitrates- 40 Nitrites - 0 Salinity - 1.025 Temp - 77 ph - 8.0 What can I do to save what is left in the tank? <Larger water changes - if your ammonia level is 70 and you change half of the water, that's only going to reduce the ammonia by half... need to do several of these in a row.> And also what should I do to prevent this in the future - my daughter and I want to make sure we do not endanger the livestock again. <Don't load up on the snails... only two or three in a tank of this size - no doubt that problem triggered the next into a domino-type reaction. Likely the ammonia is the result of the die-off. Large [more than 50%] water changes are your friend.> RT <Cheers, J -- >

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> 

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

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>

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>

Milky Tank Hi Bob, Love your column! Yesterday I did my routine water tests, about 1 week from the regular water change. Ammonia, Nitrite, were unreadable, pH 8.2, and Nitrate 10ppm. That was about 10:00 pm. This morning at 8:00 am my tank looked like a huge glass of milk! In a HUGE panic, I immediately did 3 consecutive 25% water changes. ( empty, refill, empty, refill, etc.) Trying to "fix" it without dramatic shock if that's even possible. Retesting at that time reveals the exact same results as last night, Nitrate still 10ppm, so it must have been incredibly higher before the panic water change.  The tank visibility is improved, but still very cloudy. Any idea of what happened, How to prevent it in the future, and how to clear the water????  The tank has been successfully running for over 2 years. Additions to the tank in the past month: 1 green brittle star, 1 long spined sea urchin, 1 arrow crab. Capacity: 75 Gallons. Other inhabitants: 1 cleaner shrimp, 1 boxing shrimp, 5 hermit crabs, 1 blue/yellow damsel, 1 Clarkii clown, 1 checkered goby, 1 Banggai cardinal, 1 bubble tip anemone, 1 carpet anemone, and a full compliment of live rock. Filtration: 1 canister filter rated at 350 gph, 1 protein skimmer . Water changes at 1 month intervals (25-30%) Nitrates generally run between 5 and  15 ppm. All of the inhabitants are accounted for except the clown, I haven't seen her  yet.  Thanks in advance for your input! Lisa <Thank you for writing, and the mystery. Gosh, all sounds like a good set-up and maintenance regimen... except the "white out"... Let's see, because most all the livestock that might contribute to the condition seem to be okay.... at least they didn't just dissolve and make the water change color... And of the livestock list, nothing jumps out as "reproductive products" as a cause... I'm inclined to speculate (is this vague or what? Maybe there is a career for me in politics!) that "something" went awry in your live rock and/or substrate to render the observed effect (it may have been a microbial explosion, or "wipe out"). The very good news is you're observant, intelligent and diligent... and as a consequence of having a good set-up and healthy livestock to start with, you will likely not have problems going forward. In other words, you did about what I would do at least, given the same conditions/circumstances. Oh, and how to "clear the water" (read the input Bob)... I would utilize a pre-packaged unit or two of activated carbon and resin... like Chemipure in your filter flow path. Bob Fenner>

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