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FAQs about Electricity and Aquarium Systems 1

Related Articles: Marine ElectricalSurviving extended power outages: how to keep your aquarium alive! By Mike Maddox and Merritt Adkins Marine Aquarium Light Fixtures and CanopiesGFCIs and Marine Aquariums

Related FAQs:  Electricity 2, Electricity 3, Energy Consumption/Conservation, Electrical Consumption Measure, Electricity Back-up/Generation, Lighting Costs, Pump Energy Use, Heating/Chilling Costs, Shorts/Shocks, Dangers! Grounding Probes, Power Outages, GFCIs and Marine AquariumsSurge Devices, Grounding Probes,  

Mount electrical outlets away (best, above...) sources of water damage... and wire through GFI's.

Replacing equipment Are you aware of any guidelines by aquarium equipment manufacturers regarding when to change equipment to prevent short circuits, or potential fires?  Thank you. Craig <Mmm, yes indeed. Not manufacturers but end-users. All such circuits should be wired through G.F.C.I.s. Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/gfcimarines.htm Bob Fenner>

Never zap the hand that feeds... Hello,    I have a 125 gallon with two arctic penguins, a baby seal and a sea turtle.
<What, no buffalo? What kind of cheesy tank is this?!>
OK, that's a lie.
<Oh... bummer...>
I just thought you might be ready  for something a little less routine! I do have 3 Rio 2100s circulating a Fish and Live rock setup, plus the filtration, skimmer and lights and 2 days ago, I stuck my recently cut hand in the tank and I could definitely feel some low voltage in the water. I've been checking out ground probes on the net, but it will be about 4 days before I  get one. Do you know of any short term, simple solutions besides unplugging everything until I pick up the ground probe?
<Don't stick your hand in the tank.>
I've got a 10 inch Blonde Naso, a 7 inch Grey Angel, a 4 inch Queen Angel and some ancient Damsels all bound for a much larger tank within the year. The uncut hand feels nothing, but I am not sure what the fish feel.
<No worries for 4 days. We had several old poorly maintained Rio's at the shop (back in the day) and as soon as I stepped in the smallest bit of water I'd get zapped. The long term effects of stray voltage are no good (hole in the head, lateral line erosion, etc), but no worries for a few more days. >
None of them seem bothered and it's probably been this way a while, but I just thought you may have some ideas. I know copper wire is not preferred.
<Well, if you're an invert you'd prefer titanium b/c using a copper probe would KILL THEM. :) Most probes made for aquariums are made of titanium, I trust you ordered that one.> Thanks, Rich <Good luck! -Kevin>

Scheduled Power Outage - what can I do? Greetings all! <Hi Jeremy, Don here tonight> My 20 gal nano is at the office and our building is planning a power outage for next weekend. I've read the FAQ's but I'm looking for all possible things I can do to keep things happy during the outage. <OK> The outage is going to last aprox. 24 hours. We are prohibited from entering the building during the outage because the security system will be disabled. We have an Uninterruptible Power Supply we can use but a test last week shows it will only run the powerhead for the skimmer for 3.5 hours (I have a Remora with a MaxiJet 1200). The tank is stocked with: 1 Yellowheaded Jawfish 1 Peppermint Shrimp Assorted snails/hermits Zoanthids Star Polyps And 2 colt corals (these are cuttings from a friend and I'm planning on transferring to a larger tank once it is up and running). The FAQ's mention using an airstone or two to keep oxygen levels up. I can certainly do this and the UPS will probably run these for much longer than the powerhead. I'm not worried about temp since it is very warm here now and the A/C will be off in the building during the outage. So, other than airstones to keep oxygen up, what else can I do? I'm looking for any and all options. <Given your description of the problem, I would say the airstones are your best bet. Have you looked into a battery operated air pump? These can be a life saver (literally) in a power outage and are good to have around.> Thanks in advance! <No problem, hope this works OK for you.> -Jeremy

"Fire" and Live Rock Thanks for all of your great information and quick responses.  I have a "situation".  Recently I ordered 180 pounds of live Kaelini rock and it arrived in beautiful condition with lots of color and attached organisms.  The rock was placed in a large 55 gallon container with a heater, power head, and lighting and all were connected to a power strip.  To make a long story short, two days later a "fire" occurred apparently at the power strip and melted part of the container and some of the melted debris from the light strip fell into the water along with some of the melted plastic. <Not unusual enough... these strips come in a few formats... some are very "safe", others must be placed where water cannot get into them (mounted vertically on a wall, high up> Needless to say, it was quite a mess.  Luckily, I was able to put out the fire with a fire extinguisher! <Yay!> I immediately removed the rock and put it in fresh salt water; however, I did not have a replacement power head until the next day.  I also added charcoal in a mesh bag and have replaced it every other day. My question is:  Do you think the rock will survive and will be able to be used in my tank? <Almost certainly yes>   I am afraid that chemicals were released into the water or the extinguisher material could have poisoned the rock-----even though it wasn't sprayed into the water.   A lot of the color is gone from the rock at this time but there is still a little present.  I am not sure if that is due to the curing process or if it is due to the fire.   Any suggestions? Thanks, James <Just to monitor ammonia, nitrite... when the rock is cured, place it. Bob Fenner>

He'll Take His Tank Shaken- Not Stirred Happy Monday! <And A Happy Monday to you, too! Scott F. with you today!> Hey guys.  Here's an off the cuff one that I woke up thinking about this morning.  I live in the Los Angeles area and every so often we have one of those ground movement things I think are called earthquakes. <Yup- they seriously suck...> If this happens, and assuming the tank survives, we could have an extended power outage.  I am trying to plan ahead as much as possible to have the necessary supplies ready.  How does one keep a marine FOWLR 55 gal. tank alive for an extended period without power?  Any suggestions would be very helpful. Thanks again! John <Well, Jon, there are actually a number of ways to cope...Several manufacturers make battery-operated air pumps that last anywhere from 12-24 hours, once fully charged. Yes, they won't put out a ton of year, but they can help oxygenate the water somewhat. Other hardcore fish nerds utilize back-up power systems, such as the gas-powered generators by manufacturers such as Honda, etc. Yes- these are quite pricey, but they can generate enough power to keep most major systems running for a couple of days, or until the power gets back up on line. Other steps that you can take are to always keep a supply of top-off water and extra salt mix available for emergencies...Unfortunately, it's back to the stone age for us when the power goes off, but with proper care, and a bit of luck, a system can come through a disaster relatively unscathed. You might want to ask some fellow LA fish nerds what they are doing to prepare for such emergencies...There are two great clubs in the LA area (Marine Aquarium Society of Los Angeles County and the Southern California Marine Aquarium Society), filled with fellow hobbyists that have tons of ideas...Check 'em out!. Regards, Scott F>

Float switch I am trying to locate a float valve that turns the power on and off to your pump.  Do you have any of these or know where I might find one? Thank you for your time. <We don't have them but our sponsors do! There are a couple different models/manufacturers. They start at around $59 up to $150 or so. They use either physical floats or electronic/light sensors.  Enjoy!  Craig>

Tank Emergency....burning smell Hi guys - sorry to write you, but it's kind of an emergency situation. I searched the site and the forums, but came up empty, possibly b/c I didn't quite know what to search for.  Funny Smell? Bad Pump?  None seem to come up with my situation. My husband and I came home from work today and noticed the return pump had stopped running.  We had another, so we took out the one that wasn't working and put in the new one. <Did you check to see if there was an obstruction in the return?> Then we noticed that our mushroom and yellow polyps weren't happy and started closing up.  Then we realized the tank actually smelled - it smelled almost medicinal and kind of like plastic.   Our initial thought was it was the new pump and it had an odor and it would quickly go away.  However, the old pump also had the smell and now it seems like it caused the problem (it was after all not working!). <Some pumps shut off without water....is it moving water or is there an obstruction?  The inhabitants may be reacting to the now dying filter....remove and service ASAP. Also check water flow and heater. Perform good sized water changes to remove filter wastes. When/if it goes out in the future, remove and service before restarting.> It's a 75 gallon tank with about 75lbs of live rock, all of which is very purple with coralline algae and all have lots of mushroom and yellow polyps. Other than the polyps, we have a bubble tip anemone and a Devil's Hand Leather. We also have a Tomato Clown and Yellow Tang, which actually seem to be doing ok.  Some snails have already died.  We have an extra 30 gallon tank that we've used to quarantine fish before, but we didn't see a way to try and save everything and thought the water we had on hand was better put to use as a water change. <Buy yourself an inexpensive Rubbermaid container to hold all your stuff.> At this point we have changed 25% of the water, left the pump off and the filter is off because it sits in the sump (with no pump, no reason to filter just the sump).  We've mixed more water and have it setting out ready to go tomorrow.  We're at a loss as to what really happened and what to do.  Any advice?  Hopefully we didn't do anything bad in our panic, and hopefully we can save them.  Help! Thank you, Amy <Sounds like a pump failure due to obstruction, overheating pump(s). I hope your heater is in the main...if in the sump you don't have heat....Don't start the pump until cleaned. I would completely go through the overflow/returns and clean to be sure it's flowing properly.  Good luck!  Craig>

Power Outage HELP !!! <Sure.  Scott V. here this morning.> CAN ANYTHING BE SAVED? <Yes>  IS MY SAND AND ROCK STILL ALIVE ? <Mostly, yes> WHAT ABOUT ALL MY CRITTERS? <It depends, how do they look?> OUR POWER WENT OUT FRIDAY NIGHT AND WAS JUST TURNED BACK ON MONDAY EVENING. <I live in Northeast Wisconsin and mine went out Thursday night.  Probably the same storm :) > TEMPERATURES IN THE HOUSE AND FISH TANK FELL TO THE LOW FORTIES  (GOTTA LOVE MICHIGAN ) FOR ALL THREE DAYS. <If power was out for a day, why was it three days before the temp came back up?> ALL CORALS, SHRIMP, CRABS ETC.  ARE DEAD. <Bummer>  AFTER REMOVING THEM MONDAY EVENING  I DID A WATER CHANGE WITH NEW FILTERS/FLOSS ETC. NOW I AM NOT SURE IF I SHOULD REMOVE THE ROCK AND SAND AS WELL? <No, leave them alone.  Just look for any die off and remove anything that you think is dead> TANK SPECS ARE AS FOLLOWS: 7 GAL MINI BOW WITH 2 32WATT PC'S, HOB SKILTER  250WITH SKIMMER AND RIO WATER PUMP FOR MORE CURRENT. APPROX 15 LBS FLORIDA LIVE ROCK WITH 2" OF (LIVE ?)SAND. TANK WAS ALMOST 2 YEARS OLD WITH ASSORTED LEATHERS, MUSHROOMS, XENIA, AND ONE BEAUTIFUL HAMMER THAT MY WIFE PICKED OUT. WE ALSO HAD 1 CLEANER SHRIMP, 1 HERMIT, 1 BOXER CRAB, AND MISC CRITTERS THAT PROVIDED HOURS OF ENTERTAINMENT ( NO FISH AT FOR LAST 4 MO). COULD YOU PLEASE GIVE ADVICE ON HOW TO PROCEED SETTING THIS TANK UP AGAIN? <Sure>  DO I NEED TO START COMPLETELY OVER? <No> OR CAN I START STOCKING AS SOON AS MY WATER TESTS ARE OK?  <Pretty much, yes.  Just be patient.  Continue removing anything that looks dead.  Continue doing water changes.  Test the water as often as possible and increase the frequency and amount of water changes as needed.  Since there was/will be die off of organisms on the rock, you will pretty much be curing it all over again.  The tank will also have to cycle again.  Watch all the tests and wait until after the Nitrates have spiked and settled back to normal before even considering adding more to the tank, and then do so slowly just as with a new tank.  It will take a little time, but should go much more quickly than cycling a new tank.  Just take your time.> I WILL BE BUYING A GENERATOR TO KEEP THE TANK RUNNING DURING POWER OUTAGES,   EVEN IF THE REST OF MY HOUSE FREEZES!!! <Good idea!> THANK YOU IN ADVANCE FROM FROZEN IN MICHIGAN. <You're most welcome from Scott V. in Wisconsin> <Oh, and drop the caps when writing e-mail or doing anything online.  It's harder to read and online it means you're yelling.  Well, in this case I guess you might be :) >

Maximum wire length between ballast and bulb Howdy, I have a retro kit for Halides & VHO's and the cabling that came with the kit has approx 10' ea between the bulb assy. and the ballasts.  I have two separate ballasts, one for the halides & one for the VHO's.  They are just a standard Advance transformer w/cap ballasts.  I wanted to lengthen the distance between the ballast and the bulbs by an additional 10'.  I have the appropriate cable to do this and the wiring is simple enough.  The question really is, is there a maximum distance one should not exceed in length from ballast to bulb for either Halide or VHO?  Overall the length would be about 20' from ballast to bulb when I'm done. p.s. I've already wired it up...I just was wondering if the minimal extra capacitance in the line would cause a problem down the road with startup or voltage loss. Thanks <Yes, this could be a problem, depending on wire size for this length run, voltage, amperage, etc.  The manufacturers of these ballasts provide the maximum length and recommended wire size for these applications, please refer directly to the manufacturer (or vendor) for their requirements.  Craig>

Salt Water Spray Shocking Fish Hello, <Howdy> Wanted to share a story with readers regarding what has just recently happened to my 135 gallon FOWLR tank. The occupants are 1-black dog faced Puffer (Lexi), 1-Purple Tang (Welch's), 1-BlueFaced Angel (Mardi), and 1-Harlequin Wrasse (Harley). I had attached a fan by a nail inside the stand. I had done this to keep tank temperature in lower 80s. I was aware of the fact that there was some salt spray, and had the fan set at the lowest temperature furthest away from the wet/dry. During my usual daily maintenance, I noticed that my Puffer and my Wrasse had a little ick on their fins (this tank has been set up for a year). Also, in retrospect I had witnessed my Tang swimming patterns were not normal/excessive the night before. I was baffled by the ick thing, as my maintenance schedule is strict. I was preparing to hook up the UV sterilizer (I have a UV Sterilizer which I did not have in use and felt was not really necessary at current) after testing the water, and realized when I touched the power strip that I WAS BEING SHOCKED slightly from the salt spray hitting the strip!!!. <Oh oh> I have unplugged the fan and completely switched out the power strip, as well as wiped down all electrical cords, and plugs before plugging all back up. My fish immediately starting getting color back on the fins and the ick began to disappear immediately-weird but true. If I had a grounded probe plugged in that I purchased at my LFS why was there still shocking that occurred? <Not able to handle this amount of electricity... I strongly encourage you to rig up a GFCI here. Please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/gfcimarines.htm> There is still just one problem, my Blueface Angel has not eaten in a day. I have NEVER had a problem with finicky Angels. I have a Bicolor Angel in Reef tank. I have noticed at first after this happened that he would not come out from behind the rock, and now he is out and comes to see me when I am there. He is very fat, and up until a day ago has eaten like a pig, likes to snatch food my hand that I am trying to give to the Puffer. I have had him for four months, he is about 4.5-5". It seems as though he wants to eat, because he comes out in the frenzy when I feed. Is there any words of encouragement or advice that you can give? <Give this animal time, it should resume feeding soon. The effects of the electrical exposure will fade with time.> When should I start becoming nervous about this feeding strike? <Days to a week> Should I add Selcon to the water directly? <You could> P.S. For this tank, I feed frozen seafood in the morning( from my own makings), various flake at night and hang Nori on a clip daily. <Sounds like a good routine. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Nikki

Re: Salt Water Spray Shocking Fish Bob, <Nikki> Thanks for the feedback on the GFCI. My brother had actually insisted (a few years ago) I get one of those for my BR. He actually installed it for me where my blow-dryer is plugged. <Very good> I also have one outside for my pool equipment. <Yes, it's "the code"... and for very good reason> I guess, I just had not even thought about this for my tanks. I will have my brother come by and get the GFCIs installed for all three tanks... I just feel so terrible because I accepted responsibility for my fish, and love them so much. I can only hope that my Blueface Angel eats SOON and that all is well again for all!!! <I would wager that in your good care it will soon. Bob Fenner> Thanks again, Nikki

Re: Salt Water Spray Shocking Fish Bob, Just wanted to let you know that my Blueface Angel ate a small piece of shrimp this morning. I feel we are definitely on the right track and he will be eating like a pig again soon. I also wanted to say thanks for always being there when I need advice as well as just being there to listen. Thanks, Nikki <Ah, a pleasure. Thank you for the update. Bob Fenner>

Re: Aerofoamer skimmers... Love getting responses from you Anthony, always a laugh, haven't I seen you at a comedy club?, <heehee... I just can't help myself sometimes :) > I can understand all your points, but for $250 u.s with the mag12 >I'm sure anyone would jump on it, <absolutely agreed... in fact, if power wasn't so dear here I would have bought it too, perhaps> must say though, have no clue how to set this thing up, he's coming back for another $50 to set it up for me, still a great buy, <agreed... and the $50 setup was a great idea... well worth not having to suffer the hardest part of the learning curve. Like most skimmers, its very straightforward once tweaked> BTW you guys pay 30 cents U.S per KH for hydro?, <actually... in some states like Cali, it is much more. 400 watt Metal Halides over a 180 gallon aquarium can cost $300-400 in electricity. The heat from pumps and some such skimmers (plus chillers for extra heat, etc)... make such equipment unaffordable. Such a bummer> geez, I pay 4 cents Canadian for it and I thought my bills were high, have a great day....Riot..... <4 cents is like a dream :) I love snow too... Canada sounds nice <G>. Best regards, my friend. Anthony>

- Dealing with Power Outages - Hello all: <And hello to you, JasonC here...> After experiencing a three-hour plus power failure last night, I was wondering how long fish can cope under these circumstances without jeopardizing their well-being.
<Not for too much longer than that, but there are variables - bioload, prevailing temperature and insulation of your home, etc.>
We have a 125G FOwoLR. When the power returned, most pumps, UV and heater operated normally. Only the pump on the protein skimmer did not come back on, which I will address when I get home from work tonight. I realize that there are battery-operated water circulating devices that can be used in the event of a power failure. What is your opinion of these?
<I've only seen battery powered air pumps, which would be worth having if the power stayed off too long. Having just moved out of New England, my pervasive fear was ice storms which would keep the power out for more than 24 hours - in those situations, a generator is really your best ally. Battery-powered devices tend to be low demand - or conversely, not high output... so on a system like yours, they will provide only a modicum of benefit. Oxygenation of the water is most important in these circumstances, followed by temperature control.> Thanks, Mitch <Cheers, J -- >

- Power Outages - Jason: <Howdy...> Well, I cleaned the impeller of the skimmer pump, but unfortunately, it did not return to working order. Is it possible that my surge protector really is not that good and that either the power outage, or power surge upon regaining electricity, caused the pump to malfunction? This is the second impeller in less than 6 months that I will now have to replace for this Rio 1700. <Yeah... the impeller in the RIO pumps is prone to failure. Check out the end of the magnet. In my experience, the hole that should be round tends to oval-out making it easier over time for the pump to stall. Cleaning the pump frequently tends to keep this problem at bay.> I look forward to your comments. Thanks, Mitch <Cheers, J -- >

- Re: Power Outages - Thanks for the prompt reply, Jason. <My pleasure.> Fortunately, my bioload is light and the home has great insulation, so I do not believe that the temperature dropped off significantly during this period. The weather in So Cal has been mild, luckily. <Certainly no worries about ice storms then.> As far as the pump for the skimmer, I am hoping that the impeller got jammed with the power outage and that once I clean it, it will return to normal operation. <My thoughts exactly.> Any input as to why only this pump did not begin working would be appreciated. <Well... skimmer pumps tend to get the dirties water... and in my opinion people [in general] don't clean then as often as they should be - about once a month is really ideal.> Thanks, Mitch <Cheers, J -- >

Electricity Consumption Hello All! My wife has noticed that my electric bill has doubled since starting this hobby.  I am ok with it but am a little concerned because I have not yet put into service my 2 X 150 MH lights.  Here is where my question originates...Can I run my MH for 3 or 4 hours and let two 40 watt actinic lights provide the morning and late afternoon light?  Is the photo period sufficient for soft corals (I don't have any yet)?  I currently have a button polyp, mushroom anemone, a candy cane coral, and a Trachyphyllia. Can I run one for a shorter period while one runs longer?  Or, should I simply use the lights and buck -up about it? <You'll have to buck up and light those metal halides up. Remember, these produce heat, so your heater won't run at all during the day (unless it's REALLY cold where your tank is. I'll bet your heater is 200-300 watts, as are the metal halides. A wash during the day. Your corals need twelve hours of light a day. Lower or higher light levels cannot be equated with shorter or longer photoperiod. Also, should I re-evaluate the pump I am currently using (Aqua-Medic 2500)?  Any insight would be appreciated by my wife and by default myself... Scott from Colorado <I don't know Scott, you don't provide tank volume, size, etc. Reefs require anywhere from 10 to 20 times total volume turnover, if your pump is too much for this, then it is possible to downsize. I would compare power usage for any pumps you consider, and figure how long it would take to pay back the replacement cost using any possible power savings.  Craig>

Amped! Hey Scott, <Hey there!> Thanks for the nice reply.  I learned a lot thru this process. <So much to learn...more and more every day for me!> One more question. <Sure!> I'm trying to calculate the amperage usage on ALL the electrical equipment and gadgets on my tank, as I don't want to overload my circuit breakers. <Done that before! Not Fun! Good idea!> My question is this: For example, my MH ballast says it's 250 watts (2.3 amps maximum input) That's just the ballast amperage?, or is that also taking into account the 250 watt MH bulb as well? <Thee ballast...> Am I to assume that the ballast draws 2.3 amps at 250 watts, and therefore the MH bulb also draws the same amount of current?   So the ballast and bulb = 4.6 amps of juice?  Or is the 2.3 amps written on the ballast, the TOTAL draw on both the ballast and bulb? <Yep!> Gracias, Steve <Any time! Regards, Scott F>

Overloaded Plugs? I know this is not at all the kind of question expected, but I am worried I am overloading my outlet. We in the hobby all deal with it, so it's not truly off topic. With a filter, 2 lights, heater, timer and air pump all going from one outlet, where does the danger begin? I know I need a power head for water movement but afraid I'll burn my apartment down if I add it. Any tips on how to minimize the danger (short of re-wiring--I live in an apartment). Horror stories? Places to go? Yes, I am a worrier.  : - ) Lance <Good to be concerned enough to check such things out. There is little likelihood of overloading a given circuit (breaker) with aquarium gear w/o that breaker tripping first. I do encourage you to wire all your electrics through a GFI however. Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/elecmar.htm and the linked (in blue, at top) article on Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters, and the related FAQs files. Bob Fenner>

Power Failure EMERGENCY! Hey Crew...Salutations. Happy New Year! Thanks for the help in curing my tank of ICH, the natural way. Superior water quality, high temperature(83 F), combined with a high nutrient food for 2 months did the trick. Unfortunately the Santa Ana winds undid all our patience by knocking down my tree and the electrical with it. I woke up this morning to all my fish desperately trying to breathe near the surface. A quick glance also confirmed a few dead ones on the bottom with at least 50 pc.s of coral mainly Acro. sp. and Monti. sp. very unhappy. My guess is that the electrical went out sometime early morning around 12AM and was without circulation or temperature until I got up for work at 7 am. As far as I know the electric is still out. What should I do? What can be saved or I can hope to save when/if electric comes back on? <If you can, "waft" or better still, use an all-plastic pitcher to scoop up, pour back in the water... continuously... till the power comes back on. Do remove the dead organisms, don't feed, open up windows if they'll throw any light on the system. If the water is "warm", lower it (with your remaining ice cubes) to the lower seventies F. to increase gas solubility while decreasing metabolic rates> The tank is 150gal full blown reef and I fear what I might find when I get back to the house this evening. What do you think can be salvaged? Where do I go from here? I guess a power generator should have been on my X-MAS wish list. <Or an uninterruptible power supply (UPS, like those used for computers) to run at least air pumps... or even just battery operated air pumps.> Sincerely, Dennis <Good luck. Bob Fenner>

No Power! Hello all, <Scott F. here today> I have a 55 gal corner bow with a magnum 350 with a large russelli lionfish.  He is doing great, but I am still waiting for some money to buy an Aqua C Remora skimmer. <A great HOT skimmer!> The reason that I don't have the skimmer yet is that I have been saving for a new electric service (ours is an antique) and that brings me to today's question.  The electrician says that he will have the power off for at least 8 hours.  Is there anything special I can or should do for my fish while his air and filters are off?  I have no neighbors near enough to borrow electric from.  Should I rent a generator? or  am I just being overly cautious? <Ideally, I'd  go for the generator (depending on whether or not you're as anal as I am!)! At the least, I'd recommend trying to use a battery powered air pump and an airstone to provide some aeration. Should be okay for this period of time. I'd worry more about the possible heat loss in some areas of the country, and take measures to keep the tank insulated during this period of time. Lionfishes are pretty tough fishes, so he should pull through just fine!> Thanks as always for  a great website, Bryan Flanigan  <And thanks to you for stopping by!>

Lighting timers Hello Craig! Comment vas tu? Could you please recommend a timer that will work with my Jalli 2X55 W PC retrofit system.  Thanks in advance.  Mimie <Hi Mimie! Of course!  Any electric timer will work with your 2 X 55 watt retrofit. Most household timers are rated for 120 volts, 20 amps, and usually about 1850 watts capacity. Make sure it has a grounding prong outlet so your ground fault protection still works. (You do have a ground fault outlet for your aquarium like in your bathroom, right?) They are fairly inexpensive. Enjoy!  Craig>

Re: S.O.S. Power Outage Dear Craig - we are still w/o power and my husband has to fill it up every 45 minutes night and day.  Our neighbor has threatened to call the police if we run it after midnight.  I guess you have better neighbors.  That's why I wanted to know how long they can go in between running.  Meantime we are going to try to rent a larger more quiet generator. Connie <I would try to use a barrier to muffle the noise and see if one of the local fish stores still has any battery powered AIR PUMPS still in stock and use those.  Also, call the police up front and ask them about the noise ordinance in emergencies.....I'll bet they have special provisions for generator noise in power outages. Your neighbor is a piece of work.  This is just one of the reasons I live in the country.  I can pretty much do what I want, up to a point....I can't make any noise that can be measured at 100db or higher at my neighbors house.  How loud is your generator at your neighbors house?  I would think there is a measurable level. Gee, it can't last that long, if there are no more air pumps in stock, get your neighbor some earmuffs, or Prozac.  Craig>

Re: Rio 600 (electrical use, aquarium in general) Hi guys (since I never know who'll answer this), <Hi Rene, you're right!  Craig here today.> I just found out this morning that the Rio 600 powerhead isn't worth it's weight in feces.  It shorted out on me and now my fish are hurting, the water smells like a burned motor, and I'm frustrated as you can imagine.   <Oh, yes, I can!> My question is, other than a massive water change (20 gallons out of a 45 gallon FOWLR tank), is there anything else I can do?  this is the first time I've ever had electrical failure inside a tank and am kind of out of my element.  Thanks.  Rene <Hmmm, not really. Replace the darned Rio and the water.  Perhaps several water changes over several days. I trust you have a ground fault interrupter installed so you don't become a victim of another failed powerhead? If not buy one ASAP....you have been forewarned! A PolyFilter may help.  Craig>

Electricity Dear Bob, I just wondered if you could give me some more detailed information that already is on your site about back-up electricity supply for my pumps. As you point out bacteria can be wiped out in a matter of minutes if circulation fails. Also where would I get this back-up gear (I live in the UK) and would it have to be constantly charged up? Your site is the best around keep up the good and unbiased work. Cheers, Massimo Hi Massimo, Craig answering your power supply question. The backup devices are in-line with your load and remain charged all the time until needed. The load (anything you want to run on a backup) is plugged into the backup and the backup plugged into the power outlet, thus it is energized at all times. Of course you will need a unit specifically rated for your power type, voltage etc. and for a specific time period and load you want to run. There are many such backups available on the internet, I would do a search for backup power supplies concentrating on vendors located in Great Britain or Europe. Please feel free to ask if you should have any further questions. Enjoy! Craig

Funky smell / one dead fish Hi, Bob. I spoke to Jason today and am ordering my EV-180 tomorrow but unfortunately it might be a little too late. Earlier today (hours after speaking to Jason) I went down into my basement which houses my 125 FOWLR tank run with a wet/dry (bio/balls) and built in skimmer (not productive at all). I immediately smelled this odor which source could not be detected. I thought it might be a cleaning product that the dogs had tipped over. I went over to the tank and could smell it there but didn't think it was the source because the odor was stronger about 15' from the tank. I then noticed my 3yr. old Coral Beauty swimming about the tank on it's side. It eventually settled on the bottom breathing heavy, gills open wide. I immediately checked my other fish (Niger Trigger, Maroon Clown , Blue Palette Tang and Clown Wrasse) . All were fine with the exception of the tang (8"), he was in his sleeping position and I disturbed it to view it's reaction. It reacted as if it were weak and I fear it will receive the same fate as the Angel. I immediately changed about 40% of the water hoping the others would not get ill. My question is have you ever heard or should I say is it normal for a tank to emit a odor in conjunction with fish getting ill and dying? The odor dissolved after the water change so I think it came from the tank. It was a strong odor initially. Could it be the live rock which is cured and been with me for five yrs. Thanks. (by the way Jason of Aqua-C speaks highly of you) Jim <As you have detailed. The apparent, odd behavior was due to an electrical leak... I suggest plugging all aquarium gear in/through GFCIs: Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/gfcimarines.htm Take care, Bob Fenner>

Re: funky odor/ one dead fish Hi, I e-mailed late last night about the unidentified funky odor (ufo) and dying angelfish. Well this morning I ran down to the tank and discovered the angel dead but everyone else o.k. I found the problem, a cracked plugged in sub. heater (Visitherm) in the sump w/o being suctioned. Another lesson learned in the world of fishkeeping. Thanks. Jim. <Yikes! Glad no one (else) was electrocuted. Bob Fenner>

Deteriorating Fins? Hi Dr. Fenner, <Anthony Calfo in your service> I was looking through a pet supply magazine and noticed a product that is supposed to remove electricity from an aquarium. It was only a grounding wire connected to a titanium rod on one end and the other to the grounding screw at the outlet. I had been mildly shocked on several occasions while in my aquarium so I constructed my own grounding wire using a stainless steel rod. So far it has worked. <excellent> My question is, the magazine stated that electricity in the water can cause deteriorating fins. I just removed a fish from my tank because I strongly suspected him of chewing on my 3 Searobins. I have not observed any aggression from any of the other fish, yet the Searobin's fins seem to be getting worse. My water quality tests out excellent. I have been treating the tank with copper at around .25ppm. Do you think the voltage in my water could have caused the problem with the fins, or is it something else? Thank you, Steve Tilotta <stray voltage has been implicated as a deleterious influence on the health of fishes but cannot fairly be said to cause anything so specific. Enough said that it is a stress and can contribute. I think that it is generally wise to have stray voltage grounded but would not rule out the possibility of a pathogen or aggression with your sea robins. Anthony Calfo>

Deteriorating Fins? II Thank you Anthony for your advice. <always welcome> An update: I caught the culprits that were chewing on the fins of my Searobins. They were my spadefish.  <hehe... yes, Cheeky little monkeys!> Butterfly fish seem to leave the Searobins alone. I think I'll fill my tank(135 gal.) with an assortment of them if they don't fight amongst themselves. Thank you again. Steve <eh... you'll get a whole new set of challenges/problems <wink>. Anthony>

Power Outage Bob, or whichever of you fine gentlemen are answering today, <do I have to answer this query in a suit to still qualify as a gentleman? Anthony <G>> I just had my first wake-up call regarding a power outage. We had a transformer blow in town and the power was out for 3 hours. Just came back on. I have a 90 gallon mini reef with 6 fish. The temp surprisingly only dropped maybe one degree if that. My question is what is the limit for how long the tank can survive without circulation, light, and heat? I realize it depends on the size of the tank -  <and mostly bio-load/O2 demand... however, reef inverts can take a lot more abuse than fish can. especially larger fish. A battery operated air pump on hand will help get you by to around 10-12 hours with little or no damage if the temp doesn't drop too much. Keep Styro sheets handy to tape the tank sealed and dark in such an event. At least cover the tank to prevent any fish from becoming excitable and consuming more precious O2. As a rule, less than 10 hours is not a big deal in a properly maintained tank (not overstocked, overfed, etc)> I guess I know I am ok for 3 hours now. And while on the topic, what is the best solution? A generator or is there something else I can get for just the tank itself?? <the main thing is aeration for the fishes.. the corals are tough and have a much more stressful 3-5 days on import> Thank-you in advance once again. I appreciate your resource muchly. Oh, also I would like to purchase a book on corals - did I read that one of you had published such a book, and if so is Amazon the most likely source on-line. Seems hard to find good books on corals. <actually, John... that was my Book of Coral Propagation: Reef Gardening for Aquarists. Thank you. At least two of the advertisers on this WWM site sell it as well (Di's aquatics and Custom Aquatic). Best regards, Anthony Calfo>  John

Re: Power outages & SW tanks Hi, Bob/Steven, <Steven tonight.> Just an update on my tank after 3 weeks. As we'd discussed earlier, I had a 12 hour power outage 3 weeks ago. I circulated water regularly by hand but the temp dropped 3-4 degrees. No sign of fish stress or disease so far; looks like I may have gotten lucky although I won't really know for another 2-3 for sure. That seems to be the full time it takes for stress to show given past experience. <After three weeks, I would think you are pretty safe.> Steven had indicated that he thought the 3-4 degree drop in 12 hours was pretty severe but it seems like fish survive worse (in degrees per hour) in a long trip home from the fish store or even if the store keeps their tank 4 degrees warmer than my own. Do you really think one degree per three hours is a major stressor for fish? Not that I'm looking to repeat the experience. <A temperature drop is one of the leading triggers for an outbreak of crypt.> I'm embarrassed to say I actually have the tank and other key circuits in the house wired for switchover to a generator but had never bothered to get that running before. I have since put the generator on line. Nothing like a scare with the tank to get me off my butt and finally get that working... <I know the feeling.> While I've got your attention, my juvenile asfur and my purple tang are still acting very shy and do not swim out much except when the lights first come on. In the dealer's show tank with lots of other tangs, the tang was quite out going. I'm wondering if my shy asfur is making my tang more skittish. Think he might get more bold with other larger fish in the tank? <He maybe chased out more by other large fish in the tank, but that is not necessarily good for his overall health. Usually time and plenty of hiding spots makes fish comfortable enough to show off.> After the tang and asfur my next largish fish is a medium sized flame angel. The two have been in my tank for over 5 months. I will be trying a more "island" rock arrangement when I tear down my tank in a bit to replace a cracked tank (and won't add any fish until after that but that gives me a chance to introduce new fish with the asfur and tang.) I assume a second asfur would be a bad idea? <Yes, bad idea.> Would you suggest any other tangs? <I would avoid other long nose, Zebrasoma, tangs. Perhaps a large P. hepatus.> Thanks! Marc <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

I love the site! (coral quarantine, coral disease, electrical power) That is, www.wetwebmedia.com <we do too... of course, if we don't say that, Bob affects an accent like a Catholic nun and raps us across the knuckles with a wooden ruler. Anthony> Could I trouble you with a few questions that do not appear to be answered in the Quarantine FAQs? <sure...> 1) If I buy a number of pieces of coral together, from the same dealer, and probably from the same tank, can I quarantine those items TOGETHER ? On the grounds that if they have pathogens, they've ALL ALREADY got them from being together at the dealers? I realize that for FISH you want to reduce stress and not have them fighting each other, but if CORAL are well out of the reach of each other is it valid to put them in the same tank? <nope...same problem with coral...actually worse. The close confines trigger chemical receptors and escalate allelopathy (chemical warfare). It will be a truly hostile environment. It can be reduced by only tanking like organisms separately (Zoantharians, SPS, Alcyoniids, etc> 1b) Dealers connect all their tanks together, surely? Doesn't a pathogen on one fish just swim through the pipes to the next tank?  <possibly, but such systems should be bare bottoms, skimmed heavy, ozonized and UV sterilized which can really produce quite good water quality of properly supported with biological filtration> And if dealers get new fish all the time, doesn't this mean that there is always a risk from a dealer that his fish have something?  <more or less...yes. A fish sitting in your dealers tank is not two weeks quarantined if a new shipment of fish arrived the day before your purchase.. then you have a "One day old" fish from quarantine> Which is obviously why we quarantine,  <exactly> but it just goes to show that surely a dealer who says his stock are healthy and don't need quarantining is lying,  <well...lets call it selectively representing the truth (hehe... how Clintonesque)> unless he has had NO deliveries of fish at all for 2-4 weeks! <you are very intuitive indeed...seriously! I wish more fish friends thought things out this far> 2) The coral is going to be in the quarantine tank for some time. It will place a bioload on the water. I guess I can't use live rock or sand as filtration, because if the coral IS infected then so then is the rock and sand and I'd spend my whole life throwing out 'infected' sand and rock!  <no not really... invertebrates are rarely plagued with contagious or pathogenic infections (although there are some nasty ones)... it is more a matter of screening for pests, predators, and nuisance organisms> Also, I guess any copper (for fish) or other medication I put in will taint the rock or kill the nitrifying bacteria.  <yes...ruined> So, I guess I need a skimmer and a wet-dry filter.  <a good coarse sponge filter usually works fine considering the water changes you will be doing to the QT anyway. A foam filter is under twenty dollars (for large/XL) and very efficient. Can you get a wet/dry that cheap <wink>> But must I discard the filter media after each occupant? And do I then bleach the tank and filter housing afterwards?  <a nice thought...very thorough> I read the bit on your website http://www.wetwebmedia.com/clnornart.htm, but that didn't mention filter media. I would worry about chlorinating the filter media and then putting it back in my main tank sump to get all the bacteria back. Or, do I only need to CLEAN the quarantine tank if something actually got sick in there?  <exactly> How DO you clean the bio media correctly, and more important, if you use a toxic cleaner, how do you get it out of the media afterwards? Is de-chlorinator really good enough?  <yes...completely dechlorinates bleach,,, and not much bleach is ever necessary> Can you condition fresh bio media (with bacteria) by just throwing it in my main tank sump for a few weeks, and filling the quarantine tank with water from the main tank? <that would be fine> 3) I have had no success with Euphyllia coral. Every single other coral has been a breeze, but Euphyllia (all sorts) have just died on me, but after about 8 weeks by which time quarantine was over and it was in the main tank. After buying 3 pieces over 2 years, I stopped buying them. Why continue to kill stuff by accident?  <good thinking> I think it was a protozoan, brown gunky kind of infection. <yes...they are prone to it... your suppliers were likely getting Indonesian coral.. perhaps transshipped> Anyway, someone has suggested that I use a prophylactic dose of Metronidazole the next time I quarantine some of this stuff. True or false? And how much? <not for this infection...iodine and Tetracycline have had an impact on "brown jelly" infections...even freshwater dips for coral! (written about in my book and many places in the net I suppose) 4) When I move across country in about a week, I need to pack and take my two Clownfishes with me. I intend to keep them dark before packing them and to keep them separate and each in a dark bag with water and a large space above which I will fill with pure oxygen.  <agreed and fast 48 hours before hand> I saw the comment about adding Hydrogen Peroxide to the shipping solutions, but decided that oxygen above would be safer.  <O2 will be more than enough> Then they will each go in a padded pelican case and CAREFULLY carried by me by hand. They are each about an inch long. How much water should I put in vis a vis oxygen space?  <1/3 water , 2/3 O2 or air> I was thinking of about half a gallon of each tank water, and oxygen. They will be traveling for approximately 10-12 hours,  <easy move...they suffer far worse on import> and I already have a (quarantine) tank ready and warmed up for them in England. I know this is a lot of effort for two tiny fish, but they were presents! I will acclimatize them as your guerilla thingy says - Methylene blue and an airstone. <a noble effort...you sound like an admirable and intuitive aquarist> Incidentally, on the subject of UPS, I am just moving from the US to the UK where the voltage AND FREQUENCY is different. I have solved this problem for my fish tanks by purchasing a pair of SPS-2450 power supplies from Samlex (http://www.samlexamerica.com/sps2450B.htm) and a TrippLite PV2400FC Inverter. These two together will convert continuous 2400watts from 50hz to 60Hz and will deliver a peak of 4800watts, which is more than enough to power my metal halides and chiller. Best of all, the SPS-2450 come with connections for 200 Amp marine batteries, which means that the entire assembly will keep running for several hours in the case of power failure, certainly more than enough for someone to come round and turn the lights off, when it will last for DAYS. <nice tip thank you!> Thanks for a great book and website! <kind regards, Anthony>

Power outages & SW tanks Hello Bob (et al), <You got Steven today.> Had a 12 hour power outage last night. My 210G reef tank fell about 3-4 degrees. My 45G seahorse tank probably dropped a little more. I vigorously stirred the water by hand every few hours. I also was able to get the pumps running on a generator after about 8 hours but only for 30 minutes (the generator wasn't working right). I don't see any stress in the critters this morning. The only sign of stress to the system was a single, full load from the protein skimmer that might have been more related to me clearly a partially blocked venturi air inlet than the outage (no way to tell). Didn't see too many fish in the deep of the night but the ones I did see looked normally (moved away from the light; no heavy breathing.) The corals were normal for the night. My thoughts are that since the temp drop was not severe (bottomed out about 73 degrees) <Brrrr> and I moved the water around and noticed no signs of low oxygen that I'm out of the woods. What do you think? Just what is a tank's tolerance to outages? <The 12 hour point is where I start to worry. My biggest concern now is that in many instances a temperature drop is a trigger for an outbreak of crypt. Keep a close eye on things. You may also want to invest in a battery operated air pump. They are pretty cheap and a nice unit to have around in case of emergencies.> Thanks! -Marc <You are welcome. I will keep my fingers crossed. -Steven Pro>

Power Outage Bob, There was a power outage in my area last night. The good news is the power was only out for about an hour. The bad news is that I fell asleep prior to the power coming back on and the outage tripped the GFI's in my tank, so the tank power was out for about 6 hours. My first question is does anyone make GFI's that don't trip when there's a power outage. <As far as I'm aware they can/do trip or not depending on the "even-ness" of electron flow through their circuits... not whether the power is on or not... Perhaps moisture from condensation had something to do here with yours tripping> I know I need GFI's because I don't want to get zapped, but now I'm going to be worried sick every time I go on an overnight trip that the power will go out and the tank power will be down until I return to reset the GFI's. <Practice throwing the breakers over (on/off) on the circuits that are GFI protected in your house... they shouldn't trip... they do sometimes, "go bad"... may need to replace an in-line one... or have help locating the leg/s that are allowing the fault> My second question concerns my fluidized bed filter. When I first started setting my tank up last summer, I had originally planned on an all fish tank so I installed a fluidized bed filter on the sump. Instead, I've ended up with a flow blown reef tank (live rock, skimmer, many soft and stony corals and only 2 small fish). I've been considering shutting down the fluidized bed filter for some time now,  <Yes, I would... just pull it> but since all water parameters were excellent, I figured why mess with a good thing. <May not be as "good a thing" as you can have> Well, I've read that the bacteria in fluidized bed filters can die very quickly if there is no flow through the bed (like I had for six hours last night!) <An hour is too long...> Well, I didn't want to blow all that dead stuff into my tank, so this morning when I restarted everything, I mad the decision to shut down the fluidized be filter. Do you think this was wise, or should I turn it back on.  <You were wise, and fortunate to have done so> Sorry this was so long winded. By the way, the good news is that everything seemed to be doing fine this morning when I left for work...hopefully all will be well when I return this evening. <Yes> Thanks for you help, Phil in San Diego <Bob F. in San Diego... where in our area we didn't have an outage... that dang futility, I mean utility!>

Aquarium Power Needs Hello Robert, My name is Jim Fischer, and I live in Pa. I have a question about power requirements for a total aquarium setup. My wife and I are going to setup a 55 gal fresh and a 120 gal saltwater (reef) in our basement that I am wiring right now and need to balance the load on the circuits. I'm not going to use anything fancy like metal halides, just C.F. fixtures, but the setups I have in mind will be well equipped. I know this is a vague description, because I'm not sure exactly sure of the hardware I'll be using. I know the 120 gal reef tank will use a considerable amount of watts compared to the 55 gal freshwater tank. Thanks in advance for your advice and keep up the good work. <So...? Watts times amps equal watts... you can divide by 1000 to get kilowatts, multiply this value for all the electrics times your (in California "blended rate") charge for kilowatt hour... and get costs. The ampere rating for the circuits can be had by simply adding up the presumed amp loads as if all the gear were on at the same time... and shoot for a maximum of 60-80 percent of the rating of your breakers... Is this about what you're looking for? There are some other examples of such calculations on WetWebMedia.com, for pond pumps et al... Bob Fenner> Jim Fischer

Inverter Question Dear Rob, need your advice again. Have been looking at Dolphin pumps for a long time. Alas they only come in 115v units. Where I am we use 230v. Can I use an inverter? <Of a sort, yes. Is your line voltage 50 or 60 Hertz?> I would really like to use dolphin pumps will there be any long term damages if I use an inverter to convert my household supply to 115v for the pump? Or is it alright? <No problem if power is adjusted to 115-120 volt, 60 cycles per second. Bob Fenner> Thanks in advance John

Lighting Emergency I have a CSL retro 2 x 96W PC fixture and one of the end caps is burned out. As in smoke and ash. I am not sure what happened as I was on Vacation (Isn't that the way everything happens). Where can I order a replacement End cap and is it OK for me to run the ballast with just one Bulb.  <I wouldn't. Too much change of other corrosion, shorting damage elsewhere in the fixture.> I kinda have to. I removed the affected end cap and taped up the wires w/ electrical tape. I then plugged it back in and turned it back on but the light kinda flickers and isn't as bright as I am used to seeing it. Please Advise me as to the best coarse of action. <Unplug this unit, call Custom Sea Life in the AM: http://www.customsealife.com/ Bob Fenner, WetWebMedia>

Back up power supply Bob, Have you ever or do you know anyone who has used a computer battery power back up supply to keep filters going during a power outage ? <A few folks> I purchased one at a Staples store, it is rated to keep a computer and monitor going for 52 minutes so I figured it should at least drive my Magnum 350 canister filter, I'm not so sure it would drive my wet/dry pump but I would settle for the Magnum to keep running for an hour, what's your thoughts on this. I paid $150.00 for the unit. <You can either check/calculate by the wattage, ampere hour rating of the devices to estimate how long they might work together... or better (what I would do) actually test them against the uninterruptible power supply. I suspect you will want to only run one item... maybe just an air pump and stone.... and drain the canister filter down to leave an air space if it's left off for more than an hour or so... and secure, store a thermal insulating blanket to wrap around the system for such an emergency. Bob Fenner> Thanks Fred

Power Problem in winter <<JasonC here, filling in while Bob is out diving.>> I am new and getting ready to setup my first tank. I will have the basics few fish 50 pounds live rock and cleaners. My problem though... I live in a small town and when we get an ice storm in the winter and power goes out, it sometimes is out for 2 or 3 days. <<that is a problem.>> My question with out buying a generator do you think I could get away with using a computer ups (uninterrupted power supply) and just hook my whisper filter up and the submerged heater? It says it will run a pc and monitor for like 20 min.s I figure I should be able to get more than that with just those 2 little things or is there a better way? <<a UPS [that's Uninterrupted Power Supply] suitable for a 2-3 day stint, even with only a small pump and heater would still be more expensive than a generator. I think you'd find the model you were looking at would last little more than a day, if that. With computer UPS, often the design is such to give you enough time to shut down the computer with risk of damage/loss of data - not meant to run the machine for days.>> Trying to plan ahead. <<Indeed - complicated issue, real problem.>> If it helps any its a 55 gal. Thanks Tim  <<Really think hard about what you are about to do - if this is a real issue where you live and something you can bank on [will happen without fail] then you might have to make one of two difficult decisions - either forgo the tank for the winter OR buy a generator, perhaps a small used one. Cheers, J -- >>

Re: Testing for stray potential (mainly electric) Thank you Mr. Fenner for the valuable info you have provided. Would you happen to know where I can purchase the '' multi-meter'' test gear so that I may be able to check if I do have any electricity in my aquarium. <Any good-sized hardware store... test with power turned on and with power turned off... Bob Fenner> Thank you for all of your help Ramon Donestevez

Grounding Probes Good Morning Mr. Fenner, I was reading on the electrical section on your site and I became concerned on electrical current leaking into the tank. My question is on grounding probes, is it a must for my dear fish and are you familiar with Rid-Volt Grounding Probes? <Yes... quite so. Just wire your electrical gear through ground fault circuit interrupters and don't worry. If they are "leaking" the GFCIs will shut them off. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Ron

Concerns about stray electricity Mr. Fenner I would appreciate if you could perhaps give me some suggestions. I have a fish only 180 gallon tank, I have a Harlequin Tusk, a Marine Betta, a Blue Face Angel, a X-mas wars, and a black Dalmatian puffer. My pH, salinity, nitrate, nitrite, ammonia are perfect, These fish eat better than I do, I feed them shrimp, squid, krill, and a verity of pellet foods, I have had then for about a year. with out no problem till now, my Blue face has lost all of its blue on his face my X-mass wrasse seems to have HLLE decease along with the Marine Betta. I gave back to the fish store the Blue face so that they hold it for me for a while to see what would happen and the blue started to come back again, the owner of the fish store told me that that probably had some type of an electrical current in my tank, so I purchased a ground probe, took back the Blue Face and the Blue that had returned while it was at his store again came off I grounded the 4MD pump that I have from the wet-dry going back to the aquarium. I have a Rio 2100 pump that goes to my UV, and a Mag-Drive pump that goes to my protein skimmer. My question is this. SINCE THESE PUMPS ARE UNDER WATER HOW CAN I GROUND THEM, AND WHAT CAN BUY WHERE I CAN MEASURE IF THERE IS ANY ELECTRICAL CURRENT INSIDE MY TANK. Please, help me I would really hate loosing these fishes. <Thanks for all the useful information here. The sealed pumps are very unlikely leaking electrical potential into your system. They are grounded through their plugs... and can be checked for ground faults by having them wired through GFCI protected circuits. Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/gfiuseagb.htm Electricity in an aquatic system can be checked with simple "multi-meter" test gear that measures down to the "milli" range... Now, more to the point. HLLE conditions are attributed to "stray voltage", "poor water quality", "Octamita/Hexamita necatrix"... and these co-factors may well play some role... these conditions are cured with nutritional make-up... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/hllefaqs.htm Be chatting. Bob Fenner> Ramon Donestevez

Electrocuted Reef / PLEASE HELP QUICKLY !!! Good Morning, I need help. I have a 55 gallon flat back hex. reef tank. My tank is almost 2 years old. I have not had any major problems since the tank was set up, until last night. We were watching the baseball game and I started hearing a very loud noise coming from the tank. I jumped up and grabbed a flashlight, because by this time the lights had cycled off. When I looked in the tank I could see sparks and a lot of bubbles coming from the powerhead that runs my protein skimmer. I quickly unplugged everything. I raised the hood door and there was a lot of smoke, then I raised the glass cover and even more smoke pours out. There was a black slimy substance covering the top of the water. I ran and got a bowl and tried to skim the top.  <Good idea... I hope after unplugging the pump/s> Then I noticed all my fish swimming around very irately and gasping for air, within 10 minutes they were on the bottom dying. I noticed that my maroon clownfish no longer had white stripes they were black. My husband said that the powerhead must have shorted out and electrocuted the fish. This morning when I checked the tank everything is dead. I lost everything.  <Very sorry to hear/read.> All my precious fish, corals, shrimps, starfish, etc.. I need to know what to do next. Do I tear the whole tank down and start from scratch. <Mmm, what is the make/model of the pump?> I have about 60lbs. of live rock in the tank. Do you think it needs to be replaced also. I want to make sure everything is in perfect condition before I begin rebuilding my treasured reef. I would appreciate any answers and advice you could give me. I know you are very busy, but I need help a.s.a.p.. You can reach me by e-mail at XXX, by phone at XXX, by fax at XX, and by mail at Tamara Teta XXX Pineville LA 71360 . I look forward to hearing from you soon. Thanks for any help you can give me. <Thank you for writing. I do encourage you to drain the tank, clean it thoroughly, but would just rinse the live rock thoroughly and let it "air dry" for a few days to a couple of weeks (yes, this will kill most of the live part of it). Later, to place this rock more as a "base" with new live rock on and about it. Do please send me the information re the maker of the unit that failed. My thoughts are with you. Bob Fenner>

Grounding probe, yes or no? Hello Mr. Reef God, :) <Mmm, small "g" please> I just have a quick question, what do you think about a grounding probe for fish\coral health? yes? no? why? <Mostly no... if you have substantial/detectable electrical potential in your system, best to locate and cure causes at their source... All circuits should be run through Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters... which will preclude such "leaks". A bit on GFIs here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/gfiaqs.htm> Everyone has different opinions... the good LFS doesn't have installed or carry. PetCo does. Then the reefers I know bicker back and forth.. I just don't know... <Part of the "charm", intrigue of the hobby, eh?> Any light on this would be grateful. Thanks for your time, Howard D. Hoag <Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

GFI Bob, I am thinking about installing Ground Fault Interrupt outlets on some of my aquariums in my store. Do you have any experience with these? <Yes... have installed many, written about their use in aquatic systems. For instance: http://wetwebmedia.com/elecmar.htm And the links beyond re GFI use on aquariums, ponds...> Would it be better to install GFI Breakers in the panel or use GFI outlet strips for the lights. I am concerned about using them on my pumps for the central filter system. <Either as a breaker type or in-line... I prefer the wall-mounted duplex types for ease of testing, re-setting> Also, If you install them for light strips that are not grounded, do you have to ground the aquarium water? <Not necessarily... unless they "leak" potential you won't trip them there> If you have any insights to this or know of someone who does, they would be greatly appreciated. <Mmm, another plug for the great DIY site Oz'Reef: http://www.ozreef.org/diy/index.html See the DIY on the web directory there...> Also, I recently installed a central filter system and quarantine systems for saltwater fish. Do you have any friends in the business that I could call and get advice on taking care of these systems? <Mmm, yes... in what way? You have a protocol, some idea... My input is posted on the site: www.WetWebMedia.com> Thank You Larry McGee Aquatic Designs Little Rock, AR <Be chatting my friend. Bob Fenner>

A few quick questions (lighting electrical concerns) hi, <Hello there> I was wondering if you could answer a few questions. I have a 55 G saltwater reef tank with a 30 g sump, and have to move in the next 2 weeks to an older apartment that unfortunately doesn't have much electricity. I have a LN electronic ballast that runs 4 x 110 W VHO bulbs (the LN is from Premium Aquatics, it's the equivalent of the IceCap 660). I was wondering if you knew how many Amps this system uses? <Hmm, sure don't... would probably "just" test here, but you might contact Premium, or even Perry Tishgart at Champion re his competitors draws> The follow up question is how many amps would it use if I ran 4 x 40 W bulbs? (the bulbs are 46.5"). <Again, the only satisfying "answer" for me would be to actually do my own test here... The calculated and stated amperage will not be the same... do you have a friend/accomplice electrician or physics lab cohort who has wrap around induction type test gear? Very simple to use.> The last question is what do can you feed bubble-tipped anemones? it's a lot of work to reach into the tank and give each one bits of fish, so I was curious if there are supplements to add to the water that work as well. <Lots of light... and occasional (once, twice weekly) meaty feedings (get, use plastic tongs... they're made for this and other aquatic purposes by Eheim, Tetra, AZoo...> thank you very much for your help, Ben <Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

New aquarium Mr. Fenner, A couple of days ago I purchased an Oceanic 72 Gallon Bowfront and stand from my local fish store. This is my first aquarium and I'm trying to get down the basics. Anyways, here's what I did. 1) Filled with water, and set up with a wet/dry filter. (An Aqua Clear Aquatics 75 Gallon Proseries) www.kaystanton.com/filter.jpg <Something real quick, but important here... do get/install a G.F.I. on the duplex outlet immediately behind the filter box... very real possibility of problems, real problems here... read about these devices most anywhere... my take on www.WetWebMedia.com> There's a pic of my set-up. An initial problem is that the skimmer is foaming a ton and is displacing a ton of water into the overflow. (consistently fills up about a half gallon container in about 15 minutes) The picture shows that we re-routed the overflow tube so it just goes back into the filter. What is causing this problem? <Excess water flow into the unit, and lots to extract at this point... reduce the former... and look into tapping an overflow line into the collector cup (to a gallon jug...) for the second...> 2) Mixed salt, Kent's Marine start-up chemicals, and added 50 lbs of live rock. Added a heater and brought the water to 75 degrees. That's about it. My question now is where to begin.  <You already have...> The guy at the fish store was not very helpful at all in answering my questions. I was planning on waiting about a week and a half and then adding some damsels so I could learn before moving onto more delicate fish. I hope eventually to form a nice reef. When does sand/gravel come in? The guy at the store said "later," and was then prodded into saying a couple months. This doesn't make much sense to me. Do I need more filtration/equipment? I have a feeling you are going to recommend I get a book. :) I am doing this. Any answers you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much. <Lots and lots to say here... and am unfortunately on a land line off site... Please do read through the "set-up" sections, FAQs posted on the WWM site... many more questions will be answered by this study that you don't anticipate currently. Bob Fenner> -Brandon

Stray Voltage  Hi Bob,  I have another question for you. Do you have a procedure for measuring stray voltage in a tank? I've tried all kinds of things with a volt meter but nothing registers. Either I'm doing it wrong or I have no stray voltage. I suspect the former.  Thanks,  Brian Battles  <A simple millivoltmeter... probably like you're using... and agree with you, you likely have no stray potential, induced or otherwise. Bob Fenner>

Ground probe for tank Bob, Can you tell me if any of this is true? Is a ground probe necessary. I know a GFCI plug is, but isn't this different? <Yes, very different... and most systems do not need, benefit from the use of grounding probes.> "I suggest the installation of a ground probe since just like all Tangs and Surgeons it's prone to lateral line disease." <IMO HLLE events are very unlikely linked to stray voltage... and do know for sure that they definitely do occur where there is no voltage applied... Most cases are due to vitamin and iodine/iodide deficiencies... able to be supplied exogenously via feeding, supplementation, or through macro-algae culture> "Many have attributed stray voltage in the aquarium to many common fish diseases such as lateral line and hole-in-the-head disease. Stray voltage comes from heaters, powerheads, pumps and other sources. This can now be completely eliminated by installing an 'Ultra Ground' probe in each and every aquarium. The 'Ultra Ground' probe is made from a solid titanium rod and utilizes an insulated transition joint to insure corrosion protection and leaching of metals into the aquarium. Don't take a chance on having stray voltage in the aquarium, install an 'Ultra Ground' today! " Just curious Thanks Darren <An advertising pitch... show me the evidence... That is, cite where experiments have been done that link HLLE with the use, non-use of such probes, electrical current... Bob Fenner, not convinced>

Electricity and the aquarium I have read your advice and have followed all of it in regards to safe use of electricity around water (i.e.. GFI, ext. cords off the ground, drip loops, etc.). However, yesterday I noticed a "tingling" in the water when I changed the filter in the top of my eclipse system. Today, I felt the tingling as I was lifting the hood and again when I touched the water. Is this an eminent danger? How about suggestions for stopping this problem? I can see nothing obviously wrong with the cables. Oh. . . the equipment and all fixtures is 1.6 years old.  Once again, thanks for your help. David Dowless >> Hmm, something is amiss... off hand, if the rest of the gear is okay, and the GFI has been installed (pretty simple), then I suspect an open "secondary loop" in your lighting (there is a possibility of bad electrical shock, even fire here...). Do at least check your system for current (a simple volt, ammeter will likely do.) and supply a grounding device to the tank/water... at best/better, call in a licensed electrician to check your wiring, set-up and ground it properly. Bob Fenner, who thanks you for scaring him.

You're Grounded! My marine tank is not grounded properly and I get a mild shock if  working in the tank. Can you tell me what type of material I can use to ground (or earth) the fish tank to the mains supply. Does the "floating voltage" and stray currents effect the tank, I have a reef tank with fish and inverts. >> Yikes! Electrical potential (voltage) you can detect is dangerous... to your livestock and YOU! I would use a conductivity tool to detect the source (probably moisture getting into a wiring junction) and solve it immediately (electrical potting material or silicone sealant can be used to fill wire nuts). Additionally, do look into rigging up all your 110 volt circuits through a GFI... notes on these tools can be found on my site: www.wetwebmedia.com. You're Grounded! Dos Bob First off, thank you for your extremely fast response to my first email. The Q&A is a great resource and reading it today I thought my own experience might help your reader with the electrical current flowing through his ground probe. We have an old house with no original grounds. A previous owner replaced the 2 prong receptacles with 3 prong units and shorted the neutral to the ground pin. Maybe not a problem by itself, but many of the receptacles were wired wrong with the hot and neutral reversed making the ground hot. It was even done in the bathroom - potentially dangerous. The scary part is that my (and the house inspector's) cheap plug-in-the-socket continuity checker showed everything being okay. <Yikes... out with the cheesy continuity checker, and in with a simple polarity checker... Very common problem... especially in the age of do-it-yourselfers and the big warehouse stores offering everything up to sub-panels to the home-consumer... Thank you for this... will add to my anecdotal accounts after urging folks to use GFI's on their systems: Home Page > Feel free to forward this email if you think it might help. Now for my question: We just got some live rock (FFE pre-cured Fiji, nice looking stuff) and was wondering if we should upgrade the lighting in our (for now) FO 26 gallon tank to benefit the organisms on the LR. Right now it has just one 20 watt full spectrum fluorescent (about 1000 lumens) on the 3 foot long, 16 inch high tank. And if we went for power compacts (without MH), looking ahead to possibly adding invertebrates (including an anemone) what should we use? 2 55's? 2 96's? More? I've read a lot of the Q&A archives and its answered a lot of my questions, but I still don't have a good feel for how much light these creatures need. Thanks for your help, Scott Ginaven >> <Thank you for the above... And I would get the twin 96's... if I was pretty sure I wanted SPS corals (small polyp stonies, like Acroporids), and/or giant clams in my future.... Otherwise, the 55's will do for anemones and most all other types of photosynthetic life hobbyists have available currently.... Both will be incredibly brighter than your present circumstance (single, regular output, 2 foot fluorescent). Re the anemone and your comfort level... do wait a few months, enjoying your live rock and other hardier forms of stinging-celled life before launching into one of these animals... they do have some definite downsides... not easily kept in all honesty... and real trouble if their health starts going sideways... to your system, other livestock. Caution and patience here Bob Fenner 

Hi Bob: About a month ago I added a titanium grounding probe to my reef tank in the sump area. I just read somewhere that if you have a chiller plumbed into the system and its coils are titanium, the system is already grounded, and that by adding a second ground it could cause INCREASED current. Is this true? Jill >> Hmm, increased current? Nah... but do agree with the first statement... the chillers that are plugged into (I'm getting as bad as a Lawyer with these stipulations) an in-turn grounded outlet.... Bob "GFI" Fenner

Grounding probe from hell I recently added a grounding probe, now any time I touch the water, I can feel a small, but definite currant?????? If I remove the probe, the electricity is gone? Shouldn't it be doing the opposite? I have tried to isolate the culprit by unplugging everything one at a time, but to no avail. Help, Chris. >> Time to check the connection of the grounding probe... sounds like you have IT plugged into a live electrical source... Keep your hands out of the tank till you locate and remove the source of the current... Do you have a volt, conductivity meter? Know how to use one? May be time to call in the real thing... an electrician. Bob Fenner

Grounding Probes What is the advantage of having a Grounding Probe in a Reef Tank. I have a 55 gallon tank that will be a full reef tank soon and I'm wondering what benefits a grounding probe will give me. I never have put a grounding probe in my tank (4+ years) and I don't know if one will really benefit me, but at the same time, I want what is best for my future corals and inverts. Where would be the best place to put one in the tank since I do not have a sump. Can I put in directly in the tank? >> There are people who believe such electrical neutralizing devices (attaching such a conductor "drains" loose electrons back to our big ole spinning charged planet...) help... Good ones don't hurt... I don't use them, but do utilize ground fault interrupters... lest there are appreciable charges that I don't want flowing twixt me and "ground" or through the livestock... Yes, grounding probes can be fit in your main system... My best advice for folks who want to use these tools: mark your date book, calendar and religiously check them every six months (at the greatest interval) for corrosion, connection... Take the unit out and thoroughly clean it, and reinstall.... Have seen MANY of these devices dissolve in marine systems (even in Public aquariums!). Bob Fenner

Lighting Bob, I really should just give you a call or something so I can get all my questions out and done in one boom. Anyway, I have a question regarding lighting. I am thinking about adding live rock and corals to my aquarium or starting a new aquarium (which means it would be 3 to 4 months before it had any action but I am patient) and I wanted to know some info about lighting. Right now I have 3 VHO fluorescent tubes on my fish only tank. I am guessing this isn't enough?  <For what size, shape system?> Anyhow, I was wanting to know mainly what are the metal halide tubes and how is installation different from fluorescent tubes?  <Metal halides are a different mechanism of light production entirely... require dissimilar fixtures... have a propensity to overheat whatever they're near... but do produce large amounts of useful wavelengths of light... need to be mounted in insulated settings higher above the water... to lessen heat influence, spread light pattern> I also wanted to know what a ballast is and what is does? <A type of "wattage amplifier"... trades... you know what? Take a look here for complete answers: http://www.repairfaq.org/REPAIR/F_flamp.html (sorry if I sound like a amateur, I have been working on salt aquariums for 5 years, but this is my first time considering a reef) So a general explanation and how these things are put together to make a good lighted system is what I am looking for. Any help you can give is appreciated. Thank you. John
You're welcome... Bob Fenner

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