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FAQs on Reef System Operation/Maintenance 26

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Related FAQs: Reef Maintenance 1, Reef Maintenance 2, Reef Maintenance 3, Reef Maintenance 4, Reef Maintenance 5, Reef Maintenance 6, Reef Maintenance 7, Reef Op. 8, Reef Op. 9, Reef Op. 10, Reef Op. 11, Reef Op. 12, Reef Op. 13, Reef Op. 14, Reef Op. 15, Reef Op. 16, Reef Op. 17, Reef Op. 18, Reef Op. 19, Reef Op 20, Reef Op. 21, Reef Op. 22, Reef Op. 23, Reef Op. 24, Reef Op. 25, Reef Op. 27, & Marine Maintenance, Reef Systems 1, Reef Systems 2, Reef Set-Up 1, Reef Set-Up 2, Reef Set-Up 3, Reef Set-Up 4, Reef Set-Up 5, Reef Set-Up 6, Reef Tanks, Reef Lighting, Reef Lighting 2, Reef Filtration, & Reef Livestocking, Reef Livestocking 2, Reef Feeding,

Small Marine Aquariums
Book 1:
Invertebrates, Algae
New Print and eBook on Amazon:
by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Small Marine Aquariums
ook 2:

New Print and eBook on Amazon: by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Small Marine Aquariums
Book 3:

New Print and eBook on Amazon:
by Robert (Bob) Fenner

Guess what. I have a problem (Reef hlth)      1/13/20
Good day dearest WWM team,
<Good day Evelyn>
As many, a long time reader and fan.
So. I have a 120 gallon reef tank with:
Bubble magus 7 skimmer
<A very nice product>
Carbon reactor
<Do you change this often?>
Phosphate reactor
Bioplastics reactor
<Am not a fan of this, I rely more on DSB>
Ammonia 0, nitrite 0, nitrate 1.5
Phosphate 0.02, cal. 500, magnesium 1500, KH 8.7 brought down from 11.
Dose: Redsea A and B
The tank has been running for just about 3 years.
Fish: 2 little wrasses, 2 antheas, a little fox , a mandarin, a damsel, all non coral disturbing fish with the exception of the fox I suppose.
The tank is mostly soft corals, the usuals, and a few SPS right at the summit of the rock work.
<What about aquarium lighting, water temperature… have you added new fish or corals recently?>
Huston, here’s the problem: the softies are NOT happy and declining in health. They look shrunken and blasé, some flesh of the prized scoly has deteriorated along the edges. A tree, not a Kenya, just decided to ‘spontaneously’ die after 2 years.
<Mmm, this is certainly not a good sign>
Our meat coral the size of a small dinner plate is now the size of a peony. We had a RTN of a large SPS about 3 months back, it did not spread to any other.
I change my socks every 2 days religiously.
Your thoughts ??
<How often do you change aquarium water and what percentage each time?... salt contains very important elements that get “used up” by marine organisms and need to be replaced. I suggest doing an immediate partial water change, 15 or 20% at least and see if corals show any improvement in the next few days.>
Many thanks,
<You’re most welcome. Wil.>
Re: Guess what. I have a problem      1/13/20

Oh! Very important omitted things, there’s just so much.
The lighting: 2 maxspect razor 420 R 15,000K, places about 11” from the surface of the tank.
Water change 20% once per month.
The carbon is changed every 2 to 3 weeks
<Regularly, carbon gets exhausted and loses adsorption capacity in the first few days, beyond that it will turn into a biological filter.>
Temp is 78f, PH is 8.8
< A bit high, try to maintain it around 8.3>
Another death I did not report was that of a brain, it just randomly stayed closed and very slowly disintegrated.
It’s like, a slow decline in the health of the softies, yet some others appear to be flourishing. It’s been ‘stable’ for so long, no recent additions.
Sometimes I feel that if you screw with tank chasing after numbers it just interferes with the balance.
<You’re right on this, personally I don’t lose sleep thinking about the numbers...good maintenance practices maintain water chemistry balanced.>
I think that I had a better tank when my KH was 7 and my mg was 1350 and my nitrates were 15 and I had hair algae. I think tanks find their own balance with peoples circumstances different city water etc. any thoughts appreciated.
Many thanks,
<I suggest returning the numbers to where they were before the losses, please do keep us posted. Wil.>
Re: Guess what. I have a problem; reef op.    1/24/20

He is the culprit!!!!
<Yikes!... How did you figure out? Wil.>
The reason for the upset

Bryopsis, Nitrates, Rose BTA - Frustration!      5/9/19
Good evening Crew!
I have a shallow 60g Innovative Marine Aquarium (i.e. the sump is actually a 6 wide chamber at the back of the tank and the display has a thick divider separating the two vs. having it underneath).
<Yes... really don't like these "integral" designs; hard to see, work on>
The tank gets a lot of natural sunlight through a huge upper floor window our house is a very open
concept 2 story.
<I have similar arrangement w/ some large systems backing up to a window and overhead glass in the rear sunroom here. Too much light about half the year>
Im not new to marine tanks, and Ill say my 200g predator tank, a 90g reef, and a 20g reef tank were successes at my old house as they operated pretty much trouble free, everything flourished, and I hardly even had to clean the glass because there was no nuisance algae. The first year of operating this 60g tank, I went through the typical new tank issues and learned to adjust my LED lighting to the natural sunlight the tank was receiving.
I had water parameters at untraceable nitrates and was using two filter socks that I swapped out weekly when I did my 10% RODI water changes.
I then swapped out one of the filter sock chambers for one of Innovative Marines refugium canisters and utilized Chaeto. All was well for another year. It seems as though last summer while on vacation the Chaeto managed to trickle through the bottom of the refugium and was shredded in pumps, etc. I needed new Chaeto and bought locally from a hobbyist. Ever since then, I have been battling a Bryopsis plague that Im sure was brought in via his Chaeto. About that time, my nitrates have been through the roof at
around 35ppm (Im used to operating all my tanks at 0ppm).
<I'd shoot for a few ppm, like less than 10; but not zero NO3>
I discovered this when most of cleanup crew inverts seemed to quickly perish over the span of a couple of weeks. I stepped up my water changes, doing 10% every 4 days for several weeks and used Red Seas No3P04-X religiously to get my nitrates down to within 10ppm.
<Oh! Good>
I understand that nitrates are caused by what is added to the tank, be it fish waste or food (not natural sunlight).
My stock: two percula clowns, yellow watchman goby, canary wrasse, royal gramma, and a coral beauty angel... two peppermint shrimp, cleaner shrimp, three green Mithrax crabs, one banded serpent star, 20 blue legged hermits, 8 Nassarius snails, and about 10 other assorted small snails. I also have a
BTA that isnt doing so well. I got the rose bubble tip anemone when my tank had been stable in around 18 mths, and now the anemone seems to have turned from a nice red to a very pale pink and he is only 1/3 the size he was before (he's also never split).
<You do have measurable HPO4?>
Nitrates... the only difference between my habits now and with my old aquariums is that I have filter socks. I've stopped using them the last month, and still Im at 35ppm nitrates. I currently really have no
as I had to turn my protein skimmer off because I am using Fluconazole for Bryopsis. I feed my stock ½ a frozen cube of assorted food about 4x week. 2x week I use a combination of pellets, ensuring that I only add enough pellets that are being consumed. I figure my bio load is average or even a little light for my tank? I have no intention of adding any other fish as I prefer not to crowd my critters. I do 10% water changes three times a month with RODI water. Awhile back Bob suggested I stop using filter socks,
<Or cleaning them daily>
 so I did. It seems unreasonable that Id have to continually use NO3PO4-X to keep nitrates in check, right? Its got to be something else?
<Yes... a source of ammonia, protein... Could you add another sump, refugium... w/ DSB, RDP, macro algae culture?>
Bryopsis... Fluconazole seems to work, but just when I think I have it beat, it comes back. I have read that if you pull or disturb it that the cells stay waterborne and the problem continues. Further research, never pull Bryopsis... use Fluconazole, so that's what I've been doing. Any other tricks you can think of?
<Maybe others have: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/BryopsisF.htm >
The Rose BTA... I suspect that the health of my BTA is full on my nitrate issue?
<Can't tell from the data presented. There are variable and multiple factors possible>
Additionally, my colt coral that I was continually trimming is not flourishing at all, and my toad stool looks bleached. My Zoas and star polyps are doing awesome.
<These are winning likely... at the expense of the soft coral, anemone... see WWM re Allelopathy>
Thoughts here? If it matters, I am using just the plain old Instant Ocean salt with no other additives. My LFS told me Instant Ocean alone doesn't carry the appropriate trace elements to support corals, and its only good for FOWLR tanks? Any truth to this?
<Can, could be a factor...>
Look forward to your thoughts as always! My other tanks have been a joy, and this tank is the most challenging one to get my system in a happy place.
<The reading for now. Bob Fenner>

I can't figure out what's wrong!   Gen. reef maint. and Alk. f's   1/22/19
I am writing to ask if you can think of something other than the normal tank parameters that might cause a new reef tank to not be quite right.
<Mmm; a bunch of possibilities>
I have a Fluval Peninsula AIO 13 gallon tank that is doing very very well, live sand, live rock, 2 small fish, lots of hermit crabs, snails, bristle worms and copepods. 2 peppermint shrimp and several happy corals. Pulsing Xenias, snowflake toadstool, yellow elegans toadstool, Zoas, colt coral and even a tiny frag of Montipora, and a tiny frag of Pocillopora, (both recommended beginner sps corals). All the corals are out and happy, growing and doing well. I do weekly water changes but don't add a lot of supplements
...just Seachem Plus. Per Sally Jo Headlee at GARF.
<Looks very nice indeed>
In the 13 gallon I have one Midas blenny, Lowly Worm. And 1 Firefish Incognito. You never see him except to eat. There is a crab of some sort in the live rock,....he never comes out so he must be a filter feeder or eats copepods. I don't know, but he's never hurting anything so I leave him alone He's not even eating my beautiful bristle worms! I have a wonderful group of them now. I like them a lot. Do you know they have faces with eyes!!
<Ah, yes; and facial palps!>
I got really close with my camera and actually was eye to eye with one,.... what a revelation. I thought they were like earthworms, but they are not!
Cute little faces really.
Per my API test kits,...this tank has 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, 0 nitrates.
Calcium is high like 800 on the test, and the KH is high too. It took 16 drops to turn the test from blue to yellow.
<Do reduce these by serial dilution... and cutting back on supplementation>
Any way, this is my successful tank, and I love it. But the corals are growing and I'd like to move the
ones that will get bigger(the toadstools and the Colt coral) to my new tank
..............and herein lies the problem!
My new tank is a Innovative Marine 25 gallon Lagoon style tank. Short and square. I wanted more floor space and not a lot of height, I need to be able to work on my tank. Like the other tank, it's an AIO. Sump in the back, which works well for me, much easier to work on back there instead of on the floor! I used to have a big tank with a big sump. What a pain! .
In it has Live Sand, but instead of real ocean rock it has that Walt Smith brand man made rock (I was trying to do the "right" thing and save the reef!). It's done with the cycling and diatoms,....and it's nice and clear.
It's been about 2.5 months it's been running.
I have a little bit bigger pump than came with the Lagoon tank, because their pump was really bad and really noisy, so I put one of my backup pumps in. I have lot's of flow and my jets are aimed up to always ruffle the water we need lots of oxygen in the water after all. I do this in the little tank too. Both jets are aimed up.
<Should be fine>
So, my testing is showing the tank to be on the downward side of the Nitrate spike you get at the end of cycling,....it's between 20 and 10 ppm on the API Test Master Salt Testing kit. The Ammonia is 0, the Nitrite is 0 as would be expected. The KH is high, just like in the 13 gallon tank,....our well water is high in dissolved minerals. And although I haven't tested the Calcium I'm sure it's fine too since it's a new tank and nothing is using it up. The Walt Smith Rock is calcium carbonate.
<Yes; Walt and his wife Deb are friends, have been to their place in Fiji a few times>
It is my plan to add more live sand,....it's on it's way. I just read on your site that if you are going to have live sand, 3 inches deep is better than 1 or 2 for the nitrate bacteria.
<This is so; the deeper the better; IF not deep, then finer grade>
I have added my cleanup crew, hermit crabs (reef safe ones) and a variety of snails. I have added copepods. I have some of Sally Jo's Garf Grunge mixed into the sand bed too. I also seeded some of the 13 gallon tank's sand into the new tank. So, I do have copepods, but no where near the thriving community of them I see in the 13 gallon tank which is just crawling with creatures. This tank has a few of the larger copepods walking on the rock now and then,....a few of the little ones that look like shrimpies with big white eyes. Mostly though I see things zooming around in the water, against the black back of the tank,....millions of them. They aren't floating, they all have different trajectories, so I know they are alive. But there is almost nothing inhabiting the rock,...I don't think they like that Walt Smith rock,....but it's too late now to take it out. I don't want to kill the ones that are living in it.
<This takes time. I would move a good deal of the substrate from the 13 to the 25>
The one thing that both tanks have in common is the PH. It is always between 7.8 and 8. It doesn't go up to 8.2 or 8.4. The only supplement I use is Seachem Reef Plus,....Sally Jo said I need to use that 2 times a week.
Otherwise, I only feed New Life Spectrum Thera A pellets, no frozen thawed food at this time. Lowly Worm and the Firefish are happy with the pellets and so are the other creatures.
Ok, so the problem is this,.....Despite the water parameters being ok,...not perfect,....but getting there.....why won't my little pieces of corals open up?
<Mmm; could be a few things... from the too-low pH, a lack of useful food/s, to a deficiency in "something"... like iodide/ate, iron....>
I have a tiny piece of colt coral, a small cutting of my big gorgonian coral,...and some button polyps from Sally Jo. Only the Button's are open all the way, the colt coral is all scrunched down in his barnacle, and the Gorgonian won't open his polyps. He's just laying there with them poking out but not open. All three of these are fully open and growing like weeds in the 13 gallon tank. I'm so frustrated. I thought that softies like some nitrate in their water for food? Am I wrong?
<All in balance; but yes, some NO3, HPO4....>
I can't buy any fish for this tank until I know that things are balanced and thriving! I don't want them to suffer and die. Can you help me figure out what I still need to correct?
<For now I'd experiment with adding just one thing at a time... DO try some fine frozen food/s (or a blended product), OR iodide-ate (SeaChem's line is a fave), OR Fe...>
I've done many small and 1 large water change, to bring the nitrates down,..
..I will of course continue doing so. But I can't figure out what I've done wrong in this new tank. I will take a couple pictures for you,....maybe you can think of something I haven't. Thank you. Pictures below.
First the 13 gallon tank that's doing well. It is right next to a window, has plants behind it, but still get tons of real sunlight. I think that's partly why it does so well. And I don't scrape the back wall, the snails need something green to eat, there's no algae in the tank any where. Plus the algae filters the light coming in a little.
<Yes; I'd leave this be>
The 3 month old Lagoon tank...looks like mars or some place uninhabited! I hate that look. I hate that Walt Smith rock too. It's ugly. But it's better for the environment I hope. The new tank has a fancier light,....better for corals it said. It's a Current light. With the fancy interface, but I don't use that part really. The one thing I don't have in this tank is pumps,.. there is so much flow I didn't think I needed more. I have them if I need them though. .
Thank you for taking the time to even read this massive post,....I hope the pictures aren't too huge.
<They're fine; thank you>
Amanda Wilson in Jackson, NJ, USA
<Do please keep me/us informed as time goes by with what you're trying, the apparent results.
Bob Fenner, San Diego, CA, USA>

13 gal.

25 gal.

Re: I can't figure out what's wrong!       1/23/19
Thank you Bob for you fast reply! You always amaze me.
<Welcome Mandy>
About the calcium and hardness, I don't ad any calcium to my water,...I'm not sure why it's so high, maybe it's just my well water. I guess I should test it.
<Please do... the SeaChem product likely adds... Do you have, make reverse osmosis for your drinking, cooking? I'd cut the well water with this if so>
And since it doesn't seem to be a problem in the 13 gallon tank I hate to start to do serial dilution of anything. I will only upset the whole thing!
The corals seem quite happy there and so do the fish and other creatures.
<Real good; I do agree>
About taking half the substrate from the 13 gallon tank and seeding it into the 25 gallon, I can do that....I have new sand coming and it can replace
what I will remove,....but it will stir up what Sally Jo calls a "Sewer" in my 13 gallon tank!
<Ahh, good>
All the stuff suspended in the substrate will be in the water after I do that. Won't that cause the 13 gallon to have a huge nitrate spike and kill all my creatures? Perhaps I don't understand this well, please elaborate?
<Use a siphon hose, and pour off the supernatant... the floating water and debris>
I have considered taking half of the live rock in that tank, (chisel it into two pieces) and move one side to the new tank, but at this point the Xenias on that live rock will all die in the new tank, the last little group
I put in scrunched down and just disappeared! It was so sad. I don't feel I can do that to them even though I have lots of extras. They are my favorite coral of all. Sorry. I know many people don't like them, people consider them to be weeds, but I love Dandelions best too. I'm a nut.
<Then we are nuts>
So, about the Iodide, I have the Seachem Iodide already, I lost my one and only cleaner shrimp when he was molting a few months ago, so I thought I might need more Iodide. I only used it once though, because then on your site it said do not add things you don't test for, and I don't have an iodide test kit. (I will get one though.)
<Do use this>
Why would I add Iodide to a new tank with new saltwater mixed up,....I use Instant Ocean Reef Crystals I assumed that the salt has the correct amount of Iodide in the mix?
<It "drops out of solution" very easily>
But if you think that might be what's missing, I can add it. I'm not sure about Iron,...it's in the Reef Plus I believe. So is iodine....but it's very small amounts. Maybe I need more? Once again, I though that salt mix would have all these things in the proper amounts,... and I've been doing water changes too,....lot's of fresh saltwater.
<Try just one change at a time... Good science!>
You know, there is one thing that was different in the new tank than the older one,.....I started it with a different salt mix. Red Sea Coral Pro Salt. It had great reviews and I thought it might be a step up from the Reef Crystals, I wanted to try a SPS coral,....but when I told Sally Jo she said NO. Go back to the Reef Crystals, and I have for the last few water changes.
I don't know if that might be part of the problem. The RED SEA Coral Pro salt is much heavier they say in Magnesium, Calcium and Carbonates and some other coral building stuff than regular salt mixes.
From their label on the can of salt:
"Coral Pro Salt Mix provides the biologically balanced, elevated levels of the foundation elements (Calcium, Magnesium & Carbonates) necessary for sustainable, accelerated growth and enhanced vitality of all corals."
Maybe this Red Sea Salt mix is why my calcium and my hardness are so high?
<Could well be a contributor>
I didn't really use test kits when I started the first tank,....so I didn't test it until after I used the Red Sea salt,....and both tanks are the same.
Even the old tank got some new water made with the Red Sea Coral Pro salt.
Maybe thing just aren't balanced because of it?
<Again; a possibility>
About adding food, I do, I feed the hermits and snails a few pellets everyday, don't want them to starve in such a naked tank. There's nothing left to eat in there since they ate all the diatoms.
<A fine small food, like Cyclops (-eeze) would be my first choice to add here>
Ok, I'm sorry I think I have too many questions!
<No worries. BobF>
Re: I can't figure out what's wrong!       1/23/19

Ok! I didn't think about using a siphon! But when I pour off the dirty water won't I lose copepods and bacteria too?
<Not much of them, no. For bigger animals (like crustaceans), pour the water through a net>
Isn't that why you want me to move the sand to begin with? To move copepods and bacteria? I could use a fine net for the bigger creatures I guess.
<Ah yes and yes>
OK. I'll do that. It's Oolite sand, that's my favorite. Even if it does get stirred up easily. It's still the prettiest and softest sand. Then there is a little crushed coral on top.
Then after I get the sand back into the newer tank, I can add 1 dose of Iodide.
Perhaps that will help.
<Am hoping so>
One thing though that I still don't understand is why do I have such a hard time keeping the PH up.
<Mmm; it's likely a good deal due to your high Calcium level... there's a negative interaction twixt high alkaline earth (Ca, Mg...) content and pH>
It's very stable,....it's stays at 7.8 all the time on my tests.....maybe too many people breathing in the house?
<I hope not... though too-sealed homes can have such an effect>
I've read that any where from 7.6-8.4 is ok,....but only for fish. Corals and inverts need 8 and above. I've added baking soda,....several times, it never stays up.
The other tank is at Ph 8. Not high enough really either,....but again, everything is thriving. I just don't get it! I think it must be the liverock is just a much better Rock.
<Likely is the rock>
It's real ocean rock,....and millions of thing live inside it, I see them crawling around when I use my camera and get really close, there are thing in there that are just amazing! Long whiskers and funny curly bodies,... things that walk upside down and then flip over and never miss a beat!
I love watching them. My favorites though are the ones that look like tiny shrimp and have big white eyes....they are so fast! They love the barnacles best.
Bob, there is nothing in my life more wonderful than that 13 gallon tank.
It s like looking at heaven. I really want the 25 to be just as happy.
<In time... B>
Re: I can't figure out what's wrong!       1/23/19
Thanks so much Bob, I will give it more time and do the things you suggested
<Thank you Mandy. B>
Re: I can't figure out what's wrong!       1/23/19

I tested my well water, straight from the tap, not through the Pure filter.
It only took 2 drops for the color to change on the Calcium. Very low.
And it only took 3 drops for the KH to change! So, we don't even have a lot of minerals in our well water.
<Not ones involved in hardness at least>
We do live in the Pine Barrens in NJ. The soil is very sandy and acidic I believe. Lot's of mountain laurels and pines.
<Have been to a few places in New Jersey; many small water districts in the Garden State, and the ones I'm familiar with do have good/great water for human use... not much dissolved solids>
There is a little Phosphate,....it showed .5 ppm's.
<Likely fine for your set-up/s>
The PH of the tap water was the lightest yellow (lowest reading),...7.4. Of course, it doesn't measure lower than that on the test, so who knows it might be even lower.
<Mmm; yes...>
I have drinking water test strips, I will check it with them too,....can always use a second data point.
Ok, on the drinking water test strip it was again at the lowest color, which says reads ph 6. So, I guess our water is somewhat acidic. I wonder why the test strip doesn't go lower than ph of 6?
<Just what the kit is made for. There are lower colorimetric assays for pH et al. I taught H.S. chemistry and physics>
I wonder how that affects my water in my salt tanks?
<Yes; this water's "hydrogen ion content" will eat away at the alkalinity, reserve in your mix, and that of the substrates (rock, gravel/sand) in the tank itself. You might... should look into increasing the amount of baking soda, or using (better) a pH bolstering product. Again, another SeaChem product is my choice... This should be mixed into the change out water ahead of use, all allowed to sit a few days... if you can, a week ahead of its use next maintenance interval>
So, it must not be my water that is sending the Calcium and hardness up so high. I must have been the Red Sea Coral Pro salt mix.
Or maybe the Walt Smith rock gives off a lot of minerals in the beginning?
<Indeed it can. It is touted as being "ocean cured" after being made (on shore)... but the cement part is quite alkaline for a while>
They do say to let it cure until the PH gets up to 8 or higher in the fine print online.
Is that what's happening? I thought because there is no ammonia or nitrite it was all cured?
<Could be>
Do you even have to cure dry rock?
<Not for the same reasons as live, but yes; it does need to soak... to remove excess materials that are easily soluble>
It's never even been in the ocean,...why would you have to cure it at all?
<If it's the product I've met with... made in Fiji; then it has been cured... again, by being placed underwater on the shallow reefs for months>
The sand is just regular CaribSea brand. I don't think it's the sand releasing the calcium,....or minerals,.....or is it?
<Also a potential factor>
I just had a light bulb come on in my head! IF the water comes in slightly acidic....does that do what vinegar would do if you dosed the tank with vinegar?
<Indeed; yes. All acids are proton donors, electron acceptors>
I've read that people do that to release more calcium and minerals from their rock and substrate. Maybe it's just happening naturally in my tanks because of the water being at PH of 6.
<Well; actually all this is a mix... IF you add equal numbers of Hydrogen ions (acid) and Hydroxyl ions (base), you end up with a neutral pH solution: 7.0... >
When I had large reef tanks, 150 gallon and 50 gallon, they were all fine too with this local well water....something's different in this new tank.
And the only think that's different is the Walt Smith Rock.
<You could soak or to save time, boil a piece in tapwater, measure the water pH after....>
This is weird.
<Mmm, just unknown for now. BobF>
Re: I can't figure out what's wrong!       1/23/19

So, I guess that reading isn't too weird,...for the pH in the tap water.
I read this that says that a pH of 6-8.5 is normal in underground water.
Like well water.
https://www.water-research.net/indexphp/water-treatment/tools/the-ph-of-water  In general, a water with a pH < 7 is considered acidic and with a pH > 7 is considered basic. The normal range for pH in surface water systems is 6.5 to 8.5 and for groundwater systems 6 to 8.5. Alkalinity is a measure of the capacity of the water to resists a change in pH that would tend to make the water more acidic.
<Ah yes. B>

Re: I can't figure out what's wrong!      1/24/19
Bob, the Walt Smith rock I got is not the one they put in the ocean. I spoke to them on their FB Page and he said I bought the one that is never in the ocean.
<I see; like their 2.0 product... quite alkaline>
They also make one that is put in to the ocean,....but Liveaquaria doesn't offer it on their website, so I never knew about it.
I wish I had. It wasn't cheap and I believed it had been put in the Ocean because I watched their video where it shows it being in the ocean for a while then shipped out.
But that was the 2.0? Or 2.1? I don't know. Either way, I ended up with just dry rock.
<The test I mentioned. B>
Re: I can't figure out what's wrong!      1/24/19

I just checked the Reef Buffer online and it says it raises Alkalinity a lot too,....will that be ok in my tank?
<Ah yes>
I already am off the chart on alkalinity. It took 16 drops to get the color change.
Maybe baking soda is better for my situation?
<Try it and see. The carbonate in commercial products is "stronger" and  more persistent than bicarbonate... BobF>

Stumped! Water Parameters       9/27/18
Good morning guys (and gals?)
<Hi Dave>
I've been in the hobby for 15yrs, but my new setup has me stumped. Previously, I had a reef tank with consistently pristine water, no algae, and everything grew spectacularly! So, here's the issues...
60 gallon shallow reef tank. It's placed in my hallway by the front entrance and it does receive direct natural sunlight for a few hours in the morning, and then in the afternoon it receives a little indirect light from the open room next to it. I've adjusted my lights accordingly, and for the first 16mths of this tank's life I had everything in balance. I have a single filter sock that's changed every two weeks or if it looks really dirty. In my other overflow, water empties into a refugium box with my Chaeto (it's the way Innovative Marine tanks work with built in refugiums). My bioload is two clowns, a canary wrasse, watchman goby, cleaner shrimp, banded star, diminishing cleanup crew of small hermits and a few snails... frogspawn, toadstool, some Zoas, star polyps.
<Decent bioload>
My tank's pumps turn the water volume 13X/hour, and on top of that I run an MP40 on a random cycle for plenty of water movement. I run a skimmer 24/7. I feed lightly, usually half a block of frozen (I alternate between four types of appropriate feed) or some pellets - only what they will eat before it sinks to the bottom. I do 6gallon water changes weekly. Should be good, right?
<Good, sounds just like how it must be done>
I went on vacation this summer in early July, and can't get my tank back in balance. High nitrates, ok maybe from lack of water changes in early July, but I've remedied that the past 10 weeks. I'm thinking high nitrates killed off some snails, including some larger Nassarius snails... maybe adding some ammonia...
<Could be in part>
Either way, over the summer I have one hell of a hair and diatom algae issue. I've stepped up my water changes, I've pulled as much of the hair algae as I can, removed anything that looks like a dead snail... I think my corals are starting to really suffer. I find myself having to use Red Sea N03:PO4 nitrate remover to stay in balance with low nitrates, but realize there's something else behind this I can't figure out.
<Since everything went right before your vacation, you must get things back to where they were; looks like you are doing things right, but it will take a while to put your system in balance again.>
Am I correct in saying the natural sunlight can certainly cause algae issues if my lights aren't adjusted accordingly; however, this should not be causing high nitrates?
<Natural sunlight can cause algae issues indeed but you didn´t have this problem before, so I will discard this option. Sunlight don´t cause a rise in nitrates, not at all >
I'm almost wondering if a cleaning lady is dumping something in the tank?
<Do you think this could be a possibility? >
Anything jump out at you as to errors in my way?
<Nope, the only “error” is your absence, I mean, your system was accustomed to a punctual maintenance routine. I recommend you to increase the amount of water changes and change the filter sock daily until things go back to normal>
Looking for a suitable algae eating fish that is a good fit for my 60 gallon shallow reef and won't harass my watchman goby (¿i.e. a lawnmower blenny is fairly territorial, right?).
<Lawnmower blennies are territorial but since it will be a “newcomer”, you can give it a try.>
Look forward to your expert help!
<Keep us posted Dave. Wilberth>

Chemical Filtrants: Too clean the cause of problems?
Hi Crew!
<Hey Dani>
My 28g is about 3 years old but I rebooted it in May—so it’s trying to mature out still. Stats to start: -LED 89w par intensity up to 700, lights on for 7 hours
<Aim for a longer period,10 hrs. will be far better>
-2 returns @ 266 gal each -1k icecap gyre at 700 gph peak -SG 1.025 -Am 0 -Nitrite 0 -Nitrate <10 -Alk 10 -Calcium 475 -Mag 1400 -Test bi weekly with Salifert & dose Seachem reef builder, calcium, & magnesium. -10% weekly water change with Red Sea -I only feed frozen twice a week (half cube typically) with a small broadcast of zooplankton (1-2ml), pellets 4 days, and no food on water change day. -skim aggressively with a Aquamaxx HOB 1.5
<Sounds good so far>
I am wondering about your thoughts on if I actually remove my chemical filtrants...carbon media and/or Polyfilter?
<Better to use more natural means>
My theory is that perhaps these chemical filtrants are removing essential elements for my livestock and possibly inhibiting my beneficial bacteria from settling in.
<Couldn´t agree more here, I would use carbon just a few days per month just to “polish” the water.>
I’ve read in forums where “too clean” water is actually suspect causes of Cyano or corals struggling. I remember years ago when I ran tanks on just liverock rubble in the chamber and skimming alone with much success. I seem to have difficulty getting my tank to stabilize completely. The tank will look great but as I approach water change day, it’ll start to get nuisance algae like Cyano, my corals have growth stunts, or my shrimp have bad molts.
<Phosphates may be above safety levels, keep them at 0.13 ppm tops>
I posit the chemical filtrants are possibly interfering with the beneficial bacteria somehow, moreover stripping trace elements out of the water. My fear is removing the chemical filtrants and sticking new LR rubble in the media basket could also go another route and allow the nuisance algae to take off.
I do keep a variety of macro algae in the tank to help compete against the nuisance algae.
<This is a good idea but will work much better in an inverted light cycle>
Also, once every other month I am sand rinsing some part of my substrate, as vacuuming it doesn’t seem to get the detritus really out, but it seems excessive that I would need to do this.
<You don’t need to; I would use a DSB. Add more sand, about 3” and just vacuum the layer on top every time you do maintenance chores, this way you would let anaerobic bacteria to grow naturally and keep nitrate levels at safe levels.>
In summary, I have a very intense cleaning regimen—sand rinses, weekly vacuuming, turkey basting rocks, scrubbing little rocks of green hair algae, chemical filtrants—to try to rid the tank of any latent nitrate sources but not sure if that in itself is impacting my livestock negatively.
<You are certainly stressing over your livestock (beneficial bacteria included).>
I appreciate any words of wisdom!
Dani Conner

Re: Chemical Filtrants: Too clean the cause of problems?
Sorry one more thing. Would it be ok to add liverock rubble to my soon to be empty media baskets? I’ll have regular filter floss on top that I’ll rinse out daily.
<That´s a pretty good idea, just remember that nitrifying bacteria will grow better if the live rock rubble is fully submerged.>
Re: Chemical Filtrants: Too clean the cause of problems?

Hi Wilberth!
<Hi Dani>
Thank you for the feedback.
<You´re welcome>
I’d love to run my lights longer, but I do not have a chiller so my tank can’t handle anything longer than the 7 hours. It peaks at 82-84 F by hour 7. I’m from Florida, so I switched my lights to turn on at night and run the AC significantly cooler to help me run the lights especially during our summer.
<Ok, I get it, If possible give Led´s a try, these produce zero heat.>
My old photoperiod was 5.5 hours before the reboot so this is at least an improvement although slight. Follow up questions if you’d be so kind:
If I do have phosphates, would removing the chemical filtrants possibly exacerbate the issue?
<No, just increase a bit the amount of water changed every week and you´ll be fine here. You may also export them by other means. Try growing macro algae in a remote unit like a reactor, there are units lighted by Led strips, a HOB filter will also work for this purpose.>
Also, if I do see Cyano or nuisance algae start to return, do I grit my teeth, contain my OCD, and just let my system attempt to balance it out then and wait till water change day to try to siphon out?
<If you reduce the phosphates to the recommended levels you won´t have to worry>
I only do a 10% change under the advisement here to try to “age” as much water as possible, but doesn’t give me much time to siphon before I have to cut it off.
<Try a bit more, maybe 15% and restrict the water flow by squeezing the hose with your fingers while siphoning out.>
I did slope my substrate towards the back during my last water change, allowing my Caulerpa prolifera to take hold over it there, whereas the front half is merely a thin aesthetic layer now. I have burrowing livestock and don’t want them possibly stirring up noxious chemicals into my nano, as I don’t think it could handle it.
<Don´t worry about this, your burrowing livestock will not disturb the sand that much, actually it is beneficial to the substrate the mild stirring that they do.>
Do you think the sloping should be sufficient and I’ll just vacuum the front? I don’t plan to really mess with the area the prolifera is in which is the entire back.
<Try the DSB in the whole bottom and you´ll be very pleased with the results, just give it time to establish (about a month or so.)
I’m very excited to try this more natural approach, already removed the Polyfilter,<Good> and plan to remove carbon on next week’s change, trying to go slow. Thank you for your support!
<Anytime Dani>

Re: Chemical Filtrants: Too clean the cause of problems?      9/17/18
Hi there!
<Hey Dani>
I still have undetectable phosphates or nitrates in my 28g. I now have 7 fish, feed pellets 4x a week during day, fresh 2x a week, and broadcast 6x week 1 ml of zoo and oyster feast combo. I don’t feed on water change day. I removed the chem filtrants over a month ago and added more sand to my sand bed. My water changes were reduced to 10% a month ago too.
Do you think I should just broadcast more at night maybe? Or should I possibly try a bi weekly water change schedule?
<I advise you to change no more than 10% weekly>
My SPS are surviving but they are definitely not in any hurry to grow. Any advice would be appreciated.
<My guess here is that lighting may be a limiting growing factor too.>
Right now tank param.s are:
9 dkh
450 cal
1350 Mag
0 phos
0 nitrates
1.025 spg
<Have you try another test kit? readings are probably inaccurate with the ones you are currently using. I have not seen yet phosphate and nitrate levels that low with the stock and feeding regime you describe.>

Re: Chemical Filtrants: Too clean the cause of problems?     9/18/18
Hi Wilberth!
<Hi there, Dani!>
Yeah I have been trying the reduced water changed at 10% weekly for over a month. To my surprise, the tank seems to be more balanced that way with nuisance algae almost completely gone. That’s why I was thinking perhaps reducing the frequency to 10% bi-weekly
<Sounds good>
especially since I am having challenges attaining a nutrient build up anyway. The lighting on my system is equivalent to a 150 watt HQI 14K canopy system with PAR ranging from 120 at the bottom to 960 at the very top inch.
<Ok, a lack of illumination, discarded>
I was so doubtful, I actually double checked the tests with my local fish stores as well.
In the nano tank discussion group I am in, one theory is maybe because I house macro algae. I have a fast growing frag of blue Ochtodes, flame tipped dragon’s breath (softball sized), Caulerpa prolifera (runs along entire back of tank), a small rose petal macro, golf ball sized Padina, baseball sized Halimeda, a small bottle brush, baseball sized Codium, and the unconfirmed Rhodophyte which is maybe tennis ball sized gathered all together.
<Well, no doubt, that bunch of algae is using the available nutrients(phosphates-nitrates, in this case) for growing. Why don´t you trim algae to 50% and see if this way nutrients raise to required levels?

Re: Chemical Filtrants: Too clean the cause of problems?     9/18/18
Hi Wilberth!
<Hi there, Dani!>
Yeah I have been trying the reduced water changed at 10% weekly for over a month. To my surprise, the tank seems to be more balanced that way with nuisance algae almost completely gone. That’s why I was thinking perhaps reducing the frequency to 10% bi-weekly
<Sounds good>
especially since I am having challenges attaining a nutrient build up anyway. The lighting on my system is equivalent to a 150 watt HQI 14K canopy system with PAR ranging from 120 at the bottom to 960 at the very top inch.
<Ok, a lack of illumination, discarded>
I was so doubtful, I actually double checked the tests with my local fish stores as well.
In the nano tank discussion group I am in, one theory is maybe because I house macro algae. I have a fast growing frag of blue Ochtodes, flame tipped dragon’s breath (softball sized), Caulerpa prolifera (runs along entire back of tank), a small rose petal macro, golf ball sized Padina, baseball sized Halimeda, a small bottle brush, baseball sized Codium, and the unconfirmed Rhodophyte which is maybe tennis ball sized gathered all together.
<Well, no doubt, that bunch of algae is using the available nutrients(phosphates-nitrates, in this case) for growing. Why don´t you trim algae to 50% and see if this way nutrients raise to required levels?

Marine/Reef Water Chemistry…Where/How To Find Info – 02/12/15
<<Hi Michael>>
I have all the testing kits and have duly tested. I now know what my tank has, but I don't know what levels it should have for fish and coral. Is there a book or chart that I can purchase that tells me what levels I am looking for?
<<Many…pretty much any book on marine fish/reef keeping will have such information. Go to Amazon.com and do a search for ‘reef keeping books’…you might be amazed at what pops up. But let me start you off here (http://www.wetwebmedia.com/reef1.htm) with information free for the taking from our site. Keep following the page links and/or enter key words in the search pane, such as “reef calcium levels” or “marine water chemistry” etc., etc., etc…. There’s a bounty of info here available for the reading>>
Thank you,
Michael Iten (beginner)
<<Happy to share… EricR (38 years in the marine hobby…and still learning!)>>
RE: Marine/Reef Water Chemistry…Where/How To Find Info – 02/13/15

Thank you very much Eric!!!
<<Quite welcome, Mike. EricR...>>

Reef Tank dosing issue     10/8/14
Hello crew it has been some time since I wrote last but I need some help because I find myself scratching my head and running in circles... A little history of my reef tank and what it contains, ( this will be long) it is a 75 gallon reef with thirty gallon sump, reef octopus skimmer, uv sterilizer, carbon reactor, gfo reactor, ATO system, reef breeders photon leds, main return pump is a Mag drive 9.5, and I also have Hydor power head in the tank 1150 gph , I have a very very large hammer coral with 100 plus heads, softball size Pectinia, large Acan colony, large brain coral, several sea fans, two large Stylophora, one large Pocillopora, one large millepora, and a 5 inch derasa clam, shame on me but I have never really tested my systems but I never really needed to, I did my weekly water changes with high quality salt and never had issues for over seven years, however my eyes started telling me something was off, coralline algae was bleaching and died off, my clam was beginning to gape and growth disappeared, and corals lost there vibrant colors, no losses thank god. I ordered new Red Sea foundation test kits, my initial parameters were calcium 300, alk 7.6 and Mag of 1180. I spent literally days reading and attempting to understand the mg/ca/alk balance and think I have a decent understanding of it after relearning chemistry. I made the decision it was best to raise each parameter individually in small amounts and then begin a two part dosing system. This is the part I can't figure out, I raised my Mag to 1360, my calcium to 420 and they are holding steady with no changes, but my alk will rise to 8.1 after one dose but drop back to 7.6 with in 24-36 hrs , I am hesitant to raise it any more at one time.
<The Calcium is precipitating the difference out>
I was dosing every other day to raise it and then once I reached the desired levels I was going to switch to the two part to keep it there.
<I would switch; go w/ the two part now>
There has been no precipitation that I have seen, the corals and clam do look much better and the clam is no longer gaping and has new growth however no new coralline algae that I have seen. Is it possible my tank is using this much that fast?
I have been at this for three weeks and I have no clue how to raise the alk up to the 9 area
<Don't obsess re... allow the [Ca] to drop to about 380 ppm, and all will be well>

and keep it there so I can start dosing the two part daily, how would you suggest I go about this issue? Can I raise the alk to 8.1 and dose the 2 part at the same time and continue raising the alk every offer day until I get to my target of 9.5 alk?
<Best to not try doing both simultaneously. One approach OR the other>
Thanks again
<Welcome. Bob "Stoichiometry" Fenner>

Re: LED lightening reef tank, maint. f'      6/7/13
> Thank you for your quick response to my lighting query. I have been spending time gathering more data as well as reviewing literature regarding ORP/RedOx. I did recheck the feeding careful to let the food thaw and drain off any extra liquids.
<Good... do rinse, strain through a fine (like a baby brine shrimp) net>
  I feed frozen food of Mysis shrimp, Cyclop-eeze and limpets fish size in small amounts.  I had stopped using DT's Phytoplankton and restarted putting this product into the tank since I received your response, not sure if this will help much.
<Only a little... single celled algae don't have much food value... are rapidly taken out>
 I do a weekly 10% water change using Kent Sea Salt and have been using RO water. I have been testing the water parameters over the past week to determine if this could be the cause of my poor brain coral's failing.
Everything seems fine.
> With the new lights the PAR is approximately 250 at the top part of the rocks were I have the xenia, the Montipora corals growing and down to my 3-4 inch sand bed the PAR is about 156 this is where I have my open brain.
<This is fine>
 In between are the frogspawn and hammer coral. With the new lighting my coral do look much happier.  Although I am still unsure how the brain will do over all, I have had him for the past 13 years (so very hard to watch this) we also have been feeding the brain directly to the open polyps - Cyclop-eeze, or reef limpets.
> pH 8.1
> Mg 1250 mg/L
> Ca 400 mg/L(slightly high) did water change
> Alkalinity 4 meq/L
> Sp gravity  1.026 -1.027
> Nitrate 10 and Nitrite was not detected
 Phosphate 1 mg/L
<A bit high>
With the new LED lights now on for 9 hours each day and set 60-70% white light with the blues at 60-70% all of my coral look very good and happy, even the brain although he has shrunk significantly showing his skeleton he is opening ballooning out happily.
Now I am seeing the growth of green hair algae which had been lacking the past several years ( I thought it was because I had reduced the time of the CF lighting hours as well as had the Yellow Tang).  At your suggestion I reviewed the lawnmower blenny. My concern is I have a fairly long/large midas blenny in the tank and I would not want to risk the loss of this fish or the lawnmower        blenny.
<Both are tough...>
1. I am in a quandary as to what to do regarding the hair algae.  IF  the hair algae would grow only on the glass it would be one thing but it is growing on the live rock which makes me worry that this will over grow my coral as well. 
<... the Salarias or genus Atrosalarias... see my article on WWM re>
2. Will the midas blenny and the lawn mower blenny work out in a 75 gallon tank.
<Likely so... there will be some periodic bickering though>
I have about 100 pounds of live rock, but even the blue spotted goby sometimes will chase the midas blenny as well as the yellow tang before I lost my tang (as in previous note). Would the lawn mower blenny just go over all of the rocks as high as they go or just live near the sand bed. I don't mind the algae on the glass as I clean this frequently with my water changes. I just have no good way to do this to each rock.
3. I am thinking of adding another powerhead to increase flow to the tank, there is not much space between the wall on 2 sides of the tank so I am not sure how the air circulation around the tank will be which can effect the water quality.
In addition, I have glass over the water so my fish do not jump out. Not sure how this plays into ORP/RedOx. Or if the extra circulation in the tank will be of benefit.
<Will be beneficial to both>
4. In your response you suggested I look over the mix when I mentioned I set the blue light and the white light each at 50%. What is the best mix of blue light to white light for the coral?
<Search WWM re... I would only include "enough" ("one lamp") "blue light" for looks...>
 I thought I would make equal lighting of blue and white, perhaps this is not correct but I could not glean this information from the internet sources.
Once I get my tank growing better again I will most certainly take photos of my 3 unknown corals I received from my neighbor to see if you can identify them from the photos.
<Real good>
Again, I thank  you for your guidance and patience
<A pleasure to assist you in your growth, understanding. BobF>

Weekly Water Changes 3/29/12
Hi WWM Crew,
<Hello Alan>
Currently I'm keeping a reef tank with LPS, SPS & soft corals. One of my weekly regime maintenance is doing a 10-20% water change using distilled water with Red Sea Coral Pro salt. Will this be sufficient as I do not wished to do a daily dosage of calcium, magnesium, ph/dKH buffer and so on.
<All depends on the amount of SPS/LPS corals that are in the system.
Weekly testing of those parameters will determine that.>
Thanks in advance.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Reef Tank Chemistry 3/26/12
Good Evening,
<Evening Frank, Bobby here>
I tried searching your site, but I couldn't find the answer to the exact problem I am having. I have had my 55 gallon reef tank with 29 gallon sump for about 5 years now. It has roughly 50lbs of live rock. I made all the beginner mistakes (unfortunately), but over the past 3 and a half years the tank has been relatively stable. Now I have some strange interactions going on in my tank chemistry. Currently my tank specs are: 79 degrees, SG 1.025, pH 8.3, dKH off the charts, calcium off the charts, phosphates at 1.0, nitrates at 10, and zero nitrite. As you may have guessed I also got a hair algae bloom with those parameters. Typically my parameters include 0 phosphate, dKH 11, calcium 400-450, almost zero nitrate. My corals (Zoas & SPS) have retracted. My green bubble tip anemone of 2 years is still looking healthy and eating well. My fish (1 Percula Clown, 2 Chromis, 1 Lawnmower Blenny, 1 Mandarin, 1 Kole Tang) are all doing well in color and feeding properly. I have done 2-25% water changes over the past week using Instant Ocean salt. I do run a protein skimmer (Marineland sump good for 100 gallons) and a 9W UV Sterilizer. I haven't dosed Calcium lately since its been so high. I typically use Kent's Liquid Calcium and every week a dose of Purple Up.
<I would suggest you stop using this product. It has no proven impact on the system and is quite literally finely ground up sand in water>
I haven't dosed dKH either. I haven't introduced any new animals or equipment. And I should mention I use RO/DI water from my LFS that I tested zero TDS. What am I doing wrong? I'm already stressing my system.
I don't want anything to die. I am lost on the next move to make as the water changes didn't even make a dent in the tanks parameters. I purchased a phosphate reactor this weekend so that will be in this week and should take care of my phosphate problem (which I never had before).
<What Phosphate removal media do you intend to use? I would suggest GFO.
Go slow however to start with.>
But what about the high Calcium and dKH? Usually (from my understanding) if dKH is high Calcium is typically low. I am
stumped. Any help would be appreciated. My LFS looked at me as if I was the crazy with those parameters (and still having a living anemone). They advised me of your site and well I've been reading all evening. You guys are great for doing such a site and responding to so many questions. Thank you!
<The most likely scenario here is that as the phosphates rose in the system (1.0 is very high for SPS), the corals stopped growing while at the same time you continued to dose the calcium and alkalinity components. This resulted in the high level. You don't mention a magnesium level. This parameter is important in addition to Alkalinity and Calcium. You mention
that the Alkalinity and Calcium are 'off the charts' but I need you to be more specific to be of more help. You also need to test the Alkalinity and Calcium of the freshly made saltwater so you know what you are placing in your tank. So to summarize, continue with the water changes, this will help the Phosphate issue as well as lower the Calcium and Alkalinity (to the extent of the values of the fresh saltwater). Test your magnesium levels, 1350 ppm is the goal with a bit of variance on either side being fine. Put the Phosphate reactor in place with GFO, go slow, 1/2 the recommended dose to start. Stop all additives at this point until you get the parameters where you want them. >

Multiple issues with Marine tank... maint. 2/7/12
<7.4 megs... of a pic for what?>
I'm currently an undergraduate biochem student who has taken over the abandoned marine aquarium. At the time I took it over, maybe five months ago, the water level was well below normal and there were three animals- a largish (maybe 4") (Allard's clownfish, Amphiprion allardi or may be an Amphiprion clarkii) clownfish,
a 2-3" blue damselfish, and a wayward hermit crab- living in less than ideal conditions.
This tank has reportedly been in the labs for 7 years, though I assume the fish are not quite that old, and it has been well cared for by graduates.
The tank itself is 110 gallons, dimensions are 8' (98") long by 18" wide by 22" high, the lights about 2" higher. There is a great deal of Liverock, perhaps 10 medium size pieces (I wish I knew the pounds). There is one 48" fluorescent light at 40 watts along the front of the tank. The 'back' lighting (just behind the fluorescent) is a combination of four 24" lights, 2 blue actinic(sp) 2 daytime. These are Coralife brand, and 65 watts each.
All the lights are on a timer, the blue lights stay on perpetually, and the daytime lights are on 7am to 7pm. There is a 3-way combination carbon, sponge, and bacterial filter which came with the tank, though the sponge and bacterial flora was replaced by myself maybe 2-3 months ago. The powerheads I have recently disabled due to inability to adjust the flow.
<Set near the top, opposite corners to generate a gyre>
I keep the salinity between 1.022-1.026, keeping on the higher side lately, and do water changes about once a month. I replace one of the blue lights recently, and think that the remaining lights may indeed be seven years old due to the contrast in vibrancy.
I have, of course and against the advice of most sources, increased the invertebrate and vertebrate life in this tank. I first added an anemone and a cleaner shrimp. The anemone is a Corkscrew I believe, Macrodactyla doreensis,
<Mmm, no. Very likely a (badly bleached) Heteractis crispa... most-often called "Sebae">
at the time of buying it had a bright pinkish orange polyp with whitish-purple tentacles, looked beautiful but now I hear that's quite unhealthy, and at the biggest it can read about 9" diameter face, stays around 5-6" about.
A while later, I added (stupidly all at once) a bright fuchsia Basslet, a flame goby, and a 2-3" sand sifting sea star. Later, I also added a larger starfish (thinking the sand sifter had passed and wanting something to show off to the anatomy students).
<I do appreciate self awareness/honesty>
It takes care of some of my wall algae, but I generally take a sponge to the inside of the tank once a week. It sometimes appears to go after the sand-sifter.
<Not simply an appearance>
I feed them a 'cocktail' of 4-6 thawed cubes (Mysis shrimp/brine shrimp staple, optional squid/plankton), and 15 mL each zooplankton and phytoplankton solutions 4-5 times a week. I try to place cod (raw, stored frozen from food service, ran out of tiger shrimp) or krill in the sand once or twice a week for the starfish. It's pretty cool to feed the big starfish while he's on the wall too.
Now, my issues.
The cleaner shrimp I found dead underneath some Liverock- I fear the clownfish has become aggressive now that it has an anemone and the clownfish killed the poor thing.
<Does happen>
I believe that is considered normal, but for a while the goby had disappeared. It was gone for at least a week, and I had given it up for dead. Now it disappeared AGAIN. Shortly before, the Basslet disappeared! I asked my local pet store (where I buy everything, pet supply outlet) about it and they said these species like to hide in the sand, live rock etc and not to worry too much, but I'm not sure it's as peachy as it should be.
Neither has been seen in around a week, maybe two.
The anemone at one point looked absolutely wonderful- spread face, simply exuding happiness.
<Mmm, no; is starved... for light of useful wavelength and intensity, perhaps other aspects of need... water quality>
Now, it doesn't look particularly awful, but professors are asking me if it is alright as it seems "listless, shriveled, and the clownfish seems to be avoiding it." I feel they are mislead on the clownfish aspect, as he is very attached to this anemone.
I have done some research on it, and have come to accept that my lighting is inadequate. How do I fix it within a departmental budget?
<Perhaps a spot (light) of sorts... moving it up higher in the light column. Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/sebaesysfaqs.htm
and here:
and the linked files above>
As well, is the clownfish too big for this anemone?
<Doesn't appear to be>
What can I do about it if so? I have previously 'caged' the anemone with some (clean!) labware,
<Better to use a "strawberry basket" or such... to allow circulation...>
a metal box type cage open on one end with minimal metal intersection, and the anemone seemed to perk up overnight. Was this simply my overreaction to the anemone expelling water?
I do not think I can cage it anymore as the clownfish can now get underneath it due to where the anemone is in the Liverock geography.
Another issue is that the anemone appears to be turning pink around the mouth area.
<Actually, a good sign>
I attribute this to the color enhancing phytoplankton, which I only started feeding perhaps 6 weeks ago. I have also cut back direct feeding of the anemone to once every two weeks (generally cod) based on internet advice. It still captures a small amount of frozen shrimp, and I can only assume it filter-feeds the zoo/phytoplankton.
The anemone is having issues, the clownfish has become overly aggressive, and the fact that fish are disappearing are my main issues.
<If there was real trouble here, the anemone would be much smaller; beaten up...>
I suppose my conclusion questions would be: what can I do to make this aquarium flourish on a departmental budget?
<Read... many things could be done>
As well, is my feeding strategy adequate? Has my anemone eaten my other fish? What lights should I be looking at?
<Not likely, yes and posted/archived>
Thank you so much for any advice, I am attaching a picture of the clownfish with the anemone, it was taken about two months ago.
<Next time... hundreds of Kbytes, not Megs. Bob Fenner>

I have a couple of Questions regarding setup and coral, Reef maint. f' 11/10/11
<Hello Joseph>
My set up:
120 gallon mixed reed <reef> tank
150 lbs of lace rock as base
50 lbs of live rock
40 lbs of live sand
4 500gph power-heads (2 each side: one high, one low)
1 700 gph power-head (middle center in side lace rock)
wet-dry filter (going to customize it to a Berlin soon) 1300 gph pump
skimmer built into wet-dry (will be upgraded this month also), with ozone
Calcium reactor (not running waiting on a few parts to come in on back-order)
4 48" 30watt current-USA TrueLumen pro; fusion50/50, 12000k, 8000k and a blue Digital Aquatics ReefKeeper Elite
pH 8.09 (cant get it to rise)
<Is fine there.>
kH 15 (been trying to get it to lower)
calcium 500ppm
<I would lower this to 400-425ppm>
nitrite 0.0
nitrate 0.2 (water changed every month)
phosp 0.0
ammonia 0.0
ozone between 260 - 290
<Is this the actual ORP level?>
OK, is my questions.
1- Is the 4 led lights enough? The tank is bright, really bright but I don't know if the corals in questions are getting enough light? closed brain coral and candy cane coral.
<Mmm, I'm not familiar with the Current-USA LED strips so I cannot give you a truthful answer. They make no mention of PAR/PUR values on their site which would stop me from buying one until I had some data to read.>
I have been looking all over the Internet and I have not been able to find any really useful and definite information on the brand of led lighting I have.
<Ditto for me as well.>
2- My candy cane (I have had it for a month now) has not fully extended since I have bought it. I was unsure about the light so I placed it 1/2 <mid level> in the tank. Just recently (3 days) I have relocated it to the bottom of the tank in a moderately low water flow area. Its head is still very deflated, where you can make out the skeleton. and some of the "risers" or the skeleton around the polyp you can almost see it through the polyp. At night I can see the small white tentacles around the mouth feeding as I target keep <feed> it. Could it not be getting enough light?
<May be, and possibly your tank is too sterile. Is better to have a small amount of nitrate/phosphate available to the animals.>
3- My main concern is my closed brain coral. I really have not seen it fully open up either since I have bought it a week ago. Even at night you can tell the ridges of the coral through the polyp me. I bought it from large change <chain> pet shop (who will remain nameless) who had it placed with a trigger fish and bad lighting along with no flow.
<Not good.>
I felt bad so I bought it thinking I was doing it a favor. I have it placed currently 1/2 up the tank in a low flow area. It is secreting a large amount of mucus which I know is normal but I think I am seeing some tissue regression along the edges. Also one of the polyps in the center of the brain I think I can see a skeleton ridge around a polyp through the membrane. What can I do it make it happy?
<May be your lighting, Favia are generally tolerant to most tank conditions but do prefer bright/intense light and dislike strong water flow which generally is indicated by poor polyp extension providing all other parameters are good. You may want to put it as close to the light as possible and see if any improvement is noticed in five or six days.>
4-Also any suggestion on the pH issue?
<You're fine here providing your test kit is reasonably accurate.>
I have just removed the glass top (today) so if it is a CO2 issue that would help. The top power-heads and return is pointed to give lots of surface movement to help with the gas exchange. I am nervous about adding marine buffers for the pH due the kH.
<There are products that raise pH. Sea Chem's Marine Buffer is a very good product. See here.
I have been adding OH balance for reefs by Aquavitro to raise pH to 8.25 but back down between 7.9 or 8.01 by the morning.
<This can happen with some buffers. They drive the pK of the buffering system toward the 7.8pH range. Sea Chem's Marine Buffer drives the pK toward the 9.3pH range.>
Some things have said to wait and it will balance itself out due to the high calcium and kH, but I am afraid it is stress out the lps and the calcification process.
<Your present pH is not the cause of tissue degeneration.>
All my other corals (buttons, Zoas, and green stars) are doing great. They are all dividing and spreading.
<Less light needed for these corals.>
So they will be divided and traded at my local reef store in the next 6 months.
<Maybe this is where you should be shopping for corals instead of the chain store.>
Thank goodness 3 things I don't have to worry about. Thank you so much for your time!
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Joseph G
Savannah GA

Re: First 65 Gallon Build, reef maint. 10/27/11
Thank you again for your help. A couple questions / answers from your comments...
<No problem Steve>
1) What is the best / preferable way to run carbon?
<In a bag hung in a high flow area in the sump>
2) I would like to get a calcium reactor eventually but until then is a two part additive a better way to replace calcium vs. Kalk?
<Mmm, Kalk is very useful, as are two/ three part additions>
I suppose that would eliminate the potential for overdosing the Kalk and causing a disaster.
<Overdosing is usually only done when hooked up to some kind of auto doser/
top off. By dosing it manually you eliminate this risk>
3) I do have the Ron Shimek book "Sand Bed Secrets", as well as the Bob Goemans book "Live Sand Secrets". I will give them another read now that I am closer to getting up and running.
I can't say enough how appreciative I am for the help. Thank you.
<No Problem Steven, Simon>

Keep or shut down my reef 10/20/11
First, thanks for all the time and effort you all give to all of us. It is really appreciated and one of my prime education tools.
<Ah good>
I have a tough decision to make and would like your thoughts. The ultimate question is, due to my live style changes, and concern for the corals, should I no longer have a reef? I now am gone two days each week. I feel I can deal with this but I am also finding the daily demands on my time when I am home make it more difficult to find fiddle factor time to dedicate to the reef.
<Best to not fiddle>
The big problem is during the summer when I am gone a month or so. I have no one who can come in while I am gone.
If I were to keep a reef here is my set up now and how I'd change it. My goal would be to minimize the load on the system, while trying to make it 'self-sustaining'. To minimize load I'd drastically limit fish. The ultimate could be no fish and only soft coral, feeling they'd be more tolerant.
Aesthetically, I'd prefer to have a few fish.
<Can be done>
I have a three foot fifty gallon tank going into a 10-15 gallon acrylic sump with a Aqua Maxx 100 needle wheel impeller protein skimmer and external Eheim 1260 (4' of head from sump to top tank) recirculation pump. I am thinking of changing the sump out for a 40 gallon breeder tank to increase the water in the system.
That would require me to move the pump into the sump, which will add heat to the system.
<Not much. Eheim's are not great waste heat producers>
To deal with heat I would have a heater in the sump and a 5 inch fan to blow across the surface of the main tank both tied to a thermostat set at 79-80 degrees. House temps in summer months get up to mid-80's (no house air-conditioning).
<Set the light timers to be off during the day, on at night>
During the heat of the summer, the month I am gone, I'd change the photo period to midnight to 8am and turn the lights and protein skimmer pump off in the afternoon.
<Ah yes>
The tank is filled with about 50 pounds of live rock. Currently the bottom is empty but I would add about an inch of aragonite, sieved to be a more uniform size to help stabilize the chemistry. I thought of using sand but at 4+inches I'd have less than 12 inches of water above it, aesthetically unpleasing, hard to siphon clean and it'd move too much with power heads. I siphon 50% of the bottom once per month and make a five gallon water change.
<I'd change 20% or so twice a month>
In the main tank I have a three foot long acrylic surface skimmer at the top all along the back edge feeding into a down tube in the middle going to the sump. There is a 900 Maxi-jet power head in one corner at the front drawing off the bottom of the tank flowing out diagonally at the surface. Diagonally in the opposite bottom corner there is a 600 Maxi-jet power head converted to a circulation pump flowing toward the base of the first power head.
<Please search WWM re such circulation placement. Best by far to have such pumps positioned near the surface, blowing water in a gyre
Evaporation is handled by two 30 gallon plastic garbage cans in our utility room, piped through the crawl space to a float in the sump. This has work well for years. In the past I have run the two 30 gallon cans separately, one can dealing with calcium and the other alkalinity each leading to its own float in the sump. Maybe I need to go back to that?
<If you'd like>
Lightning is power compacts -- 96 watt at 10,000 and 96 watt at 420. I'd reduce from 12 hours to 8 hours.
So the bottom line is would this work with say 6 total inches of fish, like:
two tank breed clown fish, or a small yellow tank<g> and a couple of blue damsels or maybe those tough mainstays, 4-5 damsels to add some movement to the system? Or maybe no fish at all? Or should I just says I enjoyed my reef days and move on to something else?
<I'd leave out or give away the Yellow Tang while you're gone this month. Bob Fenner>
Carveth Kramer

Taken over the reef tank, but perplexed... Stumbling while emptying the oceans and pocketbook 9/5.5/11
Hello, and thank you in advance for considering my question(s).
I have been working since May on getting a reef tank back on track, after it had been neglected for some time (I am guilty of assigning accountability to others, and not paying attention.) I am not certain of size, but believe we purchased a 65 gallon tank. When I first took on the task, all but two corals had died (Leather Mushroom and Red Mushrooms). There had been frequent replacements of Turbo Snails (1-2 dying each week or being eaten, generally 5 in the tank alive at any one time). Two anemones and a rainbow brain coral had starved to death (I now realize) in the year the tank was established, as well as nearly a dozen other creatures who died due to inadequate care, and/or overstocking.
<Aye yah>
Other stock: hermit crabs - 2 red, 7-ish blue legged, and one weird white one. I'd find about 1 dead each week after battling with one another, but the stock NEVER seemed to drop; 2 cleaner shrimp, 1 red shrimp, 1 yellow tang, 1 blue tang, 2 ocellaris clownfish, a huge and mean Javanese damsel, 1 pajama cardinal, 2 Firefish gobies who had grown to detest one another, and thus stay on separate side of the reef, and a lawnmower blenny. The yellow tang disappeared about 1 month into my care, and I eventually trapped and removed the Damsel to bring some peace to the other inhabitants. Plus - well, I hated him.
He was a bully and a glutton.
<This reads like a soap opera version of War and Peace>
The levels were out of whack, and I so I hired an in-home consultant to help me (a good idea, since I didn't even realize the protein skimmer had completely stopped working, and the exciting coral growth my husband had reassured me was fine, was actually Aiptasia. I don't think anyone had ever changed the sock filter.) The levels in June when the consultant came were:
Ammonia = 0
Nitrite =0
Nitrate = 20-30ppm
ph = 8.1
Alkalinity = 6.5 dKH
Calcium = 420ppm
Magnesium = 1000ppm
<A bit low, out of proportion>
Salinity/Specific Gravity = 1.027
<A bit high>
I was given a schedule for cleaning, additives, water changes, and testing and went on to replace the protein skimmer immediately. One month later, nearly everything had improved, except the nitrate levels, which stayed at 20ppm no matter what I did. I added a "Two Little Fishes Phosban Reactor" with a medium that claims to reduce nitrates, on a recommendation from my local LFS. I also began adding a product called Bactive to "jump start" the good bacteria that would counteract the nitrates. This did nothing, other than cause a bacterial bloom for several days. I was told it would take weeks to work, so perhaps I'm still waiting.
<I think you should start studying, understanding what you're about, rather than listening to folks who want to sell you things>
I waged war against the Aiptasia, first by individually feeding them a concoction that was meant to cause them to implode, then by adding 8 peppermint shrimp, and finally by adding 6 Berghia Nudibranch. Nothing seemed to work completely until I managed to find the last peppermint shrimp and remove him from the tank. I believe he had eaten some of the Berghia, but he and his friends had never eaten a single Aiptasia since there were other things to eat in my dirty tank.
Two weeks ago I added a hanging refugium to the back of the tank, with a deep sand bead, and stocked with three kinds of macro-algae as well as 2,000 (per the bottle labels) mixed copepods. It's small, but even if it doesn't help, it can't hurt. The sump below the tank doesn't have room for a refugium.
Over the four plus months I've been working on the tank, I also added some new hardy corals, which seem to be doing well:
True-blue mushroom
Green-striped mushroom
Star polyps
Zoanthid polyps of 3 sorts
Red Hammer Coral
Green Hammer Coral
Blueberry Acro and a tricolor Acro.
The levels as measured today were:
Ammonia = 0
Nitrite =0
Nitrate = 10 ppm
ph = 8.2
Alkalinity = 13.4
<Too high>
Calcium = 416ppm
Magnesium = >1500ppm
Salinity/Specific Gravity = 1.023
<A bit too low>
Temperature = 78 degrees Fahrenheit
Strontium = 0
Phosphates = 0 (first reached today - these had been up to 0.50 prior)
<... see WWM re... your corals need some soluble HPO4>
Iodide and iodate = imperceptible
Now for my questions:
1. What else can I do to reduce Nitrates?
<Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm
and the linked files above... See? I'm not selling you anything...>
I've done at least a 10% water change once per week, and the levels only moved below 20ppm within the past month. I've cut back on feeding as well as the other interventions I mentioned above. The fish stock is down by two. I so badly want to see a 0ppm level!!!!!
<Not likely or necessary>
2. Why can't I maintain my Strontium levels? I add supplemental Strontium nearly every day, but the level continues to be between 0 and 10 when I test.
<... likely dropping out of solution; and again, not really necessary>
3. What causes the high Alkalinity level?
<... please learn to/use the search tool on WWM... in fact... Please stop "buying things/livestock" period and get/read at least one good general marine aquarium book... there are quite a few about. You need to stop stumbling through the hobby...>
I've been avoiding additives, and Calcium dropped but Alkalinity actually rose since last measurement.
4. What causes the Magnesium level to stay so high? I haven't added supplemental Magnesium in nearly 3 weeks, yet it stays above 1500.
<... see WWM re as well. Your answers are all archived>
5. What could cause the specific gravity to drop to 1.020?
<... more water than solutes...>
I've corrected it up to 1.023 by adding salt mix slowly to the water, but would like to understand why it dropped so far.
6. What would cause all of the crabs to come out visibly once per week? It's like "Crab Night Out" nearly every Wednesday.
<Got me... specials for decapods at the bar?>
7. I have a continual slow growth of green algae on the tank glass. Is there anything that would help with that, or is it just the way things are in a reef tank?
I think that's it. I'm new to this, and desperate to understand why I can't get things *right* for the tank. I've searched your site looking for answers, and found some very helpful stuff, but not exactly on these topics. I appreciate your help, and apologize for my many- comma'd sentences.
<That good marine handbook reading... Now. Bob Fenner>
Re: Taken over the reef tank, but perplexed... 9/6/11

Thank you!
<Welcome Kel. BobF>

measuring my tank's potential... reef maint. 9/4/11
Oh, to finally feel worthy of asking my very own questions; Hi, My Name Is Alex, and I have been an aquarium addict for something like 10-15 years, but have only had freshwater set-ups until recently... I just bought a house, and as a housewarming gift my father handed me down his 120 US Gallon marine tank (which is 4 feet long and about 3 feet deep) complete with a T5 hood (four bulbs, total of 216W, I think small for the depth of the tank but I keep the corals towards the top; eventually a better hood is in the works...),
<This one will work for most all...>
a ~20 gallon sump (to which I've added another DSB, some Featherdusters and some clumps of Caulerpa that I hope to replace with Chaetomorpha when I can...), an Aqua-C foam fractionator, 2 Koralia 4's, at least 111lbs of live rock (some of it clustered with various Zoanthids and mushroom anemones, as well as some green star polyps and volunteer sponges and of course several Aiptasia and token itty bitty brittle stars), and about 3" of live sandbed (which is thriving, with copious amounts of Copepoda and Amphipoda, as well as several snails, a baby conch (at least that's my theory...) and at least six hermit crabs including one big left-claw). He also gave me his copy of *The Conscientious Marine Aquarist*, which I've read through several times and which I think is a great foundation to give to anybody interested in diving into a salt tank. When I discovered WWM I was very excited, since I had already learned to trust Mr. Bob F. so much, and I have since referenced the site countless times for a myriad of queries (I could also help you guys answer questions about tropical freshwater systems, if you need/want help...). I find WWM to be hands-down the best resource of its kind, and I thank all of you for your efforts.
<We thank you for your kind, encouraging words>
Anyway, I'll try to keep my schmoozing to a minimum,
<Heeeee! Too late!>
suffice to say, kudos and much respect. And as you'll see, I have plenty still to learn about marine systems... The tank is about 3 years old but I have only had it set up in its new home for about two months (and my involvement prior to the acquisition was largely observational), so it has had to go through kind of a mini-cycle to get going again. When we moved the tank, we drained it down to an inch or two above the sand, saving as much of the water as we could (which in retrospect I am not sure was a good move...) in several large plastic tubs so that we could also transport the rock and livestock.
Besides the sessile inverts and clean-up crew, the tank came to me with the following three fish (I hereby absolve myself of blame on this, since I had no part in their selection and hadn't yet read TCMA...): one Sailfin Tang ("Pootie," who had lateral-line disease (hole-in-the-head) and still bears the scars and was therefore very cheap; he was introduced as a "test fish" because he already had a supposed death sentence with the head-holes, but he has lived all three years and I find him to be voracious and full of character... so it goes.), one BIG Pterois volitans ("Kitty," who I would estimate has about a 14" fin-span, and was acquired "accidentally" when my dad purchased some live rock off of Craigslist; the guy had been keeping her in a tiny 55gal for "7 or 8 years" and it had started leaking. He had no intention of setting his tank back up and the volitans was in a five gallon bucket, so my dad adopted her), and one African Cleaner Wrasse (I told you, I absolve myself from blame...). These three seemed to be happy together so we didn't split them up. When I set the tank up at the new place, I used all the live rock to build a cave big enough for Kitty so she could get out of the light, and I did not rinse the sump rock because I wanted to keep the beneficial bacteria colonies as intact as possible. I should mention also that Kitty readily ate two garlic-dusted silversides on the second day.
Then she never ate again... The first thing I looked up in TCMA was lionfish, and for the first couple weeks I didn't worry about her fasting because it was so specifically mentioned of the genus; I figured she was probably stressed from the move.
The rest of the tank looked fine and I (like so many over-excited novices) bought a Tridacna derasa before I had learned that clams can be some of the most sensitive inverts around. I should have bought a test kit, since all I had been using so far were dip strips, but I hadn't discovered WWM (or finished TCMA) yet so I didn't know better. Lucky for me though, the clam is happy as far as I can tell. It has grown at least half an inch longer, maybe more, since I purchased it. So (ignorance is bliss), trusting my clam's health as an indicator of good water quality, a week later I ordered a few aquacultured corals: two baby blastomussas and a really nice chunk of green branching hammer. These arrived, and I acclimated them and installed them in the tank and to this day, they are happy. The hammer (supposedly another "canary" as far as water quality goes) has actually sprouted several tiny new heads and they all extend their polyps normally.
<Mmm, am compelled to mention that this/the family Euphylliidae's members live in quite polluted settings>
Since Kitty still wasn't eating (going on a month now...), I decided I would try tempting her with a live treat. By this time I knew that freshwater feeder fish were the bane of captive lionfish everywhere, so I figured I'd get something I wouldn't mind keeping if she didn't eat it. I decided on an Ocellated Dragonet (sold cheap at the LFS), because not only have I always liked them, but I figured he would gut-load himself if Kitty didn't devour him on the spot.
<Mmm, this family (note slow moving...) is not very palatable... How they avoid predation... Better to try live shrimp...>
Well, Kitty ignored him too, and to this day the Teeny Little Samurai boldly explores every cranny of the tank, slaying amphipods and leaping for thawed brine shrimp (which is apparently anomalous for these guys, to eat frozen food?). And though you likely disapprove of my precarious stocking procedure so far, I assure you I have learned much since adding the dragonet (like that maybe I could have tried a peppermint shrimp instead, since if Kitty didn't eat it it might have scarfed my Aiptasia). In fact, searching for info about the dragonet is how I found WWM. So there's a reason for everything. Once I found the site and realized it was overseen by The Bob I began systematically reviewing everything I could (all my fish, their "ailments", the coral wars, sump options, quarantine (can you say 'duh'?), and, oh no... nutrients). One of the first things I did was go out and purchase a test kit that I could use to check calcium and total alkalinity, because I was worried I might be starving the clam and hammer. Since the strips are fine for pH (mine is 8.2 btw, and SG=1.0245) and they had been reading 0 for ammonia and nitrites, I figured I could skip the basic kit for now, and I ended up with API's Reef Master Kit, which tests for calcium, total alkalinity (by titration), nitrate as nitrate ion, and phosphate. I have read that Bob prefers Hach or Salifert kits, but there were none available locally. I got home and I tested all four of the above parameters.
My calcium was over 600ppm and my dKH was about 18!
I most definitely was NOT starving them! I also discovered that my PO4 level was about 3ppm and my nitrates are so red I'm beginning to wonder if I'm color blind! I think they were definitely over 100ppm (Retrospectively I think using new water at start-up would have helped this. I hear people call this "old tank syndrome," and on pg. 81 of TCMA, The Bob says there is no clear dividing line as to when nitrates become harmful, and acclimated specimens have been found living in water with NO3 levels in the thousands of ppm range, but still, though 100+ppm seems high I wonder if people who report nitrate levels of 0ppm are usually either incorrect or in denial).
<Or have bad test kits or their use, or are dangerously over-using chemical filtrants>
I only use purified water, and Instant Ocean tests fine every time I test it. I did two 15% water changes over the next 5 days, and then a week later when the Nitrates were still like 80+ppm,
<Mmm, do see here re Nitrate control: http://wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm
the linked files at top... for ideas on reducing... I'd keep below 40, better, 20 ppm... likely this reading is related (though not directly) w/ the Lion non-feeding>
I invested in a large food-safe trash can (50 gallon capacity, with wheels and a lid, going to be for salt-tank-use-only from cradle to grave) and a sump pump and prepared 40 gallons of new salt water and let it begin to age.
Now here's where I may look like a doofus (too late?) and the scene gets cinematic. Since I was planning to do the big water change, I thought I would see if I could coax Kitty to eat (she was now exceeding five weeks without food), because she looked a bit thin and earlier that evening she seemingly experienced vertigo while swimming and kind of tumbled around in the water for a few seconds like she forgot how to swim or had somehow lost her proprioception, almost like she was sleeping and startled awake or something. She had barely left the sand in two days until that episode so I (stupidly?) interpreted this as weakness from starvation, not weakness from toxic water. I pinched half a silverside in some tongs and gently brushed her nose with it until BANG! she snapped it right up, and it was like a veil was lifted: she regained her color, started swimming around, and seemed livelier than I had seen her since moving the tank. Then about ten minutes later she barfed up the silverside chunk, still intact. Now, I mentioned that my tang was voracious, so it should come as no surprise that he rushed in and began tagging the piece of food. But the lionfish wasn't having it; she suddenly remembered that she used to really like eating, and she was intently trying to get a good opportunity to strike again and steal the piece back from Pootie. Enter the African Cleaner Wrasse, talking a mile-a-minute, "Hey guys what's up what's up whatcha got there izzat a fish Oh MAN that looks good hey hey mind if I try a nibble hey Oh hey that's good wow I like eatin' fish hey guys--" BANG! And he vanishes! I think Kitty was trying to eat the silverside but she ate the wrasse! I hung my head...
The next morning, Kitty looked awful. Listing onto her side on the sand, her eyes cloudy, her breathing slow and heavy, I assumed that since she had eaten the wrasse, an obligate cleaner full of who-knows-how-many crazy bugs, she was sick, so I set up an emergency QT in a Rubbermaid tub using half new water and half tank water, put her in it with an airstone, and went to the LFS to ask some questions. The owner there, who has his own volitans, said to dose her with erythromycin and sold me some.
<Mmmm... I would not have done this>
Less than 48 hrs into treatment, Kitty seized up and died. I am still not sure what I did wrong, if anything. I mean, supposedly she was already almost a decade old, possibly more since who knows how old she was when Mr. 55-Gallon bought her.
My dad hadn't been testing for nitrates, just doing 10-15% water changes every month,
<Too little dilution... for the size, type/species of fishes, foods used...>
so I think it is likely she was actually pretty well acclimated to the nitrate levels. Is it possible that I'm correct in thinking the wrasse is the guiltless culprit?
<I do think so>
Now that I have learned so much about the hobby from your hard work, I have a game plan for the near future. Besides setting myself up a permanent 55gal
QT and moving the tang to it, I am also re-designing my sump and I plan to remove (or at least relocate) the cubic foot of seashells that the tank currently dumps into before the foam fractionator picks the water up, because as I understand it this is the equivalent of dirty bio-balls and could be a lot of my nitrate problem,
and according to Anthony C. there should be no pre-filtration between the tank and the skimmer.
<Well... we agree on the vast majority of issues, but I am a very big fan of "filter bags" on/over the ends of discharge pipes into sumps. Please see here for an example:
As I say that though, I noticed that in one of Anthony's sump diagrams he has an "Aiptasia scrubber" before the fractionator. Two questions relating to this: one, isn't there a risk of the Aiptasia spreading from there?
<Mmm, yes>
And two, if in the water column between my tank and sump I have lots of little ball sponges voluntarily growing, are they offering useful or detrimental pre-filtration?
<Most likely beneficial>
I have been assuming it's a good thing to have them there. I added a bag of De-Nitrate pellets to the return line the day I quarantined Kitty but have yet to notice any real difference; I think the water changes help more, but it also occurs to me that perhaps the nitrates will drop on their own, since the tank is probably still trying to cycle, so I am not sure if I should do any more water changes yet.
<I'd stick to a/your regular schedule here>
After the 40 gallon change, the nitrates are between 60-80ppm and phosphate is down around 2ppm, and the dKH is a much more reasonable (but still a little high) 14, but I'm still not even sure this test kit is accurate for nitrate levels this high.
<Accurate enough... think on this proposition: you can/could dilute a water sample with just clean water by half... double the readings...>
I think that past about 40ppm everything looks the same. I will be taking a water sample to the LFS to have them test it at my next opportunity. I wish the De-Nitrate would make a difference. Anybody have any experience with that product?
<Yes... usually works... but see where you've been referred above re NO3>
So regarding cycling this tank, is patience the key at this point or is there more I should be doing to bring my nitrates down?
<I would do more... Denitrification through a DSB, the purposeful culture of macroalgae are my two fave suggestions here>
I hope to add more fish in the future, and I have questions about my prospective selections that I haven't been able to find the answers to yet, but for now this email is long enough and it will clearly take me some time (probably a few months, besides setting up and cycling the QT) before the system is ready for more fish, so I'll just worry about that later and focus on my water quality for now.
<A good plan>
I hope my tank history wasn't overkill, and I thank you all for your continued contributions to the aquarium community. Enjoy the long weekend!
<Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Re: measuring my tank's potential... reef maint. f' I believe 9/8/11

Hi Captain Bob (and Crew), a nod to the well-placed "Avast!" and thank you very much for your thoughtful reply and the link to further reading. I like the idea behind the "Sock-It" you pointed me to; that attachment style probably wouldn't work for my inlet but I bet I could make something similar.
<Ah yes; there are a few standard variations on this "theme">
Polyester is safe, from what I gather...?
<Yes indeed>
It turns out that incidentally I was misinformed about my tank size; after measuring and doing the calculations myself, realistically the inside volume is more like 105 US gallons, and it is only 30" tall. That's what I get for not checking my references (but as a bonus it means my water changes were that much bigger)... Also I realized that I neglected to convey a few possibly-important details in my last email, and after reading over some of your suggested NO3- links I have some ideas I hope to bounce off of you. A quick refresher, so you don't have to scan my last novel: 105G DT w/ reverse-lit ~20G sump, Aqua C Skimmer, two Koralia 4's, probably realistically ~135-150 pounds of live rock, 3" of very alive (but not-so-deep?) DSB in DT, 4.5" Sailfin Tang, 4" Tridacna derasa, 3" Synchiropus ocellatus, half a dozen hermits, multitudes of green and red mushroom anemones, 8 different kinds of Zoanthids (can these hybridize?)
<I do think so; at least "morph" to local conditions>
and 4 different types of sponge (all volunteer, still guessing as to species on the two encrusting ones (one yellow, one milky white) but I think the other two are some type of ball sponge (exact match to the very first species ID request at the top of http://www.wetwebmedia.com/spongeidfaq2.htm, which Anthony identifies as "a sponge" hahaha and I don't know if they're genus Cinachyra or not) and some kind of almost-black blue Haliclona that you can almost watch growing), a 14-headed branching green Euphylliidae, two baby Blastomussa polyps, and a big patch of Xenia that hitchhiked in on some live rock 3 years ago. Also, in case you forgot, my Pterois volitans unwittingly poisoned herself with an African Cleaner Wrasse in a tragic flash of color.
It was quite a bummer. Tank is over 3 years old, but I moved and re-setup the tank some 6-7 weeks ago. The dragonet, clam, Blastomussa, and hammer coral are all about a three weeks to a month into this tank, everything else is pre-move. Vitals are: SG=1.0245, pH=8.2-8.3 daily, Ammonia and nitrite 0ppm, Nitrates 60-80ppm (maybe more, at least according to my test kit...), PO4=2-3ppm, dKH=14, Ca2+=450-500ppm. [Next Day Edit: I took a water sample to the LFS and it turns out they use API kits too, but just to see I thought I'd have them check my nitrates. The first test came up 0ppm! I was skeptical, so we did a second test in a new tube, and the result was 20ppm.
Interesting. I suspected perhaps that the clerk wasn't shaking the second reagent enough, so I gave it a good shake for the third test, and that trial also said my nitrates were 20 ppm. I am not sure what the problem is; I checked the lot number on the store's kit and it is only two months younger than my kit (last four digits of mine are 0311 (March 2011)), so it shouldn't be that different, but maybe I have a bad batch. Either way, still erring on the side of high nitrates and rebuilding my sump.]
<Such is the nature of this make, type of kit... not terribly accurate nor precise>
One thing I probably could have been clearer about is that I added live fine aragonite to bring the sandbed up to 3" in the refugium area of my sump soon after setting the tank up this time around. Previously it had only small chunks of live rock and old broken seashells. I am pretty convinced that, due to its relatively old age, this sump's setup has been my problem all along, as far as nitrates go. When I took over care of the system, besides the bio-factory of crushed shells and corals in the sump inlet, the skimmer return was simply open, and so the flow was too fast to fill the foam column and the skimmate was collecting in there instead of the top chamber. I knew well enough to at least tune the flow properly on the skimmer and now it collects almost a cup of crud every two days or so (and has been doing so for over a month), so once I optimize my sump setup I think the fractionator will finally be able to make all the difference. The sump is currently about 20-25 gallons, and I have been drawing up different schematics of how the new one will work. The new one will be about a 25-30 gallon volume because I will be building it taller and a bit wider, and I am relocating the AquaC outside the sump and using the newly formed space (from the absent shell/rock as well) to extend the refugium area (which is where the macroalgae farm is going to be, except the bits I tear off for the tang).
I would build it bigger if I could but for now it needs to fit inside the tank stand. I am possibly going to use a wide and shallow 40 gallon tank if it will fit, but that is about as big as I can really go for now.
<The bigger the better>
Trying to plan ahead, would 4-5" be too much sand if the refugium will only have about 10" of water above that during normal operation?
Would deeper be better considering my possible current nitrate load, and if so, is there an optimum ratio of water depth to sand depth?
<None really... four plus inches of sand... whatever left over for water, macroalgae>
Obvious considerations are that the pump on my AquaC supposedly moves about 400 gph and I plan to plumb the skimmer return into/across the refugium; I know a DSB needs good current but I want a sandbed, not a sandstorm, especially since I hope to minimize the amount of substrate that gets past the refugium-boundary baffle. I also plan to build in a slightly-narrower version of Simon Trippick's turf scrubber, which is a great design (nice job on the macroalgae section in general, by the way) because if it ever turns out one doesn't need/want the scrubber then you just have a nice little bubble trap that can be used for whatever media is currently appropriate. I have attached a crude (NTS!)
<Not so much>
diagram of the basic sectioning plan which I was hoping you might be able to look at and offer suggestions so that I can tweak the details before I build the real thing. I will send pictures of the finished project.
Somehow I was under the impression that at least 3" of sand could qualify as a DSB (I've seen it written on WWM (albeit the forum) that they 'shouldn't be much more than 4" deep'), but after going through more of your suggested reading, in my big tank would you say the sand depth should really be doubled (to around 6") to actually function as a working DSB. There seems to be some division between the gurus on this issue. What do you think?
<I agree>
I would also prefer not to use a plenum, if that's acceptable, since I think I only have two Nassarius snails and the baby conch and probably some bristleworms really stirring the sand (that's all I've seen anyway; the jumbo turbo and little Astrea don't seem to burrow much, though I know they can). Do you think I should have more snails for my water volume?
<Mmm, no>
I generally suspect statements like, "one snail per two gallons of water" and didn't see anything in the snail FAQ but I could have missed it. I really wish I had read your book BEFORE I set the tank up. I like to think I am less of a dullard than my haphazard methodology may have previously indicated, and I would have done a few things differently. For one, I would have settled all the base-level live rock onto the bottom glass, as you suggest in TCMA.
Currently it is simply nestled into the sand (probably reasonably close to the bottom, but still...).
When I re-do the sump, I will be removing much of the crushed shell/coral/rock chunk mass, since though it was well-intentioned I think now that there are plenty of established microbes it is doing more harm than good. When I do the sump-overhaul I will obviously be doing a partial water change as well, and I will probably make it another 40 gallon one. Last time I did a change that big, I moved most of the top layer of (coral-covered) rocks into tubs of the tank water while doing the change, mostly for the clam's sake but I figure the corals don't mind. I know that it is generally better to minimize one's disruption of the tank and its inhabitants and especially its substrate, but as you suggest, my livestock may be living under dangerous conditions (certainly stressful), and I really would like to do whatever I can to level things out, even if that means one final episode of thrashing sand around in the tank. Obviously the less I'm dipping my arms in there, the happier the fish and inverts (hehheh and the ever-patient girlfriend) will be, so bearing that in mind, I posit the following:
During my tank's inevitable day of hopefully-not-too-terrible trauma, when I will be almost half-draining the tank, optimizing my sump, and shuffling some of the live rock around anyway, can I also safely double my sand volume? I can likely arrange to have a friend or my most-trustworthy LFS option babysit the tang and dragonet for a day or two so that they don't choke on the sand or get damaged (by me or themselves) in the low-visibility conditions, but I am concerned that (even gently) mixing the layers of sand will release a ton of stored nutrient waste. It's a bit expensive to make 40 gallons of quality ocean water here in Landlacht, Arizona, and I'd prefer not to do much more of a change than that at one time. Do you think I should add the sand, then siphon out as much murk as I can during the change, or just fix the sump DSB and not disrupt the display sandbed?
<The last>
In my fantasies of the distant future, it would be cool to see Jawfish in this tank, so maybe getting the deeper bed together now, while I'm trying to de-tox the tank anyway, is ultimately OK? (Ah, the clarity of hindsight...)
Somehow the first time I read through all the biological filtration stuff I missed the idea that live rock can "go bad," so to speak, as far as its nutrient-processing capabilities. Do you think that having the same rock in this tank for almost three years is a problem?
<Not likely; no... but a good idea to augment, add a bit new>
I don't mind getting a few fresh pieces, but if I could avoid wasting the chunks I already have that would be great. How can I tell?
<Observation... loss of diversity, proliferation of undesirables>
I certainly don't think my rock is "bad" or "too old" (kind of a funny concept when you're talking about a rock...
"This two-thousand-year-old chunk of coral bedrock has been in my tank for X years... It is just too old"), considering some of it had not a trace of coralline algae until I started taking care of the tank and now the splotches get bigger everyday! I would say something about proof and pudding but I can't prove anything and I got to go clean my skimmer...
That reminds me of something else that I meant to tell you in my last letter. I did "carbon dose" my tank, with half a teaspoon of 80-proof vodka two days in a row, about two weeks ago now, and for a week after that I could tell by smell when my skimmer needed to be cleaned, and it was about thrice every two days. It wasn't producing a huge volume of liquid, but the waste was much denser and almost black. I was wondering, once the sump is built without the shell nitrate factory in it, and especially if I double the sandbed in the DT, could I carbon dose again to help clear out my nitrates once and for all (and maybe accelerate good bacteria growth on the walls of the new sump), or would that be a bad idea for some reason?
<Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/CaDoseTrbFxgF.htm I can't think of anything terrible it could do (in moderation of course) but I am not the expert...
I have noticed in my reading that Sailfin tangs can reach 16" and I was wondering, if my tang hasn't grown in several years and still bears HLLE scars, is it possible that his growth was arrested by the disease, or that he still has it?
As far as I know he is over the actual infection; the scars do not increase in size and I feed him a varied diet of mostly Nori and macroalgae, with occasional bits of lightly steamed broccoli and meaty foods (brine shrimp, thawed squid, silverside chunks...), but I am not sure how to tell except that the scars don't get bigger. If he's truly going to reach that size, I have a friend with a 300G reef that I can trade him to, but it doesn't seem like he's going to grow that big. Also, do you know if dragonets eat Berghia Nudibranchs?
I know my tang might if one floated by, but I think if I timed their introduction and placed them right he would never know they exist. The dragonet has a far more intimate relationship with the rock, though. I know right now my water is probably too extreme for Berghia, but I'm curious for the long run, and can't find the answer by conventional Googlery, so I thought perhaps your wealth of knowledge might have an entry in it, somewhere, among the Aeolidiidae...
Finally, I humbly request a minor expansion on one of your reply comments:
you said that my light set-up (T5, 216W total, half daylight half actinic) should be good for most all. Does that mean the penetration is good enough that I can put my T. derasa on the sand or should I leave it where it is now, about 6" below the surface, cradled up on the rock pile?
<I would leave it where it is>
As it sits now, the clam is set between a patch of star polyps and a patch of Zoanthids. I know Zoanthids can mildly sting things, but it seems like the clam is preferentially pulling itself deeper into the Zoa patch with its byssal threads. I have not noticed any adverse effects on the Zoas (even the polyps directly contacting the clam are open), and it has been several days without any evidence of stings on the clam's mantle, but just in case it is an issue I thought I would mention it. Previously, besides being worried about the lighting that deep, I also didn't want the clam to get poked by the late lionfish, but I think now the clam would probably prefer the sandbed to the rock shelf, if it got enough light, unless you think it would be more detrimental to cut the byssus than to leave the clam in the Zoanthids. I know pollutants can hamper the penetration power of the blue wavelengths but I do believe that eventually I will have this tank in spectacular shape, and I would think my water would be more yellow with my nitrate readings so high, but, maybe because it has only been about eleven days since the first 40% water change, it is still very blue. One thing I have noticed, because I happen to have two different chunks of rock with green star polyps on them, is that the polyps on the clam rock (up towards the surface) are notably greener than the ones about 4" lower, even when viewed under the same ambient light. Coincidence?
I am pretty sure both patches are the same (that is to say one sprouted the other, and the greener one may well have been the original but the inverse is also possible...).
At the risk of sounding redundant, thank you kindly... And much appreciation
for your patience.
Re: measuring my tank's potential... 9/10/11

Thanks Much El Capitan! I'll be in touch in the coming months with photos of my spiffy sump (as it develops) and hopefully fewer issues overall. Keep on making waves, and down with BP!
<Oh yah!>
<Will do Al. B>

Red Sea Reef Care Program 7/31/11
Hi Bob,
Red Sea has recently released their Reef Care Program in the USA and it looks very promising and also includes a nitrate/phosphate reducing supplement.
I have read that this program has been in development for five years.
Thought our readers may be interested in reading Red Sea's brochure.

Sudden cloudy reef tank 5/18/11
Dear WWM
Love this site! I have been looking over so many articles and info for the last few years! I have a 90g reef tank, an upstream fuge, surface overflow to sump, skimmer producing 1cup nice goo daily, and return pump app. 600gph thru sump.
Additional flow via powerheads about 1000 gph. Has 135 Ibs of live rock that I cured and have put in the main tank, fuge, and sump. This system is about 125g
total. This system has been running for 2 months and has fully cycled.
Quick parameters are: ph 8.1 , Alk 4.5 or 12.3 kH,
<Mmm, a little high>
Mag at 1125, cal 275 which is low. The water has been crystal clear, mech filter cleaned every other day, and am only running actinic lighting for now.
<Really? Why?>
Lighting fixtures will be (2)-150w HQI metal halides with 10000K bulbs with supplement actinics. There are only 2 turbo snails in main tank.
Here's the problem. I have read that polygluconate based calcium helps kick-start good purple coraline encrusting growth.
<Can... don't use continuously though>
So I added only 2/3 rds the recommended dose of Seachem's Reef Calcium. Within 12hrs. the water
is now cloudy. Not snowflakes, but milky like when you add aragonite substrata.
<Change out a good volume of the system water, now!>
I tested ammonia at 0. My parameters were tested as mentioned above. What has happened and what should I do?
<I think you have had a bad reaction twixt the Alkalinity and the SeaChem products Calcium here... aka CaCO3 snowstorm!>
I added a few pieces of Poly Filter to overflow
<Won't help here>
to see if any contaminants were being absorbed. Has been 12 hrs. since problem became evident and Poly just shows a very light tan.
I need to get my calcium and Mag up but don't want to dose Kalk due to higher end Alk. I think the best bet
is to not add anything right now and give it 24hrs to clear up. Or is an immediate water change the best way to resolve cloudy problem?
<Yes, this>
I think I may have overdosed calcium gluconate but Seachem's directions are easy to understand.
Would some GAC help? I only use carbon as needed and the same for Rowaphos.
<Neither, none of these will help>
I have other questions but right now I really need some
help! WWBD? What would Bob do?
<My flight's been cancelled, so down to the pub if it's open... Oh, change some water>
As I have mentioned, fantastic site! I have, and still will, continue reading and learning. Your help would be greatly appreciated!
<Cheers (and hopefully biers) BobF, back out tomorrow eve I hope>
Re: Sudden cloudy reef tank 5/19/11
Dear Bob, Thank You so much for the quick response! Was not running halides due to not wanting any nasty algae getting foothold, even though most algae problems are related to bad maintenance, phosphates, and/or nitrate problems, and I think seldom lighting issues. Was and will start halides up after water change. Was going to start out at 5hrs and work up to about 8/9 hrs of halides. I also forgot to mention I use Tropic Marin, set to 1.025-1.027S.G, with RO/DI water. I thought the cause was either reaction with high end Alk or a bacterial bloom.
Thank You again as I regard your years of experience and all the great wealth of info a Godsend. Your time and help is greatly appreciated! Well, onto those water changes! Enjoy a beer for me my friend!
<Thank you Christine. Oh, and I should have referred you to read here:
and the linked files above if you have further, related questions/concerns.
Cheers, BobF>
Re: Sudden cloudy reef tank 5/19/11
Hi again Bob. Well I am concerned now with my Alk. at the high end of "safe levels" due to test results from my new batch of Tropic Marin. The results are:
Alk. 4.5, Cal. 375, Mag. 1062.5, Ph. 8.3, Temp 78', SpG. 1.025-1.027.
Would it be best to augment my Mag. level to keep Cal. from precipitating when I do my water changes?
<Mmm, yes... Strange that the Tropic Marin product is even this much "off" from a 1:3 ratio of Ca:Mg concentration. Simple Epsom Salt will do... but first do check your checker... that is, assure your Mg test kit is accurate>
The tank parameters are same as above except Cal. precip down to 275. My test kits are a few months old. Use Seachem and/or Salifert kits.
<Good brands I'd warrant>
Will retest Alk. at LFS. I have used Brightwell Aquatics Magnesium (powder) to augment Instant Ocean. This is my first batch of Tropic Marin Salts. I do dose Brightwell Aquatic Kalk+2 only if Alk. is 2.0-3.0 and calcium is low, and help with Ph support.
<Mmm, I want to emphasize that cross-mixing brands here is not often a good practice. Just stick w/ SeaChem...>
I have had problems raising magnesium so that's why I started using Magnesium.
<Mmm, better to have a slight imbalance in alkaline earth metals/elements than to have one twixt these and Alkalinity>
Your knowledge and responses would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks again. Was the pub open?
<No pub unfortunately... was past one AM by the time tickets were redone, some vouchers issued, and San Diego is in ways a one pony town..

Marine Aquarium Problem List/Stocking Levels/Compatibility 3/25/2011
Hello Gang-
<Good morning Bill>
I appreciate all of your insightful work and I enjoy perusing your BB. There is some great information.
<Thank you.>
Currently, however, I <I'm> stuck between a live rock and a hard place, and I am not quite sure where to go. I am hopeful that there is one common thread between all of my problems, but realistically, there many likely many possibilities.
<There is no one 'cure all'.>
My setup is now 7 months old. It was started as a daddy-daughter project, and well you know how these go, it is now a daddy project. It is a 40 gallon acrylic tank with a 12 gallon sump using bioballs and ceramic beads in the filter wet/dry chamber. I use an overflow siphon to get the water below, and have 2 Koralia 1 Wave maker heads along with a Rio pump to move the water from the sump to the tank. Overall, probably 400 - 500 gallons per hour of flow. I have 60 lbs of live rock and waited 6 weeks for the water parameters to stabilize, which they essentially did from the get go, as the LR was well cured from months in the tank at my LFS. I have 450<nm> and 10K lights set on a timer along with some LCD moonlights. There are 156 watts of light.
I was recently treated to an infestation of Grape Caulerpa, which I have now come to an agreement with and prune on a 2 week basis or so. There is good growth of pink coralline algae on the sides and back of the tank which I leave. I probably added a bit much on the bioload, and added over time 5 PJ cardinals, a Royal gramma, and 2 Percula clowns.
<Too many for your volume of water and with that nutrient load the algae have plenty of food for growth. You mention no skimmer and I recommend getting one to help control excess nutrients.>
There have also been some former tank members including a Yellow Head Jawfish, and 3 cleaner gobies (now all AWOL), and never found.
<Jawfish belong in a species tank or at the least, with peaceful fish. Cleaner Gobies are reasonably hardy fish, perhaps the food you are feeding was too large for them to accept. Read here. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/neongobies.htm>
My problems during the last 7 months have been:
1. keeping invertebrates, 8 peppermint shrimp added and gone, 2 cleaner shrimp (skunk), added and gone, 30 some odd hermit crabs added and gone.
<May have starved to death, 30 is a bit high for what a 40 gallon tank can support without supplemental feedings.>
I may have 5 or 6 still left.
Two emerald crabs which I have not seen for a few weeks.
<Mostly nocturnal and may have been the reason for your shrimp decimation.>
I still have 3 Margarita snails, 3 small Turbos, and 2 large Turbos, but they mostly stick to the walls and not the rocks and sand where I need them.
<I would add no more snails, should be good for your size tank.>
There are about 10 Nassarius snails in the tank that were previously quite active, but found my first empty shell today.
I also still have a Sand Sifting Starfish that is still about.
<They do not fare well in small systems and have certain requirements.
See here. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/sndsftstrfaqs.htm >
I have been reluctant to add any more hc <hermit crabs>, as they keep disappearing.
2. SFS not looking so hot.
<May be a little too early in the morning for me, but what is a SFS? Best to spell out names when writing us so we do not have to guess.>
Xenia that previously went nuts that I propagated. Had 3, now have 5
Currently all "shrunken," and pulsing just a little.
Mushroom corals that are propagating themselves, but not fully expanding
A leather coral that has grown and looks quite good.
<Should, it's the dominant coral in terms of allelopathy and is likely the reason for your Xenia degrading. The Mushroom Corals aren't helping matters either. Too small a system for this mix.>
Button polyps that have also spread and still look quite good
3. A lot of hair algae and over the last week or so, brownish filamentous algae on it.
<Reduce the bioload, incorporate a protein skimmer into the system. Is a must have for improving water quality.>
I have done a couple of 5 gal water changes in the last couple of days, and I will keep doing this. My water parameters look great (and have been great, I check regularly), pH 8.3, SG 1.022, 0 ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and phosphate.
<I find it hard to believe you have zero nitrate in this system.>
I must admit I had not changed the water prior to this for a few weeks (last was 5 weeks ago). I do not use RO/RI water. The one advantage of the hair algae is I do get to see that I have good flow in the tank, well at least the front part I can see.
My questions are multiple. First, why do all my invertebrates vanish?
<Water quality, perhaps lack of food, too many for your system.>
Perhaps a fish culprit?
<Your present fish inhabitants shouldn't be a concern here.>
Second, how can I control the hair algae? Third, any other tricks for controlling the grape Caulerpa?
<Yes, by reading/acting here and researching future animals before purchasing, ensure you can provide for their needs along with any compatibility issues that could develop between animals.
Fourth, any thoughts on a more resilient CUC?
<? CUC>
I appreciate your insight. In the meantime, I plan to do an additional water change tomorrow of 5 gallons, and promise to be more responsible with regular water changes.
<And please, do read here. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/small.htm>
<Ditto. James (Salty Dog)>
Re Marine Aquarium Problem List/Stocking Levels/Compatibility 3/25/2011
<Hello Bill>
I am a little confused. I have read, and you confirm, that algae and the grape Caulerpa are likely a nutrient problem with too much nitrate and phosphate. However, my nitrate and phosphate consistently read 0. I don't understand.
<Excess nutrients do not necessarily show up as nitrates. Nitrifying bacteria or Nitrobacter are produced in the last phase of the nitrogen cycle. Nitrates are the wastes produced by these nitrifying bacteria. Bacterial breakdown of Ammonia turns it into nitrates. During the conversion of nitrogen, bacteria will first convert nitrogen into ammonia and ammonium during the process. Algae can use ammonia/ammonium as a nitrogen source.
It is possible your algae may be using up this source before it can be converted to nitrates, NO3-.>
Prior to this infestation of algae and Caulerpa, I had the same bioload, fed the residents in a similar fashion, and still had 0 readings for nitrate.
<In time you can get to a point where waste increases faster than it can be exported. My suggestion is to cut back your bioload, eight fish is a bit much for a 40 gallon.
Subtracting the displacement of the substrate and live rock and you likely will have no more than 25 gallons of water. By chance have you taken a water sample to your dealer to confirm your nitrate readings?>
I would not have needed to email you if my nitrates were reading high.
I do have an in sump protein skimmer. I apologize for failing to list it.
Would a refugium possibly help to serve as a nitrogen and phosphate sink?
<Set up properly, refugiums will always be a benefit in improving water quality.
See here and related articles/FAQs found in the header. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/refugium.htm>
Would adding more hermit crabs help control the algae?
<Not the Grape Caulerpa. Losing the amount of crabs that you stated indicates there wasn't enough food to sustain all of them. Adding more may result in the same outcome.
In your tank I would put no more than 15 Blue Legged Hermit Crabs.>
I would assume the contribution to bioload of invertebrates is considerably lower than the fish.
<Generally speaking, yes.>
Sorry, (it was late for me),
<And too early for me.>
I was referring to soft corals and clean up crew (CUC). Regarding soft coral compatibility and allelopathy, "Xenia could be affected by being in close proximity to Zoanthid colonies (is best to keep a distance between them)." Is my setup just too small to allow this, and would a refugium again help here?
<A refugium will do nothing to control allelopathy. Running a good grade carbon will help ease chemical allelopathy but does nothing for physical allelopathy.>
In addition, since the leather toadstool seems to be aggressive in chemical warfare, would adding carbon help?
<As above, but not completely eliminate it. Ideally, small systems need to be planned out for just this reason. Leather Corals and corals in the genus Euphyllia are the worst offenders.
Zoanthids and Mushroom Corals can be problematic as well. James (Salty Dog)>

water chemistry question... reef 2/22/11
Hi folks!
I have something of a complex water chemistry question for you, the complexity of which is making it difficult for me to find the answer in forums. I figure you guys basically wrote the book so you'll probably know better than most forum posters anyway.
First, the system:
90 gallon reef with 20 gallon sump
SWC Xtreme 160 cone skimmer
2x 250 Watt metal halide (Vertec ballasts, phoenix 1400k bulbs)
250 W actinic T5
1 Vortech MP10
1 Vortech MP40 (both set to reef crest mode)
approx 100 pounds of live rock
totally forget the return pump, but it provides about 700-800 gph of flow
Mixed reef, mostly SPS and LPS with one Red Bubble Tip Anemone that hosts two very ornery Cinnamon Clowns. I'd say I have a medium fish load.
It's been set up since November of 2009. My first reef tank, so there has been an enormous amount of learning through error, and there's still plenty more to come I'm sure.
I'm forced by my current location use conditioned tap water, I won't be able to get an RO/DI system until the new, 320 gallon system is done in the house I'm building. It's not ideal as our water quality fluctuates with the seasons and the weather (spring melt = diatom outbreak, lots of rain = Cyano). I live in Calgary, Canada, where our TDS is around 160ppm, plus or minus, depending on the time of year. I do know plenty of people in this city with incredible reef tanks using just tap water though.
Now, here's my dilemma:
I have had algae issues since day one, though my nitrate and phosphate levels have always read undetectable. I assume this is because the algae consumes it as fast as it's produced.
<Likely so>
It's gotten to the point where I don't even bother testing those two ions, I can tell there is <are> nutrient problems based on what's growing on the rocks. I also have a couple of LPS species that are known to fight with each other, an Australian Elegance and a Frogspawn, plus several other LPS species like open brains. I've had the elegance longer than any other coral and it's always thrived until a couple of months ago when it stopped eating - it grabs the food, but can't seem to get it's mouth around it and eventually just gives up and releases it. It also started collapsing completely at random times of the day, going from fully expanded and gorgeous to shrunken and withered in minutes, repeating this cycle several times. I also noticed that where the current hit it hardest, it seemed some tissue was receding. I added a bag of carbon to my sump (thinking maybe it was chemical warfare)
<Might well be>
and built a current break out of rock in the sand next to it to reduce the flow hitting it. This hasn't helped. At the same time, the frogspawn that I've had almost as long and has gone from 3 heads to 10 in under a year practically fell apart - the heads that were in the process of splitting seemed to have aborted halfway through the process and it's a shadow of it's former self. Everything had been coexisting happily for nearly a year when the problems started. I'm not sure if this is a separate issue from what I'm about to describe below, but it's informed what I did next:
I've been getting really annoyed with how much nuisance algae is growing in the system, and as my only nutrient export had been a skimmer,
<Why not culture macro-algae?>
I purchased 2 Phosban 150 reactors (they were on sale) and filled one with the lowest recommended dose of biopellets, and transferred the carbon that had just been free floating in my sump to the other (I'm really concerned about chemical warfare with my LPS). At the same time my LFS ran out of the powdered dKH stuff I've been using for the past 6 months and someone recommended to me that I use food grade, unscented Arm & Hammer baking soda instead as it's tons cheaper. I've always had a very stable pH of 8.3
<The sodium bicarbonate won't bolster the pH to this level>
so I didn't bake the baking soda first. That was 2 weeks ago, and about when my real problems began.
Three of my SPS colonies (my largest and to this point, most robust) have started deteriorating rapidly. Back before in August, before I got an auto-doser and was adding Alk and calcium by hand, I went out of town for 10 days and my already unstable water parameters crashed to a total dKH of 5, carbonate hardness of 3. When I got home, the tips of every coral looked burnt, and in the next two days I lost nearly half of my coral. Now my SPS colonies are starting to look that way again: no polyp extension, burnt, white tips, areas where it looks like the tissue is gone. Unlike last time though, there is nothing blatantly wrong - other than a gradual drop in pH down to 7.9 over 2 weeks. All other water parameters are the same as they've always been (since I got the auto-doser anyway):
total alkalinity (carbonate & borate dKH): 9.8-10.5
Carbonate hardness: 7.7-8.2
Calcium: 420-440ppm
MG: 1250ppm
ammonia, NO2: 0
pH (historically): 8.3
pH (the past couple of weeks): 7.8-7.9
Specific Gravity: 1.025
I know I've changed 3 major elements in a very short period of time, but I have no idea if this is being caused by one, two or a combination of all of it.
<Me neither... but I would not use the Phosban>
Funny thing, since I set up the biopellets my algae problem (especially Cyano) has actually gotten worse. Phosphate and nitrate readings are still zero, but I think those are useless tests if you've actually got problem algae growing in my opinion, algae cells don't just grow on hopes and dreams. I did tons of reading on the difference between carbonate and bicarbonate today so I poured out what was left of my straight baking soda solution and replaced it with a baked version that should raise the pH over time instead of lowering it. I also added enough Seachem Reef Buffer to bring the pH up to 8.
This has been a very long story, but I'm hoping you can tell me whether I should expect things to recover now that I've switched from a bicarbonate to a carbonate source for alkalinity,
<Mmm, a mix of the two is better>
or if the biopellets are to blame, or if it's a synchronistic effect somehow involving the carbon (which I've been running for months with no obvious effect). I also switched salts about a month and a half ago, now I'm using Red Sea's reef salt, which is apparently evaporated right from the Red Sea or something. It costs nearly twice as much as my last salt so I hope it's not to blame.
Thanks for your help and your time. I try and not change too many things in my tank at once, but the stars aligned this time and now I'm all mixed up.
Adam LeClair
<IF this were to be your only/final system I would add a much larger sump/refugium, situate a deep as you could DSB w/ sugar fine aragonitic sand there, and culture erstwhile species of macroalgae there on an RDP basis... I would definitely have this arrangement/gear on your new, larger system. Bob Fenner>

Upgrading reef tank, blending of systems 2/10/11
Hello WetWeb Crew!
First, I've been a big fan of your website since I first came across it a couple of years ago - it has helped us so many times - thank you for all of your time, experience, and efforts! This is the first time I've had to write in with a question (or two or three...) of my own.
We currently have a 95 gallon reef aquarium (about 3 years old now) and are upgrading to a used (and still in use) 170 gallon (both are peninsula).
I've been reading up on how to get the old inhabitants into the new aquarium but I am not sure what to do about a few things.
First, some setup information:
The new aquarium : 150 gallons plus another 20 gallons in the sump and refugium It has been up and running for about 2 years, occupants include a small Desjardin Sailfin Tang, a small Multicolor angel, some cleaner shrimp, a few soft corals (green star polyps*, *a small leather, and mushrooms). It has about 2-3 inches of a crushed coral sand - not very course but not fine grain either, and I would say maybe 100lbs of live rock (including what I noticed in the sump).
It also has a UV sterilizer and a skimmer. I noticed several Aiptasia in there too which we will try to remove. Also, we are not planning on keeping the multicolor angel or much of the corals from the new tank so it will just be the Sailfin tang that will be joining our current fish family.
Honestly I would rather not keep the tang either but I don't want to incite any aggression between our existing 2 tangs that have always been on friendly terms with each other.
The existing and to-be-replaced aquarium: 95 gallon established in 2007, occupants and equipment include:
1 powder brown tang (A. japonicus not nigricans) 4"
1 yellow tang 4"
1 lineatus wrasse 3.5"
1 starry blenny 3.5"
1 neon Dottyback 3"
1 coral beauty 2.5"
1 ocellaris clownfish 1.5"
1 yellowtail blue damsel 1.5"
a couple Nassarius snails
button polyps
plate coral
Candycane coral
2 small open brain corals
a frogspawn
many mushrooms
and a small sun coral (you know, when you type it all out, it really seems like a lot! but except for feeding time, you only see about half of the fish at any one time because of all the swimming lanes so they all get along pretty well.)
live rock (about 75lbs I would guess)
4 inches crushed aragonite sand (same consistency as in new tank)
UV sterilizer
Canister filter, empty except for carbon
AquaC Remora Pro HOB skimmer
The new tank is only 5 minutes away from us so it won't be empty for long. From what I understand, the process to get the old inhabitants into the new tank is to mix the water from the old with the new, some of the rocks, and some of the sand from the old into the new, and adding some new sand to build up the sand bed to at least 4 inches. Then let that settle for how long? an hour? a day? a week?
<As long as you can... the longer the better. But "all else being unequal",
as long as you don't suffer a recycling event (measurable ammonia, nitrite), there is not likely to be real trouble>
and then add the fish.
But, since the new tank has never seen a large bio-load, would adding all the other fish at once cause an ammonia spike or would having the additional rock and sand from our existing tank keep the water stable?
<W/ scant to no feeding, not likely to have a spike>
And before we even get to the step of mixing up the water from the two tanks, the "new" tank came from a home that did not do water changes (ever). So, with that variable, what is the best way for us to mix the water? Should we mix it at all?
<Yes, I would>
This was a very sudden purchase (too good to pass up but I would have loved more time to prepare) so if I have missed this information in the FAQs, please point me in the right direction. The section on moving livestock has been wonderful but I haven't been able to find anything that addresses the lack of water change issue.
<Mmm, there are incidents, input that touch on your situation here:
about the seventh tray (in pink) down>
One more question for you - I've always felt that we were a little overstocked so I don't want to have that happen again but we would also like to add 2 more lineatus wrasses to make a harem. Would that be over-doing it?
<I think you and they will be fine in the new/larger system>
Thanks again for all your time!
<And you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Re DSB, Calcium and Alkalinity 12/13/10 - 12/14/10 - 1/30/11
Good Afternoon James.
<Hello Sarah.>
I have a problem that I have been trying to solve.
Not sure if it is related to the recently added deep sand bed or something else. Maybe you can help me out.
Here are the my test results from Friday. 1.025, PH 8.2, Ammonia and Nitrite 0, Nitrate 15, Phosphate is 0, Calcium 400 and DKH at 12. DKH has come down from 14 with water changes but still plan on starting the Tropic Marin as suggested in the next few weeks. Problem is this brown algae all over the sand shown in attached photo. It has bubbles in it. I didn't think it was Cyanobacteria. Leaning toward Dinoflagellates or diatoms.
<Is not diatoms, likely Cyano. I will ask Bob for his input here as well.><<Is>>
This is what I have attempted:
1. Did lights out for 48 hours
2. Reduced Feedings
3. Doing 10 gallon water changes weekly
4. Added Phoslock to filter after .05 result a week ago.
<Mmm, would have been much more beneficial at this juncture using chemical media (Chemipure, Polyfilter) to control the Cyano outbreak. The phosphate isn't something I'd be concerned with right now.>
5. Added a few more pieces of live rock to main tank.
The stuff was gone. Only to return shortly after the lights were back on.
What I have planned:
1. I ordered some Chaetomorpha to put in containment behind live rock work since I have no where else to put it at this time.
2. I still plan on removing bio balls and adding live rock in its place.
Will start this on Friday with next water change. Handful at a time.
3. Still feeding light.
4. 15 gallon water change weekly.
<Was the sand you added new "live" sand, packaged sand, or sand from another system?>
I keep a log of my tests and what is added to the tank. All tests seem to be consistent except the dKH which has been slowly coming down with water changes and not using supplements. I am using activated carbon and changing it weekly.
Changing filter pad weekly. Skimmer is working well and water for water changes has tested out ok as well. Tank is a year old. Could it have anything to do with the new sand added? What is it and do you have any ideas on what else I could do to fight this?
<Based on your info, I'd say the new sand was nutrient rich and/or bacteria laden.
Did you rinse the sand well before adding? Unless of course it was packaged live sand which is a waste of money in my opinion.>
I set up a ten gallon to start growing some <live> Tang Heaven <Hawaiian Gracilaria sp> and have been using water from the above tank for water exchanges. This tank shows no problems.
<I'd continue with your current regimen, give it some time to correct. I looked back on the previous threads and didn't come across anything relating to your water flow rate. Strive for at least a 10x tank volume total flow rate which helps prevent Cyano spores from settling/growing elsewhere, but rather exported out to the skimmer/chemical media filter.>
Thanks again for all your great help.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Sarah <<Do please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/bluegralgae.htm
and the linked files till you understand your situation, options. RMFenner>>

pH In A Reef Tank 1/19/11
<Hi Shelley>
I need some help with my new(ish) reef tank. I have been looking through lots of water chemistry information but haven't found a match to my problem (yet) and my head is swimming.
I have had my 30-gallon reef tank for about 3 months now. It is about ¼ full of live rock (still building as I get $$) and so far I have about 6 small coral specimens plus a large Open Brain Coral, a small Emerald Crab, 2 FD worms, 3 snails, and 2 gobies. I use a RENA Filstar XP1 (no biomedia) and have good flow throughout the tank. No protein skimmer yet since fish load is still so low. I mix my own water using tap water (has a pH of about 8.1) and Seachem's Reef Salt (also use PhosGuard in the filter). I dose with Seachem Fuel twice a week (recommended amount) and Ions once a week (about ½ the recommended amount, which is what the person at my LFS suggested in lieu of getting a magnesium test).
<Why are you wasting your money using the above additives. With your 33% water change every two weeks you shouldn't have to add anything other than calcium and/or buffers when needed. Money would be better spent buying a magnesium test kit as this element is needed by stony corals to better absorb available calcium.>
Used to dose with Calcification once a week (1/2 recommended amount) but stopped a little
while ago once I bought a calcium test because pH was low and I wanted to
investigate my buffering capacity better. I do about a 33% water change
every 2 weeks, and rinse out the filters each time I change the water. Feed
with phytomax every day and Mysis every 2-3 days, plus a few pellets of
Spectrum on days with no Mysis.
Since almost the very beginning, my tank has been at a pH of about 8.0. At the moment, my Carbonate Hardness is about 150ppm (used a KH test)
<Mmm, that's only 3.9 dKH, pretty low. Which test kit are you using?>
and my calcium level is about 580ppm (haven't dosed Calcification in a few weeks).
I have asked many people what to do to bring up the pH and everyone has given a different suggestion/none have panned out. I can add products to raise the pH but always within about 24 hours it drops back to 8.0.
<Is because of the low dKH. I suggest dosing Seachem Marine Buffer and dose nothing else. You need to get this up to 7-9 dKH. I might add the a pH of 8.0 is fine.
Eventually, your water changes will lower the calcium level by way of dilution.>
Everything in the tank seems generally OK, but the corals are not growing as well as I would like.
<What does your lighting consist of?>
I did have one cleaner shrimp who died (not sure if related to water chem.), but nothing else so far. Want to add more fish/corals but I'd like to get my chemistry in balance first.
<As above, and read here. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/calcalkmar.htm>
Thanks so much for your great site.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Re pH In A Reef Tank 1/19/11- 1/20/11

Hi James, thanks so much for your quick and HELPFUL response!
<You're welcome Shelley.>
I am relieved (if annoyed) to hear that I don't need all those additives.
<For years, I have only been dosing calcium, buffers, and magnesium, all necessary additives to maintain proper parameters.>
I started this reef tank because someone at the LFS convinced me that the difficulty of salt water tanks was a myth....but ever since I got it, they've sold me tons of care items and it's been very high maintenance.
<That's where the money is and many products with ridiculous claims.>
I will stop dosing (except buffer)
<Along with calcium and magnesium when necessary.>
and be much happier.
<And with a fatter wallet.>
(Incidentally, someone else there told me my pH was low because I needed to do more water changes - like twice a week. I ignored that advice since it made no sense at all to me.)
<You won the first prize. Low pH results from an excess of acids in the water and to better understand, read here.
As for the KH, wow. I thought my dKH was high - I think I have been misunderstanding the test kit. I have been using the Nutrafin KH/GH test (just the KH part in this case) and thought that since it took 15 drops to change the color of the sample from blue to yellow, that meant the KH was 15. I did the Carbonate Hardness calculation to be thorough for you - looks like that was the key to finding my mistake. (However, the test kit says that >125ppm Carbonate Hardness is "unusually high," which helped me think I was correct. Am I missing something?)
<They might be referring to freshwater conditions and/or your conversion was done incorrectly. The carbonate hardness we keep our marine systems at would be considered high for most freshwater animals. The conversion info below may help you get a true dKH read providing your test kit has a conversion for number of drops or ppm into meg/L.
meq/L x 2.8 = German Degrees Carbonate Hardness/dKH>
My lighting is a CoraLife 50/50 96 watt bulb (the tank is a 30-gallon cube). My trumpet coral, duncanops, and open brain are doing fabulous, my Xenia is OK, and my torch coral, star polyp, and mushroom look fine but just haven't really grown at all in 2-3 months despite good feeding. I especially can't wait for the star polyp to take off (it's just a small frag right now).
<One 96 watt PC lamp is borderline at best for your stony corals. What are the dimensions of your cube tank, I can make a lighting suggestion to you.>
Thanks again for all your help and insight, can't believe my fortune to have stumbled on this site.
<You're welcome Shelley. James (Salty Dog)>

Water change, water line ? 1/6/11
Hello and Happy New Year,
<And to you>
I hope all is going well. I have a few SPS corals in my system that are starting to grow closer to the water level. I am afraid in the near future that the corals will be above the water line during the period of water
changes. Is this a problem?
<Mmm, not so much>
If so, what should I do?
<Mmm, either trim them (perhaps mount as frags, sell, give to others; or move these colonies a bit lower in the water column. Leaving all as is will result in their "topping off" at the air-water interface with growth. Otherwise, periodic, minutes exposure is not likely to prove problematical. As you likely know, many hard corals are air-exposed at times in the wild. I might turn your lights down/off during such exposure>
As always,
Thank you,
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: Water change, water line ? 1/6/11
Thank you very much, I figured that there would not be any issues but I always check with you guys first.
<Certainly welcome. BobF>

Debris (Plumbing line bio-film buildup) -- 01/05/11
Hello WetWebMedia,
<<Hey there Les>>
I have a three month old 175g reef aquarium and 40g sump. I'm using a recirculating pump w/ PVC pipe to circulate 2000 gph using a 2" intake and four 3/4" returns. I also use two additional pumps that circulate 1200 gph (combined) through my sump and refugium with four additional 3/4" returns to the display. About a month ago or so, I noticed that if I shut off my pumps (for feeding) that when I restart, I suddenly get these little clear/white tiny pieces of debris briefly coming out of my returns into my display.
<<Not atypical>>
It happens all at once but clears up in a few minutes.
Is this just slime in my PVC lines that is just breaking off?
<<Yup... Bacteria/other organic substances (mulm) build up on the interior surfaces of the water lines. When water motion is stopped and then resumed some of this material is stripped off, as you observed, and exits in to the tank. On older/more mature systems this material can appear darker (tan/brown) and heavier/thicker than what you are seeing on this ' very young' system>>
Is this common?
<<Very common'� And is the main reason I advise folks to go with a slightly larger pump than they think they will need; tempering flow initially with a gate-valve on the output side of the pump, to allow for increasing flow as the bio-film builds and restricts the plumbing lines. On some very small systems it may be possible to periodically 'clean away' this buildup, but for most it's just not practical due to the length and complexity of the plumbing runs'�thus the need for the 'slightly' oversized pump>>
Does it hurt anything?
<<Nothing but aesthetics'�and then only briefly>>
<<Happy to share'� EricR>>

Bubble Algae. Reef maint. 12/15/10
Brand new to reef and saltwater. Been a freshwater junkie for a long time and have a beautiful 125 going. My new acquisition is a 75 I acquired from my friend (a reef junkie who now has a 300). I will write back with specific brands but in looking through magazine and internet the protein skimmer appears to be an Eshopps PSK-150 ( I measured it) which says its rated for a 150 gal. tank. I have a 55 gal. tank underneath for a sump partitioned into 2 sections (2 o 1 ratio) with a vertical height of 2/3 the tank (it is a standard shape 55, like a rectangle). The light is a 4 foot combo job (no names or writing) with 2 250w hqi halides, 4 2tube 2foot actinic compact fluorescents, and 6 2bulb blue led's. There is a Rio 2500 cycling water to the tank an Odyssea WP-500 on the skimmer and 2 pumps a bit smaller that I have surrounded by live rock to provide current in the tank. I have 40 lbs of premium Fiji live rock with 60-75 more coming within the week (its from a working tank my friend bought and parted out 2 weeks ago and has been cycling). I also have appx 15 lbs of live sand and 2 inches of crushed coral from another working system (my friend is a prominent member of the local reef club, very well known at the LFS, has a garage full of tanks and gear, and always seems to be in some sort of trade.), which I was told had existing bio material and was adequate.
5 weeks ago this story begins (I pause now for the obligatory apologies for the length of letter, �noobie� questions, and your cringing with all my until 3 weeks ago undereducated, uninformed, and rash mistakes.) After 3 years of knowing I really wanted a saltwater and/or reef tank my friend shows up with everything above plus a 175 gal. bucket of salt and promises of future livestock from his tank (He has a 300 gal. that, other than internet pictures is the prettiest one I've ever seen). Everything was set up, filled with water, salted and told to wait till the first of the year before I did anything. I didn't get down to research for 2 weeks (in hindsight mistake 7 probably) and then mostly concentrated on prettiness and prices with an arrogance that having 10 yrs experience with freshwater, yrs of conversations with my friend, and being a quick learner would allow me to wade through the �details�. I found your site last week and now am both scared and confused, as it seems there is where the devil lies.
After coming to realize that my friend grows (reef, coral, fish?) mostly by feel, I found your site then probably made my worst mistake. Another friend was quitting the reef game and last week sold me the existing livestock of his tank for $100. This consisted of 1 small frag of Frankenstein Zoanthids, a 1 ½ in Candy Cane coral, a 1 in true Percula, a 2 in Maroon Percula, a 2 in black and white ocellaris percula (I also heard it called a saddleback),
<A different species>
2 Fiji Blue Devil Damselfish, 2 Condy anemones, an anemone with a brown bottom and much shorter white tentacles that I haven't identified. 4 scarlet hermits, 4 Nassarius snails, 1 emerald crab There was also a large chunk of LR with a 5 inch square colony of Zoanthids with purple stalks and brown blooms. When I told my friend about my purchase he was angry and has vowed to let me sleep in my own bed with no help. The large piece of live rock also had a 5 in colony of what I thought were another creature but turned out to be bubble algae. After my friend hung up on me I mistakenly went about pulling the algae off, and busted many of the sacs unfortunately. Now I know this was bad. How bad did infect/infest my tank, and can I save it.
<Can be done>
Next question after waking this morning I noticed one of the Condys had deflated and pushed out his foot. I immediately started reading on your site and after a few hours of research decided this was bad and did a 20 % water change, putting the old water in another tank, along with the anemone, a heater, and a small pump. He did not feel snotty nor smell. Do you think I got him out before he damaged anything with the tank?
<Not likely a problem period>
Most importantly the reason I started questioning my friend as my only source of info was when he told me he never tested his tank. He said he could tell by looking whether it was right. For that reason I only tested for nitrates (not �ites�) which is between 5 and 10 on my cheap test kit. I will get an ammonia test today. My last and most important question is your opinion on my choice and chances. I was in an accident almost 2 years ago which unfortunately took my wife of 10 years and made me a single father.
One of the few hobbies I've been able to continue has been my freshwater fish, They've been very therapeutic.
<Ah good>
However $900 is a great deal of cash on a limited income and I'm questioning after many hours at your site whether I can afford it.
<Large marine systems are expensive to run>
Realistically what else do I need for an adequate environment, and how much will it cost me in upkeep assuming I get most of my corals and such from my friend. I'm not losing interest and have plenty of time , and willingness to tinker and be attentive to it. I just hope I haven't bitten of more than I can chew
<Do keep reading for now Jim... and hold off on adding any more livestock till you feel comfortable doing so. Am sure you can find your way on WWM to reading about bubble algae. Not a great nuisance. Best to take ten deep breathes, go for a walk... then come back. Bob Fenner>
Re: Bubble Algae 12/15/10
Did I do something wrong there were no responses on the email
<Mmm, nope. Somehow your email ended up in the "sent" folder sans being responded to. Did you get my resp.? It will be posted to the dailies in a few minutes: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/daily_faqs3.htm
If there's some sort of computer/Net foul up. BobF>
Re: Bubble Algae, General Marine, 12/17/10

Hi Jim again, thank you for your prompt answers and boost of encouragement.
Been doing more reading and just a few questions:
On my Bubble Algae situation. If I did the improper cleaning on the 14th, how long before I see an outbreak if I have one?
<There are so many factors it's almost impossible to say, it's something that will probably always be in your tank in some numbers.>
Chris told me to ask for an auto top off for Christmas, but I've already built myself one. I was my first personal project for my new tank.
I'm thinking my next will be a refugium, but I have a question. I've looked at the plans and wondered, with my existing 55 gal (standard shape) sump that's divided into 2 sections is it really as easy as adding a few
pieces of plexi to make another box which is raised above the bottom an inch or so? It sounds so much more complicated. Also can it be done at this point. If so what do I do to filter/oxygenate while its being done.
<It is pretty much that easy, except for adding light if you are going to grow macroalgae in there. As far as tank filtration goes while reworking the sump, just get some good flow going in the tank and let the rock do the work, it should be ok like this for a few days.>
Last, I've been reading on the different filter systems but can't figure out if they are to work singly or multiply. So do I need and other filtration other than my pumps and protein skimmer (It is rated for a 150 gal, I have a 75 gal).
<Probably not, but that depends on how heavily you stock your tank. It's nice to have something to throw the occasional carbon or Poly-Filter in, but not really necessary. If you overstock or stock particularly messy fish like triggers or puffers then some sort of additional mechanical filtration may be a good idea.>
Re: Bubble Algae 12/15/10

Did I do something wrong there were no responses on the email
<Mmm, nope. Somehow your email ended up in the "sent" folder sans being responded to. Did you get my resp.? It will be posted to the dailies in a few minutes: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/daily_faqs3.htm
If there's some sort of computer/Net foul up. BobF>

Bubble Algae, New Marine Setup, Reef op. ChrisP's better input 12/15/10
Brand new to reef and saltwater. Been a freshwater junkie for a long time and have a beautiful 125 going.
<The basics are the same.>
My new acquisition is a 75 I acquired from my friend (a reef junkie who now has a 300).
<It will be helpful to have an experienced person to bounce ideas off of.>
I will write back with specific brands but in looking through magazine and internet the protein skimmer appears to be an Eshopps PSK-150( I measured it) which says its rated for a 150 gal. tank.
<I have not used this brand myself but as long as it produces skimmate you should be ok.>
I have a 55 gal. tank underneath for a sump partitioned into 2 sections(2 o 1 ratio) with a vertical height of 2/3 the tank (it is a standard shape 55, like a rectangle). The light is a 4 foot combo job (no names or writing) with 2 250w hqi halides, 4 2tube 2foot actinic compact fluorescents, and 6 2bulb blue leds.
<This lighting should give you lots of options.>
There is a rio 2500 cycling water to the tank an oddesea WP-500 on the skimmer and 2 pumps a bit smaller that I have surrounded by live rock to provide current in the tank.
<Looking for around 20X turnover/hour in a reef setup.>
I have 40 lbs of premium Fiji live rock with 60-75 more coming within the week (its from a working tank my friend bought and parted out 2 weeks ago and has been cycling).
<Cool, gives you lots to work with. I just saw Scott Fellman's talk on aquascaping, so many cool ideas.>
I also have appx 15 lbs of live sand and 2 inches of crushed coral from another working system (my friend is a prominent member of the local reef club, very well known at the LFS, has a garage full of tanks and gear, and always seems to be in some sort of trade.), which I was told had existing bio material and was adequate.
<I'm not a huge fan of crushed coral, captures too much detritus for me, but with a little extra effort it can work.>
5 weeks ago this story begins (I pause now for the obligatory apologies for the length of letter, �noobie� questions, and your cringing with all my until 3 weeks ago undereducated, uninformed, and rash mistakes.)
<We all start somewhere, and nobody starts as an expert.>
After 3 years of knowing I really wanted a saltwater and/or reef tank my friend shows up with everything above plus a 175 gal. bucket of salt and promises of future livestock from his tank (He has a 300 gal. that, other than internet pictures is the prettiest one I've ever seen).
Everything was set up, filled with water, salted and told to wait till the first of the year before I did anything.
<Patience is everything.>
I didn't get down to research for 2 weeks (in hindsight mistake 7 probably) and then mostly concentrated on prettiness and prices with an arrogance that having 10 yrs experience with freshwater, yrs of conversations with my friend, and being a quick learner would allow me to wade through the "details". I found your site last week and now am both scared and confused, as it seems there is where the devil lies.
<Details are sometimes more important than they initially seem.>
After coming to realize that my friend grows (reef, coral, fish?) mostly by feel, I found your site then probably made my worst mistake. Another friend was quitting the reef game and last week sold me the existing livestock of his tank for $100. This consisted of 1 small frag of Frankenstein Zoanthus, a 1 ½ in Candy Cane coral, a 1 in true Percula, a 2 in Maroon Percula,
<Maroons are not compatible with other clowns, and many other fish generally. They are large, aggressive and territorial, I would try to find him a new home.>
a 2 in black and white ocellaris percula (I also heard it called a saddleback), 2 Fiji Blue Devil Damselfish,
<Damsels can also be problematic with their aggressiveness, similar to the closely related cichlids in the freshwater trade.>
2 Condy anemones, an
anemone with a brown bottom and much shorter white tentacles that I haven't identified.
<I would also try to rehome the anemones, they are delicate and don't mix well with corals, not really good for new tanks or hobbyist.>
4 scarlet hermits, 4 Nassarius snails, 1 emerald crab. There was also a large chunk of LR with a 5 inch square colony of Zoanthus with purple stalks and brown blooms. When I told my friend about my purchase he was angry and has vowed to let me sleep in my own bed with no help.
<Bribery time?>
The large piece of live rock also had a 5 in colony of what I thought were another creature but turned out to be bubble algae. After my friend hung up on me I mistakenly went about pulling the algae off, and busted many of the sacs unfortunately. Now I know this was bad.
<Yes, but not as bad as some would have you believe.>
How bad did infect/infest my tank, and can I save it.
<Can't say how bad it will get, but it can definitely be saved. I have gone through bubble algae blooms myself, and while they are a pain they can be overcome. Careful manual removal from the rockwork and removal and cleaning of any equipment it manages to colonize. The emerald crab is also known to eat this stuff so that may be of some help too. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/greenalg.htm and related FAQs for more.>
Next question after waking this morning I noticed one of the Condys had deflated and pushed out his foot. I immediately started reading on your site and after a few hours of research decided this was bad and did a 20 % water change, putting the old water in another tank, along with the anemone, a heater, and a small pump. He did not feel snotty nor smell. Do you think I got him out before he damaged anything with the tank?
<It should be fine for your main tank, but the anemone may have trouble without the lighting and water quality of the main tank. Overall this condition could be caused by poor water quality, irritation from one of the clowns, improper acclimation, or a host of other reasons.>
Most importantly the reason I started questioning my friend as my only source of info was when he told me he never tested his tank.
<Not uncommon for experienced reefkeepers with well established tanks, but not something I recommend especially for new people.>
He said he could tell by looking whether it was right. For that reason I only tested for nitrates (not �ites�) which is between 5 and 10 on my cheap test kit.
<Less than 20ppm nitrates is what you are aiming for, and generally the less the better. Ammonia, nitrite, pH, and salinity are the other main parameters, with calcium, and alkalinity also a concern, especially with corals.>
I will get an ammonia test today.
My last and most important question is your opinion on my choice and chances. I was in an accident almost 2 years ago which unfortunately took my wife of 10 years and made me a single father.
<Very sorry to hear.>
One of the few hobbies I've been able to continue has been my freshwater fish, They've been very therapeutic.
<Good, hopefully the marine tank can add to this.>
However $900 is a great deal of cash on a limited income and I'm questioning after many hours at your site whether I can afford it. Realistically what else do I need for an adequate environment, and how much will it cost me in upkeep assuming I get most of my corals and such from my friend.
<You have the basics already, if you decide to go with stony corals some sort of calcium additive or reactor may make your life easier. I really love having an auto-top off on my tank, but it is not necessary (but a great birthday/Christmas present... hint hint.). An RO/DI is also nice to have but if your tap water is ok then you can probably get away without one. Otherwise your big recurring expenses are going to be the electricity for the lights and pumps and salt. Salt will probably run you $50 for 160-200 gallon bucket, figure 10 gallon changes once a week or biweekly and you should get a few months at least from each bucket. Hard to predict electrical costs, but unless you keep the anemones or go with high light demanding corals you may not need such nice lights as the halides which use a lot of power. The zoos you already have are not terribly light demanding so you could downgrade for a while at least. Food is fairly cheap, a good staple pellet food and some frozen Mysid or bloodworms (your freshwater fish would enjoy these too) is about all you need.>
I'm not losing interest and have plenty of time , and willingness to tinker and be attentive to it. I just hope I haven't bitten of more than I can chew.
<The one thing I have not mentioned yet is a QT tank. Treating for disease in a marine tank tends to be much more difficult than in freshwater, especially when corals and invertebrates are involved, so in the long run a QT is a big money, time, headache, and livestock saver. Sounds like you very well may already have everything you need for one, so I encourage you to use it, a once of prevention thing here that is so very true. Otherwise don't sweat the details too much and remember to enjoy your tank. Take it slow, stock lightly (much lighter tank in freshwater which can frustrate some people) and keep up the water quality and you will be fine. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/quaranti.htm .>

"Snot" in My Sump Question 12/10/10
Dear Wet Web Media,
<... 15 megs of pix? Our webmail server only allows 50 megs total...>
I have a 50 gallon saltwater reef tank with a 20 gallon sump and a HOB refugium. I run a needle-wheel skimmer, Chemi-pure elite, Purigen, filter floss, and carbon in the sump. I keep Chaeto in the fuge and some extra Chaeto bagged up and shoved in a corner of the sump as well. In October, I noticed this mucous-like layer of scum forming on the surface of the water in my sump (only in the sump, not the DT). I did my routine weekly water change (taking 6-8 gallons out of the sump), I adjusted the skimmer to skim wetter, and I upgraded the return pump from the sump to the DT to increase flow. This removed all of the "snot" temporarily, but since October its never completely gone away. Every week I find some building up in the sump still, and I just suck it out during my water change. Since I've adjusted the skimmer and upgraded the pump the "snot" had never been as bad as it was in October (just a little bit on the water's surface near the walls in the sump here and there), but this week the "snot" came back in full force, and the entire water's surface of the sump is covered again. I don't know what this "snot" is, and I have no idea what causes it.
<Something biological. There is a type of "disagreement" going on w/ some life in your system... w/ other life, an aspect of water quality....>
I was hoping that you all could help me out. What is this stuff?
<A material produced in reaction to...?>
Is it bad (I haven't noticed any adverse effects from it)? How do I get rid of it? Thank you all for any help that you can give me. I've attached two pictures of the "snot" to this e-mail as well.
Thank you,
<Need a list of your livestock, their order of introduction, perhaps notes on maintenance, water quality tests, foods/feeding. Bob Fenner>

Re: "Snot" in My Sump Question 12/11/10
Dear Bob (and Crew),
I've downsized and re-attached the two pictures; hopefully that helps.
I've also attached a recent pic of the tank so that you can get an idea of the livestock sizes and set-up.
Here's my livestock list in order of introduction:
-Live CaribSea Sand
-CUC (blue leg and scarlet hermits, 3 emerald crabs, margarita,
Trochus, Nerite, and Nassarius snails)
-1 Yellow Watchman Goby
-1 Cleaner Shrimp
-1 Sand-sifting starfish
-1 Splendid Leopard Wrasse
<You're to be congratulated. Macropharyngodon species are not easily kept>
-Red Pocillopora Frag
-Green Pocillopora Frag
-Green Leather Toadstool
-Some Zoas
2 Frogspawn Frags
-green Montipora frag
-2 green Ricordeas
-pink Birdsnest frag
-green Galaxea
<Very competitive>
-candy coral
-red chalice
-7 Acro frags
-red and green Pocillopora frag
-green Montipora
-Favia frag
-feather duster
-more Zoa/Paly frags
-Two Naked Clownfish
-more Zoa frags
<These Zoanthids... and Sarcophyton are the likely slime sources>
*I feed once per day with frozen San Francisco Bay cubes (2/3rds of a cube per day). I buy the variety pack with Mysis, brine, squid, veggies, etc.
<Some of the binder may be at play as well>
*I do a 6-8 gallon water change by siphoning out of the sump once per week every week. I clean the glass every couple of days with a Magfloat. A 5 gallon ATO is hooked up to the sump for top-offs. Every 6 months I change out the Chemi-pure elite and Purigen that I run in the sump.
<To be effective, both these need to be changed out at least monthly>
Every month I change out the carbon that I run in the sump.
Once a week (when I do the WC), I change out the filter floss in the sump. I also add a couple teaspoons of baking soda to the tank to raise alkalinity as needed. Lately, I've started dosing a couple of times a week with Kent's Marine Liquid Calcium (the "snot" appeared before I started dosing with this though). I also have been using Aiptasia-X on the couple of Aiptasia that have popped up in the last month. I run a Nova Light Fixture with 6 T5 lights on the tank (the bulbs are 6 months old) and a CPR HOB refugium with a DSB and Chaeto with a little light. I make my own RO/DI water with a 4-stage RO/DI unit (reads 0.00 TDS).
*Water Parameters:
-Salinity: 1.025
-Temp: 77-78 degrees
-Nitrates: 0-5ppm
-Calcium: 400+
-pH: 8.2
-Alk: 7-10 (this is the only parameter in my tank that fluctuates
pretty bad)
Let me know, if you need anything else from me.
Thank you for helping me out.
<Mmm, well... if the slime is the only notable "problem" here, I would not change your routine... there are other aspects, tools you might utilize, notably RedOx/Ozone... but if your livestock is doing fine... BobF>

Re: "Snot" in My Sump Question 12/11/10
Thank you for your help, Bob.
<Welcome Sam... Do read here when you have the time:
and the linked files above. BobF>
Small Marine Aquariums
Book 1:
Invertebrates, Algae
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by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Small Marine Aquariums
ook 2:

New Print and eBook on Amazon: by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Small Marine Aquariums
Book 3:

New Print and eBook on Amazon:
by Robert (Bob) Fenner
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