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FAQs about Fishes and Invertebrates, aka FOWLR Marine System Maintenance

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Small Marine Aquariums
Book 1: Invertebrates, Algae
New Print and eBook on Amazon:
by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Small Marine Aquariums
ook 2: Fishes
New Print and eBook on Amazon: by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Small Marine Aquariums Book 3: Systems
New Print and eBook on Amazon:
by Robert (Bob) Fenner

Alkalinity Too High... too much added to a one month old sys.      6/10/13
I have a 110 gal FOWLR tank, (I used to have some corals and sold them from a previous 42 gal and a small lettuce coral got left behind and is in my new tank)
I believe this happened to me.  
Buffers alone are not generally a good method as they raise pH little, and result in excessive alkalinity. Unfortunately, the labels on many commercial buffers are written in ways that convince aquarists that the pH will be fine if they just add some buffer. More often than not, the pH is not improved for more than a day, and the alkalinity rises beyond desired limits.
<Can; yes... And I'd emphasize/state that this is not the case w/ all buffer/ing products. Some manufacturers are more "completely honest". A fave: SeaChem>

My PH is at a desired level now but my alkalinity is too high now.  My calcium was a bit too low so I added 2 caps of Purple tech. 
<... not a fan of this (or many) Kent products>
I was going to test the calcium tomorrow and see where it stood. I   I was just going to leave the tank alone to settle down once the calcium is right.  All my other water parameters are good
Am I on the right track or is there anything I should do about the alkalinity now?
<... Depends... on what the alkalinity is due to... carbonates, bicarbonates... When, where in doubt, best to do either a massive (pre-made) or successive water change/s... to dilute the "Dead Sea effect" of having added (so many, much) products>
 My tank is a little over a month old
<?! You shouldn't have to be adding anything here>

 and my first water change/maintenance is scheduled for 1st part of July. I can ask for it sooner if necessary. I cant lift the canopy off myself so I have to have someone do it.
<Mmm, do look about re gear that can help you w/ automating lifting this top... there are hinged arrangements, even infra-red signaled motorized lifters!>
Thanks so much.
Barbara Wilhite
<A pleasure to share, help. Bob Fenner>

Question about High Alkalinity in FOWLR tank 1/14/13
Hello WetWebMedia Crew,
<Hello Brent>
I normally only test for what I would call the basics since I have a FOWLR set up: Ammonia (0), Nitrite (0), Nitrate (0), pH (8.1), phosphates (.25), temp 79.2 and salinity 1.024.  Although phosphates are a little high, everything else looks great. My pH usually tries to hover around 7.9 and 8.0. I've been trying to raise it a little, so I have been testing Calcium and KH (Carbonate Hardness) using API test kits. I'm scratching my head with what I am seeing. My Calcium show 440/mg/L (ppm), which I understand is an acceptable range, 400 to 500. However, my KH Alkalinity is 22 dKH which is off the charts according to the conversion chart. The range in the API Instructions says for a community tropical tank adjust the GH & KH to 50-100 ppm. Bob's book, The Conscientious Marine Aquarist: A Commonsense Handbook for Successful Saltwater Hobbyists recommends 7 to 10 dKH for Reef, so I assume lower for FOWLR. I'm at a loss for why my Alkalinity is so high. There isn't any heavy algae growth. We do regular weekly 15 to 20% water changes, which I understand should bring those numbers down, but I did a 50% water change this weekend and it hasn't gone down at all. I'm not sure where to go from here, because everything I read is mostly about raising KH, not lowering it. I tested the tap water and it reads a 4 dKH. I use a small amount of Baking Soda to raise pH to my goal of 8.2, but it usually hovers around 7.9 or 8.0. We are currently using Instant Ocean Salt mix.  So here goes my questions:  1)  I'm a little unclear, does high KH alkalinity affect the fish and invertebrates? If so what does it do to them? 2) Do I need to be overly concerned with this high number that I work aggressively to lower it? If so, any recommendations? 3) Calcium seems to be good, but I read that if KH is high, then you should keep the Calcium at the lower end of the acceptable range because of it causing a snow storm.
Am I understanding this correctly? I appreciate all your help.
<There is a difference between degrees of carbonate hardness (dKH) and carbonate hardness (KH).  I believe you did not convert the KH to dKH. 
Dividing the KH by 2.8 will give you your dKH which is what we are interested in.  So your 22KH results in a dKH of 7.8 which is more along the lines of what I would expect.  James (Salty Dog)>
Brent Wells
Re Question about High Alkalinity in FOWLR tank 1/14/13

Hello WetWebMedia Crew - James (Salty Dog):
<Hello Brent>
The test kit I am using is the API GH/KH Test Kit. The directions have you counting the number of drops you add to the test tube to turn the water to a bright yellow. Once you have the number of drops, you aren't instructed to convert anything, because it provides a GH & KH Conversion Chart (Shown Below). I've also attached the API Instructions. I counted 21 or 22 drops to change the water to a bright yellow. As you can see from the provided chart, 22 drops isn't even included on the chart. It only goes up to 12 drops. According the chart, the dKH is in relation to the # of drops, so since I counted 22 drops, my dKH should be 22 dKH, which is double the reading it should be. Am I missing something? This would put me back to my original questions of:  1)  I'm a little unclear, does high KH alkalinity affect the fish and invertebrates? If so what does it do to them? 2) Do I need to be overly concerned with this high number that I work aggressively to lower it? If so, any recommendations? 3) Calcium seems to be good, but I read that if KH is high, then you should keep the Calcium at the lower end of the acceptable range because of it causing a snow storm. Am I understanding this correctly? I appreciate all your help.
<Your kit may be outdated, if you had a dKH of 22 you would be seeing calcium precipitation (snow).  Is there a marine dealer nearby that could test your dKH and compare results to verify your test kit's accuracy.  Your next kit should be a kit designed for salt water that measures dKH or meq/l.  I'm quite certain the test kit you have is for freshwater.  Is this the kit you have?
<James (Salty Dog)>
- Brent Wells

Re: one more fish and more; now FOWLR op.     8/9/12
Hi Bob. Thanks for replying and replying fast.
I now have to buy a pair of reading glasses, thanks to the site. I wrote in asking about adding one more fish to my system, but, after reading and reading and reading, I have decided to put more energy into my system than adding one more inhabitant.
<Ah good>
One question I have for you that I cannot find an answer to (and, believe me, I have looked) involves my system.
My stand is horrendous. My wife let me buy my tank (I am glad she picked the one she did because it fits in the laundry room perfectly) but it came with a "pretty" yet non-functional stand. If you saw it, you would scream.
Basically, she has insomnia and my pumps are too loud for the living room, so we moved it to the laundry room where we can shut the door at night.
<Good idea>
The stand has two sides, 8" each, with a middle that is 16" deep by only 12" wide-no room for anything. My old set-up was so easy to deal with. Now, after reading and reading on sumps, I have no room for one.
I have, since your last reply, removed my trickle filter.
<Could be converted... to/as the sump... see WWM:
Now, the next part is something I haven't seen mentioned yet, so, here goes. My skimmer is huge. After reading and re-reading every Albert Thiel book I have (have them all) and Martin Moe's book as well, I took Albert's skimmer test mentioned in his small reef aquarium basics book and bought the skimmer suggested for my tank. This would be the short yet fat model.
It fits perfectly in a 5 gallon bucket, which, in turn, fits perfectly in the middle compartment of my stand. I can run the output of the skimmer against the side of the bucket and have no bubbles at all, and, no noise. I took half of the bioballs from the trickle and ran the overflow over them and then back to the tank. Sound OK?
<Yes... but would it fit in your converted trickle filter? Could you build one (the sump, fuge...) that would fit all?>
Also wondering about using two different siphon overflows in one tank, with the same pumps in the sumps of each?
<Am not a fan of siphon overflows... see WWM re>
Also, wondering when the overflow is running at the top, does that mean the overflow is too small for the flow, or the pump is not flowing enough.
<Could/can be either, both>
This site is a blast. I removed my SeaClone skimmer (junk) and a bunch of stuff from my tank now. In theory, the SeaClone is a great idea. I love the surface agitation. But, these skimmers seem to be great maybe only for a really small system.
The pump is loud, and mine just didn't work without fiddling with it every day-sometimes twice. I got a cup of skimmate in one night last night-very happy. Took the SeaClone 2 months to remove that much. By the way, I am not filtering the water to the bucket-just raw water. I am using a Magnum for flow and for carbon.
Thanks again for all your help.
<Welcome. BobF>

No algae bloom in 4 mo old FOWLR setup   6/28/12
Hello All,
I have a 29 FOWLR tank, 45 pounds LR and 60pounds LS bed. Octopus HOB 1000 skimmer. 2x 740 Aquatic power heads, Coralife Aqualight HO T-5 Dual Lamp Aquarium Light Fixture, 24 watt (Freshwater) but I have one 31 watt 10,0000K Daylight Lamp and one 31 watt Actinic Blue Lamp on hand, should I replace?
<Up to you... do you like the looks? Do you have livestock that uses light?
Want it to do something different, more?>
 on FOWLR setup? I use RO filtered water My tank has been running for about 4 months but no algae bloom? Is this normal?
<Happens... you likely have a "happy balance" of low nutrient influx, sufficient population of algae-growing nutrients being taken up by LR and LS life. Uhh, what's that saying? "Count your blessings">
 I cycled tank with lights off and no fish. I have now, 1 Starry Blenny, 2 clownfish, 2 Spotted Cardinal fish, CUC, and 1  Hi Fin Goby. My parameters: ammonia 0ppm, No2 O ppm, No3 10ppm, PH 8.2, and SG = 1.024. Q: I cleaned my live rock really good <well> when I first received it, could this be the reason for no algae bloom?
<Might be a contributor>
My LR is alive and turning colors in places, but no outbreak yet. Is this normal? I am seeing some green and brown spots in substrate. 
<Could be algal, more, other>
Thanks for you reply.
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Concerns - new setup with used rock/equipment    3/24/12
Looking for some thoughts on my situation...
I acquired a 135G tank (with 15G sump), with 130# LR and about 50# LS.
After cleaning all equipment meticulously, and also a thorough cleaning of the LS (with water and removal of any cloudiness/detritus etc),
<Cleaning used sand is a hassle but necessary if you want to re-use it. Good job!>
 I restarted the tank with the "old" water.
<Unnecessary and possibly a bad idea depending on the waters quality.>
 The LR was left to dry for a few days during the process, by the seller, before being restored to a "wet" state.
<Uh-oh!!! Every living organism within the rock died when it was allowed to dry. That is a very large amount of dead organics; rock needs to be rinsed and cured.>

 I also discarded all other old filtration.
After completing the build and seeding with 40# of cured live rock, with plenty of life and some macro-algae, I tested nitrates with several kits and got a wide range of answers but decided a massive water change was due.
<Water changes are not going to accomplish much with the amount of dead organics trapped inside the rock. You are going to have to wait for the tank to fully cycle at this point. Read more on biological cycling--
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm >
I removed 80G, replaced 40G, and tested nitrates at 120-160ppm (or possibly higher). I moved 30G to my QT tank and did a 90% water change, and still tested at ~120ppm nitrates (6 hours after the water change). I will retest again 72 hours after the change (could the LR have released nitrates into new water stir-up from the change?), but am concerned with the biological quality of what I acquired at this point and wonder if I should just start from the beginning.
<You acquired 130# of uncured rock. You are starting from the beginning.>
The prior owner did run the tank for ~10 years, and there seemed to be some lagging care at the end of his ownership.
Do I do a 100% water change only?
<I would wait out the cycle before changing any water.>
 Or do I do this and also bleach the rock (is it possible that the old rock is "leaching" massive nitrates into the tank?)
<The old rock is uncured and is producing ammonia. The rock may be loaded with phosphates due to the previous owners lack of care. Bleaching may help remove some of the phosphate.>
I am doing a FOWLR setup, with very hardy specimens (who will be dipped/QT'd per WWM guidance), so I am not necessarily targeting 0ppm nitrates.
<Good call on the dips and QT but I would recommend waiting until nitrates are at least near 0. No reason to start with less than pristine water before adding a bio-load.>
 I will also use Caulerpa in the sump.
<Caulerpa has many pros and cons. Read more on Caulerpa sp. here-
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_6/volume_6_4/caulerpa.html  >
 Also, the skimmer (which hasn't yet been used due to replacing the pumps)
seems rather large - two 700gph Danner Mag drives - so I will employ strong nitrate reduction through the tank life. Hmm, thoughts?
<Can't over-skim a FOWLR.>
Sorry for writing a novel. Grateful for your patience.
<An easy read. Proper spelling and punctuation are much appreciated.>
Re: Concerns - new setup with used rock/equipment 3/26/12

Thank you! Extremely helpful.
<Good to hear.>
I'm afraid I have too many variables in my tank now to figure out what's really going on...
<You will learn that this is the case nine times out of ten.>
Rock: I have about 50 lbs of fully cured live rock in the tank (in for 4 weeks) . 35# (with heavy coralline and macro-algae) has been in for 4 weeks, the rest (light coralline) for about 1 week. Then I have (as you pointed out) the uncured rock (~130#), which has been in the tank since I started it about 6 weeks ago. The cured live rock seems to be doing OK, although there was some macro-algae die-off and some lightening of the coralline algae.
<The 50# of fully cured rock is going to help out in the long run but it is currently negated until the 130# is cured.>
Water: Right now, I have about 60% old tank water (possibly bad), 40% new water. I haven't been skimming since (per my prior email) my system needs ~40 more gallons of water to enable my sump operation.
<I'd go ahead and get the sump and filtration systems up and running.
Increasing water movement should speed things up, but 130# is still going to take a while to work itself out.>
Readings: I have been taking regular NH3-NO2-NO3 readings for only about a week. Nitrates are consistently high, over 120PPM, ammonia seems to hover around 0.25PPM, nitrites stays at 0.
<Nitrites will rise as ammonia falls. Nitrates may have come in with the old water. Did you test the old water before adding it?>
Is it possible my tank has cycled? Should I test whether it has without testing with livestock? If so, what would you recommend?
<Not possible. Ammonia and nitrite will both be zero when the cycle is over. Any readable ammonia is quite toxic and .25PPM is very high. Do not add any livestock until they are both at zero.>
Or is it possible that the "bad" old tank water (high nitrates) is stalling the flourishing of the Amm-Nitrite bacteria? I see consistent ammonia levels in the tank, but 0 nitrites. Not sure why this would be.
<What were the initial ammonia readings? The amount of dead organics in the 130# is going to take a fair amount of time to cycle but I can't give a specific time frame. Nitrites will show up at some point.>
Otherwise, I probably was wrong to describe the rest of the rock as "live".
<Live rock refer to the beneficial bacteria within the rock more so than visible plants and animals .  More on live rock-  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/liverock1.htm >
It it has the appearance of uncured base rock in that I don't see any matter or remnants (algae etc) at all...at this point there are what look like little white worms or tiny little colorless hairs standing up here and there...nothing significant, though.
<Growth will come in time.>
Do you think I should do a heavy water change simply to get the nitrates down?
<If you like, but nitrates are going to shoot back up as the cycle continues. I'd start my water change schedule once the cycle is over.
Establish a water change routine and stick to it.>
 Would that help the cycling (if it hasn't occurred yet), or are high nitrates (old tank water) inconsequential for new tank cycling?
<The old tank water will not have an adverse affect on the cycle but your nitrates may be higher than average once the cycle is over. I would wait out the cycle before doing any water changes. In the meantime, I would install the sump and all equipment as if the tank was ready for livestock.
Make sure all equipment works properly and study your intended livestock while you wait out the cycle. Ammonia and nitrites will come and go; it is just going to take some time. Slow and steady wins the race in marine aquariums.>
Thank you - Dave
Re: Concerns - new setup with used rock/equipment 3/26/12

Fantastic...extremely helpful again...
<Glad I could help.>
Sounds like heavy water changes at this point won't be helpful (or hurtful), so rather than continuing my 90% main tank water replacement, I will refill the tank so the filtration/sump can start working.
<Good. Equipment problems are easier to deal with when livestock is not in the equation.>
Should I break down my QT tank and add its rock/water back to the main tank? Would use of the same water/biological source be more beneficial to the specimens? Or is it harmless to let my QT tank continue its own cycle?
<Take the rock out of the QT tank and place it in your display. Rock should not be used in quarantine tanks, unless of course it is the rock which is under quarantine. Read more on quarantine systems here-
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/quaranti.htm >
I did notice some sponges on the cured rock. I tried to ID them per WWM, but can't. Should I be worried that they are nuisance or releasing organics into the tank?
<Highly unlikely that they are a nuisance in any way. I would leave them be.>
I do see continued die-off of the macro-algae on the live rock. Should I remove all of that so it doesn't cause problems with the cycle?
<If it is easily accessible I would remove it.>
I forgot to mention that a brittle star hitchhiked on the first piece of cured LR that was added to the tank 4 weeks ago. I saw it emerge the night the rock was put into the tank, but haven't seen it since (and assume he didn't survive). Should I search for and remove its carcass?
<You will never find it. A single dead star is a moot point in the grand scheme.>
Since the uncured rock has been in the tank for 6 weeks now, should I leave as is? Or would it help speed things along by removing and rinsing with a garden hose to remove some organics?
<At six weeks in you are committed to this cycle; leave it alone.>
You asked whether the old tank water was tested - unfortunately, no.
The moving company that I hired "forgot" to do so (at least they were honest about it). I estimated the nitrates to be over 300ppm based on the heavy changes/replacements I've done to date.
I appreciate that your comments have reset my expectations on this process. I have been thoroughly confused that, in week 6, I have such early-cycle readings when so many sites say that 4-8 weeks are average complete cycle time frames.
<Four to eight week averages are based on using base rock and starting the cycle with a couple of dead shrimp or a small amount of uncured rock. The amount of dead organics in 130# of mature rock is quite substantial, hence my initial shock upon discovering the previous owner allowed it to dry and then "restored it to a wet state." It is going to take longer than average to cycle this tank and it's simply a waiting game at this point. Take this time to learn as much as possible about your intended livestock.

Proper maintenance, 50 gal. FOWLR   4/9/11
WWM Crew,
Firstly, let me say that this forum and your in depth answers have been invaluable to my education of the saltwater hobby. I am still, however, a complete novice. I always wanted a tank but I was not prepared for one just yet, it was an emergency "gift" from a friend that had to get rid of it.
While it has been a lot of work, it has been very rewarding and enjoyable; made more so through reading this forum.
<Ah good>
The point of this is just to get some more detailed advice about where I stand at this point, where I should go from here, and just a general idea of how poor the decisions I have made so far are. I know you all are very busy and if you do not have time to answer this I understand, just do not post it and
<insert yelling here about reading forums first> . just kidding, yell if you have to. =D
The basics - the tank is a 50 gallon tall, has completely cycled and is now about 13 months old, I have had for that long to be clear. I have a Coralife 10k 65w, and a Coralife 65w actinic. The filter is a Fluval 304 canister, with standard blue mesh layer, chemical layer, and bioball layer. Also a basic tank heater, and Koralia 1 powerhead.
<No skimmer?>
With this tank and lighting there is no issue with overheating water so no fans needed. I check temperature each time I check salinity and tank levels, approximately 1 - 2 times per week. I do a 10% water change every two weeks and at that point add marine buffer. the one which cannot be overdone. I feed every other day, as well as on the off days add one capful of each Brightwell Aquatics Marine Parts A and B. The parameters are, PH 8.2, Salinity 1.022, and Nitrite, Nitrates, and Ammonia all 0ppm. There is about 3 inches of sand in the tank, and I am not sure of the amount of rock. It is considerable, probably a little less than half of the tank space. Although it is stacked and built, (many times, probably every day the first 2 weeks I had the tank) so that there are a lot of bridges and coves, so it certainly is not half of the volume.
About once a month I switch from flake food to frozen blocks of Mysis shrimp and thaw them in a Vitamin liquid which gives me about three feedings. The only real problem I am having at this point is there is some red slime algae, and a small amount of green hair algae - both occurrences are in locations where, through my front door window, sunlight is hitting the tank for about 2 hours per day. This will be corrected soon as I told the wife this was her last warning, if she did not pick out some curtains I would be.
=) I am assuming that once that is corrected the algae will begin to go away?
<Should help>
The critters. As far as fish go I have stuck to mainly small fish in order to be able to incorporate more variety. There are a mated pair of Tomato Clowns, (1) Algae Blenny, (1) Firefish, (1) Six-Line Wrasse. I have a few inverts - about 10 small snails, and 10 small crabs - couple of different varieties, like the dwarf blue legs. There is also a sea cucumber, serpent starfish, and an arrow crab. I know your warnings on the arrow crab, but I got him before I wised up to how much research was necessary in this hobby, and I have not had any problem with him yet. I have only lost two fish but I certainly regretted it. I also just added a Haitian Pink Tip anemone to try and give the Tomatoes a home. I know it is not a natural host but the Tomatoes seem to host anything, right now the pair sleep on top of the suction cups behind the filter tubes.
So my question is what do you think of my progress so far?
<So far so good. Given the tank volume, shape, the gear you inherited...>
What can I do to improve upon the situation, i.e. better or more lighting?
<I'd at least switch out the actinic for more white>
Protein skimmer?
<Oh yes>
Etc. Finally am I maxed out on fish or do I have enough space to add a pygmy Flame Angel?
<I'm hesitant due to the Tomato Clowns here. They might well kill most any new fish addition>
I want to add a little color. Also, although I think I know the answer, is there any variety of coral which I can put in the tank without annoying the anemone?
<Not really. You could try adding some tropical West Atlantic live rock... in the hope that somethings might come in w/ it of interest>
If not, no big deal, I do like it a lot as a FOWLR tank, and now that I am learning some more after a couple more months I may get another bigger tank with much better lighting and filters and start a Reef tank, something like a 125 or so where I can put in some larger fish.
Thank you so much for your help on this and with all of the advice you have given on the forums. WWM makes this hobby easier, (not easy) =) and more enjoyable.
Justin Morton
<Certainly welcome. Bob Fenner>

FOWLR maint. f'    2/6/11
Hi guys,
I sent this a couple weeks ago or more. not sure if you received , so here it is again............
I have a 90 g fish/invert tank with 4 x 48 inch VHOs. 2 super actinic, 2 actinic white. It has a purple tang, blue tang, one percula, one coral beauty, and one powder blue tang. all about 4 inches except percula.
Below is a sump with ETTS skimmer and attached by overflow a separate 14
gallon refugium set up a few years ago. it has a 6 inch 13 watt 7000k double lamp bulb above it, usually on at night. see attached photos.
#1(Is this enough lite??) I have NEVER had to harvest the macro algae!- I just replaced the bulb for the first time! I assume this light like the VHOs should be replaced every year or so??
<Should be enough light and the replacement rate is about right>
#2-do you recommend the bottom of the refugium be left alone, or occasionally partially cleaned?
<The latter. I'd vac out accumulating "mulm">
The tank has been very stable for several years however recently some of my large green mushrooms have died back and I lost a torch coral which had been in the tank for 6-9 months and doing "just ok". The fish are several yrs old.
<And replenish/replace or add to live rock a bit every half year or so>
With the recent changes in the corals I did more measuring than I normally was doing and found the following:
Ca 300
<Too low>
KH 107
sp gr 1.022
<And this>
phosph .3
mag 1000
nitrate 40
<Too high by about twice>
<Do read re these values, their meanings, control on WWM>
I am rectifying the calcium and KH with ( SeaChem products) Reef advantage calcium and Reef Builder , Reef advantage magnesium .
#3 these products ok?
<They are very fine (real) products>
I had not measured nitrate in some time since tank was doing so well but think my last measurement was about 15.
<? Two different reported values?>
I usually do a 15-20 gallon w/c every 3 weeks. I rotate salt mixes and had been using coral life. after some reading on your site I switched to Inst Ocean (and probably won't use the bucket of Red Sea salt I own??).for my water change 2 days ago and my nitrate today seems HIGHER than 40!!
#4 any idea why?
<Could be a few things... again: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/no3sources.htm
and the linked files above>
I also had some Phosguard and Seachem de nitrate sold to me by the LFS, but it seems your site is not wild about using these ( I placed them in bags into the sump 2 days ago also.)
<Unless circumstances are dire, I am not wild... Better by far to understand, control sources... naturally>
I plan on doing another 20 gal w/c later today. My skimmer has been producing a very dilute mixture in the cup and I readjusted it today (also after studying your site).
#4 I assume this lack of good skimming contributed to my phosph and nitrate problem?
I also took out a few bioball type things that I had left floating in the sump.
Any suggestions would be helpful.
thanks you in advance for your help.
<Do read and feel free to write back w/ specific concerns. These pix didn't "come through". Need to be sent a small sized attachments. Bob Fenner>

nitrates, dsb, and diatom bloom - 10/22/10
Hello crew,
<Hello Dave, Misty here>
Been reading over all the nitrate and dsb FAQs and have a few clarification questions.
I have been talking to Bob and James but will include my setup info in case someone else is answering: 75 gallon FOWLR. 60 lbs of live rock.
65 pounds Caribsea aragonite sugar grade mixed with 30 pounds of Caribsea select. AquaC remora pro w/Mag 350. Marineland HOT Magnum Pro w/ BioWheel(bio wheel not yet set up). 2 Koralias #4 powerheads.
Also available but not in use is a Hagen Aquaclear adjustable flow powerhead. Currently no fish.
My current parameters are:
Temp: 75-79 degrees F
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 40-80 ppm.
pH: 8.2
Just cycled it with shrimp about 6 months ago <good - glad this method of cycling has caught on...lots of damsels are happy, too!>. Took shrimp out when nitrite reached zero about 2-3 weeks ago. Still not seeing any sign of nitrates coming down and as you can see from the attached pictures I have some sort of algae/bacteria growth <Looks like a diatom bloom - happens often with new tanks. Read here
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/diatomfaqs.htm >.
I could not definitively identify it from any of your FAQs and was hoping someone could point me in the right direction in identification and dealing with it. My first plan was to clean all of my equipment this weekend though the canister filter has not been on there a week(especially concerned that remnants of shrimp are lodged in powerheads). Will also thoroughly wipe down the tank walls, and do a water change. I guess I am looking for clarification that I am heading in the right direction <Everything sounds good so far>.
Also, my sand is currently between 1-1/2 and 3 inches depending on where you look in the tank. Could I benefit from adding more sand to make it a deep sand bed <Needs to be at least 3" deep all over to be a true DSB, see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm >. ? I would also like to add more rock in the near future <just leave plenty of room for your fish to swim :) >. Your thoughts?
Thanks again for all the past and future advice, you people have been a God send for me.
<Cheers, and good luck! Misty>

Inherited Tank (the journey begins) 11/19/10
Hi guys,
<<Howdy JR>>
Great info on the website and you truly do a great job of answering all types of questions.
<<Thankswe collectively appreciate your kind words>>
Which is why I'm hoping you can help me out.
<<Im here to try>>
I have spent the major part of 3 weeks researching how to maintain this 175 gal FOWLR tank at my business
<<I find such systems rarely do well. They never seem to get the attention they require, nor do the people involved generally have the real interest/knowledge for it. But perhaps, you will prove to be the exception?>>
($400 a month is too much for me to pay right now to have someone else maintain).
<<But it might not hurt to have someone with the background and knowledge to just periodically check-in on the system>>
I have managed to get the pH to an acceptable level; the ammonia and nitrites to 0ppm, but the nitrates are off the chart (160ppm+).....
<<Mmm This can very well be a true reading, but do check the checker and make sure your test kit is accurate/fresh>>
I believe the problem stems from the fact that the individual that was maintaining the tank for some reason told us to feed everything brine shrimp only, and approved adding tap water to top off our tank.
<<This was the person you were paying $400 a month to service the tank? The first part is exceedingly BAD advice in my opinion. Even without knowing what is stocked in your system, the exclusive diet of brine shrimp is woefully inadequate. Providing a proper diet (in both quality AND quantity) is too often overlooked, in my opinion. Please follow these links and read where they lead you (do also follow/read among the links in blue at the top of the pages): http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_2/cav2i4/marine_nutrition/nutritionart.htm , http://www.wetwebmedia.com/feeding.htm , http://www.wetwebmedia.com/optgwth.htm
The second part may not be that bad, depending on the quality of your tap water. But unless you can test to very this is so, it is best to prefilter>>
Not knowing anything about this previously I didn't question his judgment.
<<Not uncommonunfortunately>>
Now after the research I have found the following problems I am having difficulty making a judgment on how to take care of:
<<Okaylets see if I can help>>
- I have a Kent Nautilus TE skimmer (needs an upgrade, considering that I can't seem to get the configuration to make the soupy brown foam just yet),
<<I am not a fan of this companys skimmers (much of their line). I suggest you do that upgrade soon Perhaps to an appropriately sized unit from Reef Dynamics (formerly Euro-Reef, and my current fave) or AquaCor if budget is a real issue, something from the Octopus line of needle-wheel skimmers>>
appropriate pumps and power heads, but a tank of bio balls that haven't been cleaned in I would only guess 8+yrs (nitrates much?).
<<If detritus is accumulating/decaying, yes>>
What would you suggest is the best way to clean them, or what should I replace them with (appropriate reading for a beginner that I haven't found yet?).
<<The wet/dry filter (that tank of bio balls) is appropriate for, and beneficial to, a FOWLR system such as yours. If the bio material (balls) is not fouled/clogged I would leave it and simply siphon the accumulated detritus from the filter wherever you can get to it. Bu if the bio material needs cleaning too, I would remove halfrinse in clean saltwaterreplace--and then do the same with the other half after 10 days (the wait is to allow bacteria to repopulate the washed media). Another option would be to add a fluidized-bed filter to the system and remove the wet/dry altogether. I prefer a fluidized-bed filter over a wet/dry. Aside from providing enormous biological filtering capacity versus size, I find them easier to maintain and I feel they respond quicker to changing bio/organic loads. If you were to do this, I would add the fluidized-bed filter to the system two weeks before removing the wet/dry (that bacteria population thing again)>>
- I have found the skeletons of dead turbo/other snails in amongst the LR and LS. I can only assume that after my 20 then 30% water change that I should remove them.
<<This is probably moot I wouldnt worry about the snail shells, any organic material is likely long gone>>
I'm also considering moving the LR around that I can clean the LS underneath it (that I can't get to, and with such neglect I feel it should be done; and I correct in my thinking?).
<<Unless you are planning to re-aquascape, you dont need to move the rock. But Getting in there with a powerhead to blow out detritus to be siphoned away, along with some stirring of the upper surface layer of exposed sand to do the samecant hurt>>
Should I remove the LR and clean it,
<<Unless it is overgrown with nuisance alga, I would simply blow it off as mentioned. If it is in need of removal and cleaning, I would consider replacing a portion with new rock for the renewed bio-mineral and biota content (this wouldnt be a bad idea, regardless)>>
or should I just move it around and clean half the tank (in the beginning this tank was set up professionally, so I would assume the massive amount of LR is appropriate for the large-ish tank size);
<<Not necessarily Many tanks have too much rock, in my opinionto the detriment of the fishes re their swimming/living space. If the tank seems to be too full of rock, it likely is. If you go the fluidized bed filter route, the aforementioned wet/dry filter could be employed as a refugium and some of the rock could be sequestered there. See here and among the associated links: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/refugium.htm >>
wait a bit, then clean the rest of the LS? I have grown very attached to the inhabitants of this tank, and found a love for this that I never knew existed!
<<Very good to hear>>
You all are truly masters of this hobby
<<Mmm, were hobbyists like youthough maybe with a bit more experience [grin], and a desire to see/help others to succeed>>
I'm desperately trying to get a handle on it for the enjoyment of many, many people.
<<Keep reading my friend>>
One last point, the tank is nowhere near direct sun light and has a nice temp.
Hope you can help.
<<Hope I have>>
Thanks a million,
<<Quite welcome>>
<<Do let me know if I can be of further assistance. Cheers EricR>>

Best Way To Maintain pH And Alkalinity In a FOWLR?/pH And Alkalinity 8/22/10
Hello Crew!
<Hi Terry>
Recently I have been more concerned about my water systems quality due to reaching the end of my stocking list in my 500 gallon Fish only with Live Rock system. I used to never really worry about either, and I always did a 100 gallon water change monthly. Well recently I decided it was time to test the water quality and discovered that my system's pH was around 7.4. I immediately went out and bought reef buffer to raise the pH. It worked, and now I have ordered some test kits for Alkalinity as well. My question for you is that my pH level is ok to sway a bit with just my fish in my opinion
(not that low typically of course) but I was wondering what products should I be using to keep the pH and Alk stable, and also since I am not worried about calcium or magnesium and what not since I do not have corals to take up the calcium. I do fairly large water changes which I think will keep the calcium high enough for the coraline algae that my tank contains. I first went to my LFS to ask him this question (I do trust him as his tanks are phenomenal and he has never steered me wrong) but he is more of a coral guy than a fish nerd as I am. Anyway, he told me I should be using Kalkwasser to stabilize my system. I am worried about the accumulation of calcium and maybe other things which my system wouldn't take up due to not containing corals.
<Likely so.>
I know that the many times I have tested pH it was always been low, and buying the products that automatically make the pH 8.3 I'm sure is going to be more expensive than finding something that just drives the pH up (I'm worried about cost efficiency in such a large tank of course). So, I decided to get a second opinion from you all because I could not find a
solid answer online as I don't think their are many posts about my situation. Hopefully you experts can school me in this situation.
<One of the two biggest reasons for low pH is overstocking and overfeeding. You mention no use of a protein skimmer and/or filtration methods, and a good efficient unit will greatly help in removing the compounds that cause the pH to lower. Use of carbon in a power filter is also recommended. It would have been helpful knowing your nitrate level in this system, as high nitrate levels can/will drive pH down. My advice is to attack the cause of the problem and reading here should be the first step.
One of the least expensive ways to maintain proper dKH levels in a FOWLR is the use of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). Care must be used here as baking soda, used in large amounts, will quickly drive the dKH well over recommended levels. A safe start would be a teaspoon per 20 gallons of water. It is best to mix the soda with your top off water rather than adding to the tank directly.
Baking soda alone will not raise pH much above 7.8, but will raise dKH to recommended levels (7-12dKH) necessary to maintain pH providing your system is not overstocked and/or has a high dissolved nutrient level. Raising pH can be done by using a product such as SeaChem's Marine Buffer which I believe is the product you are now using. May also want to read here. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/fwph,alk.htm>
Thanks a lot for reading this rather large e-mail,
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Terry Baldwin
Re Best Way To Maintain pH And Alkalinity In a FOWLR?/pH And Alkalinity 8/22/10
I do use carbon in my system, and I also use a large skimmer (swc 300a).
<Good, but with a medium to heavy bio-load, this skimmer will have a difficult time keeping up with a 500 gallon tank.>
From what I am reading it seems that as long as my nitrates are low I shouldn't have to correct pH much, is that true?
<Yes and no.>
Also, you are saying that Kalk wouldn't be a good option.
<I would not use in a FOWLR. With nothing in the system to absorb the calcium, you would have to discontinue using the product once calcium levels reached 400ppm, and that would not take too long.>
Sorry that But I just want to clarify that marine buffer, and baking soda will do the trick? Since baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, then wouldn't it be cheaper (although not safer) to use sodium carbonate for pH?
<It's as safe as Marine Buffer if used properly, but I'd use sodium bicarbonate rather than carbonate. Sodium bicarbonate does decompose into sodium carbonate over a period of time. Overdosing Marine Buffer can also cause problems.>
Will any baking soda work?
<Anything labeled sodium bicarbonate.>
Also would use <youse :))> put the carbonate and bicarbonate both in the ATO water? My ATO container is 50 gallons, which will work for about a month before it needs filled up, will the carbonates be depleted or lessened in this time frame?
Should I put a small powerhead in the ATO to mix the water constantly?
Sorry for the vast array of questions again.
<Should do regardless, helps aerate the water and remove any carbon dioxide if present. Carbon dioxide can quickly deplete buffers. Do read the links I referred you to. James (Salty Dog)>

A few clarifications, CP use, much more re FIOWLR set up, op.   3/13/10
Hi Bob and Crew and to whomever replying to this mail.
<Hi Blesson, howsit?>
Thanks to Bob's precious advice I am able to successfully keep Cleaner shrimp in my tank. But instead of adjusting ph using vinegar or a weak acid to drip acclimate the specimens and then to acclimate them to the tank; I used a product called Ammo lock to detoxify the accumulated metabolic waste products. Worked out great and thanks a ton Bob.
Well I also found the Yellow Tang a bigger good home and he looks really happy. And your treatment protocol for the Crypt and Amyloodinium using CP worked wonders !
<Ah, good. I will accrue your comments here in that FAQ f'>
The survivors being the Tang, a Bicolour Blenny, Chromis and a Goby would thank you if they could. Well I had to shift my dorm and hence did an overhaul of the tank. Removed the coarse crushed coral gravel and added a bed of LS about one to two inches. New occupants include 2 True Perculas, 1 Red Fire Goby, 1 Electric Blue Hermit,1 cleaner shrimp and 2 unidentified snails which you will have to help me ID later when I can get hold of a decent snap, along with the old Blenny, Chromis and the Goby. Tank has been up and running for over two months now. I couldn't QT the new guys on arrival as my QT tank broke in a freak accident ! I really couldn't help it :( Anyways the clowns were tank raised and look very healthy and have already noticed a slight growth spurt in one. They 're about an inch and a half in length. My first question is ... Can an infection appear after two months of no symptoms ?
I have plans for a lot of corals. Is my tank too crowded ?
<What is the volume, shape?>
My Alk is 7dkh. Is tat alright cos the test kit manual says 8-12dkh is the normal level.
<Is likely fine; a bit low... but unless you have more sensitive biomineralising life, no worries>
According to my judgment of colour from the reagent test kit from API Phosphates are around 0.5. Is that a bit too high ?
How do I get it to zero other than water changes and feeding less ?
<Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/phosphatemar.htm
and the linked files above>
Nitrates are around 5-10. I run a decently working Skimmer. I am using Poly Filter and Carbon, also Denitrator chips or granules from SeaChem in my Canister filter, the bottom trays of the canister hold Ceramic rings and Bio-media for Bacterial colonisation. No measurable Ammonia or Nitrites.
Calcium is at 440 ppm. I dont test for Magnesium but do dose it in small quantities.
<My usual urging/admonition here to not "use" anything w/o testing for it... You MUST test for [Mg] if you're adjusting it>
Got a slight Diatom problem.
Should I remove the filter floss from the canister ?
<Maybe. I/'d use summat like Eheim's "Flocken" (one time purchase, polyethylene product) myself>
My thoughts were this would trap detritus and cause problems with the nitrate.
<Evidently not too much eh?>
Making plans for a DIY Sump and an overflow system to be added soon. Your advice is highly appreciated !
<And is posted>
Have been reading the daily FAQs for the past two months and frankly I am kind of hooked on to it and the site ! Thanks you so much ! :)
Blesson from Bangalore, India.
p.s. Bob might remember me as the medical student with fish problems ...
<Ah yes. Cheers, Bob Fenner> 

Re: A few clarifications, more re FIOWLR set up, op. & stkg.  3/14/10
Bob and crew,
Everything's just dandy thanks for asking :)
Well the display is essentially the same old one, 30 gal long.
<Oh! Then this IS way overcrowded... behaviorally and physiologically>
And re: the latent infection, after how long can I be sure that the fish are safe ?
<Perhaps never in the current crowded condition>
Should I just quarantine them now or leave them be and take care of things as they progress ?
<Up to you... both approaches might prove efficacious. However, to be clear(er), you need to remove the Tang, perhaps more here>
Tank bio load re: fish sums up to around 12 inches of fish.
<Only now... will be much more if they continue to live, grow>
I completely concur with your admonishing to never dose something that you are not able to test. Well when I was picking up supplies for the tank Mg test kit included, the LFS owner laughed saying I didn't really need it.
Plus dosed only once so will stop it at that until I get the test kit.
Been having problems getting the coralline algae to grow. And is it true that Poly filters can be kinda recharged so to speak by soaking in freshwater for marine use ?
<Have never seen where this was done successfully>
One last thing ... after reading the daily FAQs for the last couple of months, I really pity the people who send u hate mails after misunderstanding the advice or due to their ego problems !
<Happens... best not to take "this world too personally"... What we offer is done in a human, though professional manner... Some folks do take offense... But of the 30-40k people who use the site/resource daily, they are in/of the vast minority>
Want you to know that this is just a minority compared to the vast numbers of people who feel immensely thankful (myself included) to this service you provide for us hobbyists worldwide ! Just a word of encouragement to you
and the crew :)
<Ah yes>
Thanks and take care,
<And you my friend. Bob Fenner>

180 FOWLR Overstocking 5/6/09
Hello dare Crew. Thanks for all the great advice.
I have a 180 gallon FOWLR system, with 275 pounds of life rock
<Where do this many fish live with all this rock in the tank?>
and a Octopus Skimmer Model 300 rated for a 300 gallon tank. I am also running an Eheim Pro 3e canister filter rated for 185 gallons. Additionally there is a UV filter that bypasses the skimmer, and lastly I have filter socks.
<If you are going to use filter socks and canister filters, be sure to clean them several times a week, in your case daily would be ideal.>
With all of this, I still have a Nitrite problem, consistently .2. I'm doing water changes, 50 gallons 3 days ago, and 20 gallons 2 day ago and will do 20 gallons tonight.
<Keep this up, and continue the sock and filter cleaning.>
My Livestock is a 8" Mappa Puffer, 5" Huma Trigger, 5" Sargassum Trigger, 7.5"
Spectacled Parrot, 5.5" Australian Harlequin Tusk, 6" Crowned Squirrel, 6"
Fox Face Rabbit, 3 Singapore Angel, 2.5 Keyhole Angel, 2 Cardinal, 2
Chromis, 3 Tomato Clown, 2- 3.5 Catfish.
<Wow! This is a lot of fish for a 180 gallon tank. This overstocking is likely your problem. Please either consider a major tank upgrade to a tank maybe in the 300 gallon range, or consider donating some of these fish to other hobbyists with more room in their tanks. Not only is this tank overstocked with respect to the bio load, but it is also overstocked from the sheer size of these fish and the amount of live rock in the tank.>
What to do?
<Josh Solomon>

Tank water is very "dusty", FOWLR maint.    1/8/09 Hello clever crew, i am writing to you today regarding a problem i have with my tank, that has been annoying me for the past 4 days. My tank is a 3 feet tank, i think roughly 60 or so gallons, with about 40kg of live rock. tank has been set up for 3 months, completed the cycle and everything is running smoothly. ammonia, nitrite readings are 0. Not very sure about nitrates, i dun have the test kit, but i have Chaeto growing in my tank. <Good> phosphates are 0. tank inhabitants include a yellow wrasse, 2 true Perculas, an orange cheeked sand sifter goby (those hovering types), 2 mated Banggai cardinals (one of them has a mouth full of eggs), a royal Gramma and a coral beauty angelfish. Inverts are 5 turbo snails, 2 Lysmata amboinensis, 4 blue leg hermit crabs and some nuisance crabs in my LR. Recently, my tank has gotten cloudy. <Unusual...> It is not a bacteria bloom or an algae bloom, more like suspended particles floating in the water. It has been going on for about 4 days. My livestock all seem healthy and normal, eating like pigs. corals are opening well too. This "dusty" suspension will settle down on my thermometer and magnetic algae cleaner, and will cover it in a layer of very fine particles.... and when water flows past it, it will make the water cloudy again.... My filtering system is working as per normal for past 3 months, so is my protein skimmer. I'm really at my wits end trying to figure this thing out, so am hoping you will help me... It looks at though this suspension will stay with me for awhile... have tried everything to get rid of it. Carbon, water changes, reduced feeding... NOTHING is working =(. Someone told me it was my liverock disintegrating... <Is...> sounds unlikely.. but im no expert. I would really appreciate your help regarding this. I have tried forums after forums searching for an answer. You guys are my last resort because i know you are busy and you probably receive tons and tons of e mails a day. Whatever the issue, i hope you guys could help me. I am hoping that my tank will be crystal clear again like before.... Have tried waiting this thing out for 4 days, and its time for me to take some action. Thank you for your time! <I do think the LR disintegrating is very likely here... through biological processes, e.g. the crabs of nuisance you mention, and so much more. Additionally, in "new" tanks such as yours, a good deal of "equilibrium" is reached by the substrate dissolving... and a good deal does... just from being freshly collected, moved around. At any length, irrespective of "cause" I wouldn't do much to alleviate the dustiness at this point. It will clear of its own accord, and likely in a few days to weeks... You could use a "diatom" or other mechanical filter to help, but... just time going by will do it. Bob Fenner>

Re: dusty water   1/8/09 Thanks for replying me all the way from wherever you are. im from Singapore! <Ahh! Was just passing through there last month (at the fab Changi Airport)... am back in S. Cal. now, out to Hawaii on the morrow> nice to meet u Mr. Fenner. a very well known aquarist i am sure. Thanks for the advice and i will just try to wait it out, although 4 days seems a bit long-ish, maybe another few more weeks would not hurt. =) Thanks again, happy new year to you and the rest of your divine gang. <Thank you. Again, no action or chemical addition needed, suggested on your part... Just patience. BobF>

Re: Dusty tank  1/8/09 Will try to resist touching the tank in the mean time >.< This hobby is addictive ya know. <Ah yes> And yes, Changi airport is something isn't it? <The best airport terminal in the world in my estimation> Though I'm not really fond of it... it is supposedly "beautiful" Enjoy your time in Hawaii! Are you diving again? <Yes... and friend, Singaporean Perry Chong has been out t/here with me diving as well> if so, you are so lucky lols. Get to see those fishes endemic to Hawaii...especially those sexy bandit and potters angels! <Ahh! You know your fishes> Alright thanks for everything! Will stop now. Time for my sleep. Will let you know if my tank clears up in a few weeks. All help appreciated. <Thank you Y. BobF>

Water change issue/pH, FOWLR spg, Crypt... 10/23/08 Hello, <Hi> I've been having an issue that I just started to realize recently. I have been conducting water changes, and finding that the next day my pH is rather low. Around 6.5. <In the tank? Does it stay here consistently?> However when I test my water prior to putting it into the tank the pH is perfect. I believe this is due to the oxygen being generated by the pump mixing the salt and everything else in the tub prior to me pumping it into the tank. My tank is a 120 FOWLR. I usually conduct 30-50% water changes every 2-3weeks. So basically that's one issue, is how do you think i can go about balancing out my PH more efficiently right around water changes. <How long are you mixing your water for before adding it to your tank, make sure you allow 24 hours for everything to mix correctly and stabilize. Also do you buffer your water change water prior to adding the salt? See here for more http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marphalk.htm > What is the ideal salinity for a FOWLR? I do have live rock, and nice purple coral growing. I keep it usually around 1.019-.21 <Too low, close as possible to natural levels, 1.026, the creatures in your tank have spend thousands of generations adapting to this fairly stable parameter.> What do you guys think about the AquaC Urchin Pro in sump skimmers? <Love Aqua-C.> And for a future reference, what's a good way to treat ich without medication? <The only way I know of is using the tank swap method, where you switch the fish between 2 bare bottom tanks, completely cleaning and drying the tank not in use.> Or perhaps help prevent it, or stop it from getting worse during beginning stages. <Quarantine, Quarantine, Quarantine, and have I mentioned Quarantine?> I've been told to soak food in garlic extract... <Not useful for ich treatment, or much of anything really, does seem to stimulate a fish's appetite a bit, but so do many other products that also add value to your fish's food. A nice article from Steven Pro http://www.reefkeeping.com/issues/2003-08/sp/index.php > Thanks, Sam <Welcome> <Chris>

2 questions- this time, with a little better grammar, sorry, New Marine Setup 4/16/08 Hi everyone, <Hello> I am new to saltwater aquariums, I have an African cichlid tank, that I started two years ago, and is doing unbelievable. So I went out and bought a new 75 gallon set up to start a fowler tank. I started with 50lbs of dead rock and 30 lbs of live rock about 5 weeks ago. I also have a SeaClone protein skimmer, <Has a dubious reputation.> two Emperor 400s and three Hydor powerheads. ( two of the stage 4s and one stage 3). In the past week I've lost a maroon clown, 6 line wrasse, and a coral beauty. The water has been at zero for nitrites, nitrates, and ammonia. <0 nitrates in this case is odd, makes me wonder if your tests are bad, perhaps not getting accurate results on the more problematic ammonia and nitrite tests.> Ph has been at 8.4 and specific gravity at 1.23. Also temp has been 77-78. I've been doing a 15% water change once a week. any suggestions on why I'm losing fish? Too much too soon? <Probably, also it is very important to QT fish, marine in particular, since most are wild caught and can bring in some very nasty pathogens.> I did go out yesterday and get a couple of fish. I bought a lawnmower blenny, bi color Dottyback, an emerald crab, and 10 Nassarius snails. <Too much too fast again, limit your purchases to 1 fish at a time.> Also, I do still have one maroon clown, and 20 red leg hermit crabs. I also took off the Emperors. Should my live rock be ready to do enough filtration after 5 weeks to remove the Emperors? <Doesn't really work this way, the bacteria on the LR will have to increase their numbers to replace those removed when the filters are removed, which is not to say that you should not remove the Emperors, just need to keep an eye on water quality.> My second question is about the SeaClone. I keep hearing terrible things about the SeaClone. Mine fills up about 1/3 of the cup a week of some really dark skimmate. Is this sufficient? <Maybe, time will tell, if you have algae problems going forward you will know it is not sufficient.> Should I really still look into a Remora. I plan on getting one anyway, just want to know I can get away with the SeaClone for a little longer. <The Remora is a big step up in my opinion, and worth it as soon as possible.> And I'm sorry, just one more question. I'm planning stocking this tank with a flame angel, Kole tang, and was hoping for a Sharpnose puffer. Will this work in a 75 gallon? <Probably, I'm not too big on tangs in a 75G, but it should be ok.> If so, could I also add a coral beauty, or will that not work with the flame angel? <Not a good idea to mix Centropyge angels.> The Kole tang wasn't my first choice for a tang, but it doesn't get too large. is there any other tangs I can put in a 75 gallon tank instead? <Some would say a yellow tang would be alright, although I would personally pass on this.> Same goes with the puffer. Any other puffers that i can put into a 75 gallon? <See here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/tobies.htm .> Thanks for your help, it will be greatly appreciated. Marc <Welcome> <Chris>

Enjoying success and a few questions FOWLR Livestock Selection and Nitrate 2/17/08 Bob, <Scott V. with you tonight.> I am finally on the other side of the process in getting my main tank situated after several years of learning and using the right techniques. I now have the livestock that I've wanted to put in there and it appears to be parasite free. <Great to hear!> Most recently I had a case of saltwater ich and after letting the tank run fallow for nearly six weeks I returned the livestock only to have them show signs of infection. I decided I would install a UV filter (Vecton, per your advice) and it seemed to alleviate the problem almost immediately. It has been about 3 or 4 weeks with no symptoms showing. And this with a powder blue tang (which I was rather apprehensive about even trying to keep). <And for good reason.> I feel my FOWLR is fully stocked with fish now and I am finally enjoying the fruits of lots of labor! <Sorry to say, but the labor never seems to end!> I tell you all this to say thank you to you and your helpful staff for all the information on your site and help with my questions. It is invaluable to a marine fish keeper. I would also like to seek some advice going forward. <Very welcome, we are all more than happy to help out.> Here is my tank that I've had running about 7 years now: 90 gal with plenty of live rock 2-3" aragonite substrate Eheim canister filter <Canisters are known to contribute to high nitrate, more on this below.> Remora skimmer Vecton 600 UV filter 1 submerged power head Livestock: lunar wrasse passer angel powder blue tang <Your tank is too small for the long term survival of this Tang or Angel.> arc eye hawk fish Toby-type puffer a few scarlet hermit crabs <Not for long with some of the fish on your list.> All the fish are healthy and eating well (including the PB tang who is thankfully an aggressive eater) and aside from a little bit of aggression towards each other, everyone one is happy. They all have enough attitude to rebuff one another. <And this will grow as they do.> With the addition of the angel and tang, I of course now have to feed more. <No doubt.> Nitrates are higher as a result, about 60 - 80ppm on average. I am doing water changes regularly. I'd like to know what can be done with this system to naturally keep nitrates down and clean up detritus and any uneaten food. <Increased circulation and the addition of a refugium will help the situation. You will still be doing many large water changes to keep up.> The scarlet hermits seem to fair well and I was thinking of adding a few more and trying a few snails. <Not with the Wrasse/Puffer.> Would adding a brittle star be advisable? (I know not the green one). I would like to add a little more beneficial life to the system for aesthetics and utility. <You could, but with little to no effect on the nitrate situation.> As for the substrate, I have always done regular vacuuming with the water changes and it just doesn't seem very "live", nothing visible anyway. It is the 1-2mm type aragonite. Is there anything more I can do there outside of replacing it all to sustain some life and benefit the system? I was thinking maybe if I don't vacuum as much or add a bag of live sand... <I would add more sand, to increase to 4”+ to aid with processing the nitrate. Your above statement is correct in that you will want to leave the sand be alone more than constantly vacuuming. A periodic surface agitation is all it should need at most, but I suspect your fish, the Wrasse in particular aids in that. The increased circulation will help keep the detritus from accumulating in the sandbed.> What else can I do to optimize the system and add a little more diversity? <Adding more sand, creating a true DSB and giving it time to colonize from your rock will increase the diversity immensely. The refugium will have the same and many other positive effects; it is highly recommended you consider its addition. Also, consider either removing the canister filter (it is not absolutely necessary with the live rock), or at the very least cleaning it frequently (at least weekly). The canister filters can easily and quickly become detritus traps and in turn nitrate producers.> Thanks, Tim <Welcome, you need to do some more research in regard to what is in your tank and what it takes to keep them alive and well. I have included some links of pertinent reading to start you out. Good luck, Scott V.> http://www.wetwebmedia.com/thalassoma.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/puffcareinfo.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/fishes/angels/pomacanthus/zonipectus.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marcanfltfaq3.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/refugium.htm

FOWLR question. Carbon, Purple Up and System Size 2/13/08 I have a quick question regarding my aquarium. I have a saltwater setup 30 gal. that has 1 puffer in it, <What type of puffer? The volume of your tank is pushing the limits for even the smallest species.> no other live stock, I recently added 30 lbs of live rock that I got from another aquarist that had it in a 5 yr old reef setup. I have a Bak Pak skimmer a HOT magnum 250 hang on canister and a Via Aqua pump for circulation. Do I still need to use carbon all the time or only once or twice a month? (this was suggested by someone at the LFS), <You can do either, but it is not necessary with frequent water changes. See the link below.> second since I only have the one fish in there, he is about 3 inches long right now, do I need to add anything to keep the live rock up? <No, it will be fine.> And last is it ok to use something like Purple up to keep the coralline algae up? <No, I would supplement via water changes in this small of a system. With all in one concoctions such as Purple Up you do not know what exactly you are adding in relation to what your water tests, alk/calcium being the main components here.> As always thanks for the advice. Terry <Welcome, good luck, Scott V.> http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwfiltrmedart.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/puffers.htm and related FAQ's

Mini cycle after aquarium upgrade   11/15/07 <Hello Dan> First and foremost I'd like to thank you and your team for your hard work and dedication. I am amazed and inspired by the level of knowledge and expertise you share with the community. <Thank you from the whole crew!!!> I've recently upgraded my established, healthy FOWLR 40gallon breeder to a 90 gallon oceanic setup. My plan is to do fish and some corals. I staged the move from one tank to the next over a 2 week period, beginning with introducing about 30lbs of live sand along with 40lbs of cured LR. I filled about 75% of the tank with new RODI filtered water and mixed salt with no livestock. Water circulated (about 500-600 gph) for 4-5 days at 77 degrees. I did not do any water testing during that time. On day 5 I did water tests - ammonia was less than .20 , nitrite and nitrate were 0. Salinity was 1.023, temp 78, ph 8.2. KH was 125. Calcium was a little higher than normal (I had buffered the day before). I began transferring the remaining LR and about 40% of my existing sand from the old tank. Fish were in a holding tank with water from the old tank. This past Sunday I did the final transfer of live stock - 4 fish and a few inverts. Monday am- Ammonia was .25 -- late Monday pm it was .30 - nitrites and nitrates were both 0. Tuesday Ammonia was just about the same, maybe .35-.40 other parameters were fine. (ph, salinity, temp, KH, ca, etc) I mixed 50 gallons of salt water and began to prepare for the inevitable 50% water change if the ammonia didn't level out...However to my surprise - Tuesday - Ammonia stayed the same, along with all other parameters. Late Tuesday PM, Ammonia began to drop back to .25 Today (Wed) Ammonia is almost 0 again. Funny thing is Nitrate and Nitrites are at 0 as well. Question - can a "partial" cycle take place without a true spike in ammonia and rise in nitrites before leveling out? <ANSWER- YES. Basically, you already had sufficient numbers of nitrifying bacteria present. Your transfer included new sand, new rock, and your "bio-load" changed. The bacteria needed to catch up to the new demand of your new system by colonizing new surfaces. There is a "mini cycle" that lasts between 72 hours and a week for these bacteria to colonize. After this time frame you should begin to have zero readings on your test kits. (This is normal) However, the system is still maturing and bacteria are still adjusting to your maintenance schedules and so forth.> I have 2 test kits and tested everything except ammonia with both measures. Am I in the safe zone? I was anticipating much more of a cycle <You are in the "safe" zone. I recommend that you wait another 30 days before you begin to purchase new stock or add more corals as the new system stabilizes. Continue testing and make water changes as necessary. On another note, when hobbyist switch from FOWLR to reef tanks or corals they are unaware of how important the control of phosphates are. Please purchase a good phosphate test kit and keep this level as low as possible with water changes and the use of an Iron Oxide resin. Enjoy your new tank-Rich...aka...Mr. Firemouth>

Replacing substrate... just reading  9//15/07 Hi there! <Jay> I have had my 55 gallon FOWLR setup for about 2.5 years now. I have a Foxface, coral beauty, 3.5 in Picasso, and a small Heniochus. <Yikes... need more room> Filtration is a Rena xp3, Emperor 280, and a CPR Bak Pak 2 protein skimmer. I have never had a problem with my water chemistry, but recently have been seeing a decline in my pH, it is staying at about 7.8. Water changes don't seem to help for more than a couple of days and now I am wondering if maybe its time to replace the crushed coral? <Likely would help> I was thinking of going with live sand, but I am unclear with the depth requirements, and the process involved with replacing the old stuff. Does sand seem like a good option for my system, or should I stick with the cc? <All this covered here: http://wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/index.htm scroll down to the brown tray... Substrates> If sand is a go, how deep should it be? Would it be ok to make the change in one day? Since I'm assuming that my filters and live rock are doing the majority of the biological work, and the crushed coral is just storing detritus...Will this be to stressful for the system and fish? Thanks for all the help and advice! Myself and the fish appreciate it!! Jay <Read on my friend, read on. Bob Fenner>

Water Changes, FOWLR maint., reading   8/30/07Hi crew I have a 180 gallon FOWLR marine tank with a fairly heavy fish load. I was wondering what is the recommended percentage water change per week or month? <Depending on other gear mostly, 10 to 20 per... Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Filter Cleaning Schedule - 04/28/07 Hello crew, <<Howdy Jared>> I have a 75 FOWLR. 65 lbs live rock, live sand, Magnum 350, Prizm skimmer.....yea yea I know I need to upgrade, <<Indeed>> maybe you can give me a hint as to what kind of skimmer I should get for under $200? <<That's an easy one...the 'AquaC Remora'...though for just a “few” bucks over $200 you can get the 'AquaC Remora Pro' and get a bit more "fudge factor">> I also run a Emperor 280 bio-wheel filter. <<Mmm, this is "ok"...but I think a fluidized-bed filter would serve better>> I have 2 black tail damsels, 2 cleaner shrimp, 6 turbo snails, and a yellow tang. <<Wow, certainly not overstocked...goodonya mate>> The tank has been running for 3 months and my question is how should I clean the two filters to ensure I don't end up with nitrate build up? <<Do you mean due to the loss of beneficial bacteria from the cleaning?  Honestly, with the live rock/sand and your current stocking level...this isn't an issue>> How often should I do this cleaning? <<The canister filter should be cleaned weekly...the bio-wheel is a bit more complicated to predict.  I do think these "wheels” lose efficiency over time through clogging of the material, but how often this needs attention will vary from tank to tank.  Were this me, I would purchase a "spare" wheel and swap these out (twice a year), cleaning the "used" wheel in anticipation of the next swap.  By placing the new/cleaned wheel in the sump/overflow/etc a few days before needed, the bacteria will get a head start and be able to ramp-up quickly once placed in the filter>> How often should I change out the carbon in the Magnum?   <<At least monthly>> Thanks for all your help, Jared <<Happy to assist.  Regards, EricR>>

Re: Filter Cleaning Schedule - 04/29/07 I have a couple questions regarding your reply. <<Ok>> What is a fluidized-bed filter? <<Here's a good explanation copied from the Net:  "Fluidized bed filter is a device that accomplishes biological filtration through growth of nitrifying bacteria on a mass of sand or tiny spheres of synthetic materials suspended in a current of water passing through it. Although similar in principle to other types of biological filtration systems, this method allows for maximum carrying capacity while minimizing the size of the filter itself."   As explained, the media is in a "fluidized" state which prevents channeling/clogging...I also feel this type biological filter is capable of rapids "adjustments" allowing it to keep pace with shifting bio-loads>> When I clean the filter pads do I just move them around in some water from a water change? <<You can, though I feel this is not a very effective cleaning method...I prefer to do a better job at the sink under the tap>> I'm afraid I will re-cycle my tank? <<By cleaning your canister filter once a week?...no...not with the other biological filtration you stated you have on/in your system (live rock, live sand, Bio-Wheel)>> Thanks, Jared <<Regards, EricR>> R2: Filter Cleaning Schedule - 04/30/07 You said to clean my filter pad under the tap? <<Is what I do, yes>> Won't that get chlorine in my filter media? <<Not in any quantity to be concerned with.  EricR>> R3: Filter Cleaning Schedule - 04/30/07 Sorry I am wearing you guys out but what is the best fluidized-bed filter I can get for a decent price? <<Mmm yes, well, they all seem rather pricey to me considering the simplicity of function...check out the Rainbow Lifeguard units.  Eric Russell>> Water and algae mystery   12/27/06 Happy Holidays!! <And to you and yours> Love the website and find it very very helpful!!!  I do have a question that I cant seem to find the exact answer to. I have what started as a fish only tank.  We were doing really well with it until I decided to add 60 lbs of live rock (75 gallon tank).  After that addition ALL our levels spiked up (uncured rock) and despite all our efforts (water changes) we lost our Foxface. <Yikes... best to cure elsewhere...>   Since then our levels are slowly decreasing.  I think about a month and the rock will be fully cured and our levels will be back  to zero.  Other than the live rock we also got an RO unit and started our water changes with RO water. <Good> Prior to this we were using tap water that was treated to remove the metals etc.  Is it to <too> late with the water or will the RO water make a difference over time? <It will> We get nasty brown hair algae that grows on the walls and crushed coral.  What can we do to reduce the micro algae? <Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/avoidingalgaeproblesm.htm and the linked files where you lead yourself> I know we can get snails and such but we are timid to put anything into the water right now for fear of guaranteed death. <You are wise here> are the snails hardy? <Mmm, can be... but generally not in this circumstance> We are also starting to get these pink 'buds' that are popping up on some LR and Tonga branch.  It doest look like coralline, we have that covering a couple rocks.  Its a mystery...any idea? <All sorts> mystery!!!!  A couple days ago, out of a piece of LR, came crawling what appears to be a starfish.. however it has 6 points not 5 and is currently surviving some pretty poor conditions so I don't think it is a starfish that's sold in stores? <Maybe... likely one that is not though...>   Any idea what this is?  Its white, small has 6 points and a few spots on its back.? <Perhaps an Asterina species... see WWM, the Net...> eager to learn Aaron <A good trait, direction. Bob Fenner>

The proper way to maintain FOWLR setup   12/18/06 Hello WWM crew, <Julia/Chivan> I was able to find useful information on this site to setup my FOWLR tank.  My next step is to learn how to properly maintain it. I have been searching for information on how to properly maintain a FOWLR setup, but couldn't find what I am looking for. <Thank you for this prompting... will add this "SubFAQs" category for the other "twixt general and reef" type marine set-ups>   It would be great if you could give me some advice. <Okay> I am a newbie to saltwater with less than 6 months in this hobby.  I have a 300g tank with 300 lbs of LR and 3 inches live sand. <Wow! You've dived right in!>   It is connected to a 30g sump (to house a in-sump Euro-Reef skimmer) and a 40g refugium.  I have a 6" BlueLine trigger, 6" Emperor Angel, 5" red sea sailfin tang, and a 4" gold stripe maroon clown ( With a couple of Anemones for the clown to nest in) .   <Can be done in a system of this size/volume> For maintenance, I perform 10% water change every 2 weeks, using RO/DI water with Instant Ocean Reef Crystal salt mix at SG=1.025.   During the first 3 months, I tested for Ammonia and Nitrite weekly and they are always zero.  For some reasons, my setup never experienced the new tank setup cycle. <Large systems... with much established biota in/on their substrates... often do> The pH is around 7.9 for the past 6 months. <Mmm, okay... there are means... to raise/elevate this... if you so desire> Last week, I found a forum called Reef Central at http://reefcentral.com . <Ah, yes... a BB with many fine people, much good input... but a BB just the same... a "community" of a mix of knowledge, ability levels... a good idea to "sift" through what is presented, question> Some of the members on that site informed me that my pH is too low and suggested that I also need to perform tests for Alkalinity and Calcium.   <A good idea> And start adding pH buffer ( Baking Soda ) <Mmm, not this... sodium bicarbonate alone will not do...> to raise pH to 8.3. So I went to WWM site searching for the procedure on how to maintain a FOWLR setup:  What tests do I need to perform? <Mmm... there are test kits... discussed on WWM... I'd look to Salifert, Hach, LaMotte brands...> What additives I must add on a regular basis as part of the FOWLR maintenance? <... time to make a few statements here... Please don't "lose sight" of what you're trying to acheive... the "woods through the trees" as it were... There are ways/means of adjusting, stabilizing water chemistry and physics... some much more worthwhile than others... You can/could use commercial products (liquid and/or dried... e.g. B-Ionic, SeaChem's fine line...), employ a device like a calcium reactor (of various makes/designs)... However... best to do this with a thorough understanding of what is going on, will go on in your system... and SLOWLY, through the new water changes... likely the ongoing "die-off" of a bit of your LR and to a smaller extent LS accounts for the apparent 'low' pH here... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/watrqualmar.htm and the linked files at top... and/or possibly better, invest your time in reading a "complete" marine aquarium reference work... I suggest Hans Baensch's fine tomes here> Etc.  After hours of searching, I still couldn't find what I need.  Is there an article on FOWLR maintenance covering all the details? <Mmm, not just one, or a series... As time has gone by, I have split up the incoming into (what I consider) logical, chronological categories... this/these will be added> Or may be what I have been doing is good enough? <Ah, yes... Finally. The regular water changes with IO salt will indeed slowly, imperceptibly raise your pH here...> Many Thanks and Best Regards, Julia. <Best to go slow... be tentative, querulous... Bob Fenner>

New 120 FOWLR, Hawaii. New Set-Up Questions 10/5/06 *** I throw ambrosia and pomegranates at all of you *** <Well thank you, and maybe some "Tiny Bubbles"?> Well I must say that I am impressed by the immense amount of help that you gentlemen offer on a daily basis.  We are forever in your debt.  So there's a well deserved, "Good Job" *** Then and Now *** I maintained a reef tank in Seattle for a number of years, moved to Oahu <Lucky you!> two years ago, and have since decided to allow myself to become addicted again. Unfortunately we are very legally limited to coral in our tanks in Hawaii, I think we can only have a couple of Zoanthids (still working with DLNR for a research permit), so I am going for the FOWLR setup and still get to watch the critters. *** What I have done *** I have been planning the tank for about a month now, and I am quite thankful for your site.  I have a 120 set up, a LS1-150 system has been ordered from Jeff at Lifereef (great guy), and I have the Current USA PC's at about 260 watts.  So tank, lights, heater and small powerhead and that's it right now. System has been up for a week, I am using Seawater from a State fishery nearby (plethora of Salifert test kits on the way) and first "round" of LR at about 70lbs added 5 days ago.  I scrubbed the rock (I know the jury is still out on that one). I have one mediocre test kit for ammonia until the rest arrive.  Ammonia currently at 0.2, SG 1.028 (little high, but successful aquarists here swear to it for 30 years) and temp at 79-80 while curing the rock.  I have added 30ml each part of C-balance for the first time today. No other additives or water changes yet.  I had the lights on for one cycle to ensure the timers were set up correctly. *** My intentions *** I will leave the lights off.  Water changes before ammonia reaches 1.0.  I will scrub and add live rock in stages.  The Filtration system (no media) should be here at the end of October, about 20 days from now, so unfortunately no skimmer for now.  After the filtration is installed I will wait two weeks and add live sand (4" bed). Then hopefully add the first resident. *** My Questions *** Leave lights on while curing rock? <No, you will be inviting nuisance algae with the high level of nutrients now present in your tank.> Dose the C-balance now, or wait until Cured? <I'd wait till the rock is cured.> Might have a pistol shrimp (got a clicking sound anyway), if bad, now what? <Not bad, interesting if a shrimp goby goes along with it.  Have same myself.> Is this creating an environment for immense Coralline? <No, not immense.  I find "Purple Up" by CaribSea is great for coralline growth, and also maintains my calcium level, iodine, strontium, magnesium, and carbonate levels all in one bottle.  Check it out.> Is dosing Kalk with the C-balance that beneficial? (precipitate phosphates?) (coralline growth?) <Personally, I do not like two part mixes.  Whenever I've tried these, I got an imbalance.  Always had to go out and buy another bottle of the calcium part.  Some companies only sell part 1 and 2 together, can't buy just one bottle.  Next thing you know, you've got a gazillion bottles of the alkalinity part.> Should I see a normal cycle using ocean rock and water? I assume yes because of the 0.2 now. <Really depends on where the water is drawn from.  May have excessive nutrients present. The 0.2 reading is coming from the live rock curing process.  Do read our articles on live rock curing, here on the WWM.> What am I not thinking of? (most important, I know I am forgetting something) <Wallet?  Sounds OK so far, Don.  James (Salty Dog)> Thank you for sharing your time and knowledge with us all, I am sure you have saved many animals through your efforts. Very Respectfully, Don Williams

Re: After Cycle Water Parameters, New Tank Setup Part II 6/30/06      Hello <Hi again> I asked last night that I thought my tank cycled and receive an answer from Chris, so thank you Chris and the Gang. <Welcome.> I will make ya'll some brownies with nuts !!!! <Back off Bob, those brownies are mine!!!> <<Can I at least lick the plate? RMF>> 55 gal going to be FOWLR & Inverts I use tap water and I use Tetra Aqua Safe - I tested my tap water everything was normal except for high phosphate <Need to find the source of the Phosphates, probably coming from your tap water.  You may need to switch to RO/DI water to prevent your aquarium from becoming an algae sanctuary.> No ammonia ~ No nitrates ~ No nitrates (No big LFS close I live near the Outer Banks you would think there would be tons of them) I use Instant Ocean Salt Mix I do use ph 8.2 Millennium 3000 Power Filter Penguin 170 Bio Wheel 2 Aqua Tech Power Head ( 170 gph) Sea Clone 100 Protein Skimmer -  (I know - I know .....) Total gph 865 I use the Saltwater Master Liquid Test Kit from API Sea Chem Phosphate and Iodine Test Kit Hagen Calcium Test Kit Red Sea Alkalinity Test Kit I am using 18 inch 15w Full Spectrum Aqua Ray bulbs Umm not sure what else you need to know on the mechanicals. <Think that covers it all.> We have 1 1/2 inches of sugar fine oolite sand I received 20 lbs of uncured Caribbean (Haitian) live rock from e tropicals that I used to cycle my tank No Critters or fish in the aquarium  - just the live rock Sorry this is so long, but wanted you to know what I do and do not have. Now that I have told ya'll all of that here is my question (finally) <Phew> Ok, here is the water parameters after a 25 % water change - since it appears to have cycled: (I mixed the water up on Tuesday and had it a 32 gal container with a power head) <Good method> Temp   78 Specific Gravity  1.024 ph     8.2 Alkalinity    3.6 Calcium     I think 400   - HE seems to say 320 to 400 (I need an easier test kit  - the instructions disagree with each other -  one sentence says dark purple and the next sentence says violet -geesh) <Fun isn't it> Iodine    0.06 Ammonia  0 Nitrite       0 Nitrate      10 Phosphate  3.0 Does this seem to be the "average normal " parameters? Except for the phosphate - I have some "Phos - Zorb" and I also have some "C -Balance" with parts A & B <Yes, except for the phosphate, that’s really high.> I have NOT added anything to the aquarium yet <Good> Any Ideas? I have searched and searched in the forum and I am going cross-eyed and I need more coffee. <Everything seems fine except for the phosphate.  I wouldn't add anything to the tank you have to actively feed until you get those under control.  It will just add even more fuel for the algae.  The phosphate sponge is not a good long term solution.  Best bet is to get and RO/DI unit or buy RO/DI water.  I've personally had great experiences with www.airwaterice.com for my RO/DI.  The money spent up front will save it in the long run over buying RO/DI water.> Thanks in advance Kathleen <Chris>      

Red algae, snail and crab death  - 04/16/06 Hello there, and thanks for the excellent and informative site.   <Hi there and thank you for the kind words.> I am a little perplexed, so I ask you...  I have a 37 FOWLR tank, with about 30 lbs of rock.  The tank has been up and running for about a year, where I have gotten very nice growths of coralline algae on my rocks and glass (thanks to a 2x65w compact florescent hood, I assume) and have had no fish loss whatsoever. <That’s great!> However, within the last three weeks, I have developed a serious case of red carpet algae, and have recently noticed all of my snails and hermit crabs are no more...  I had about 5 Turbos and about 6 hermits. <Ak what a bummer! Sorry to hear that.> My 5 peppermint shrimp, my niger trigger, purple tang, maroon clown and hippo tang are all fine, along with a Mithrax crab, a cucumber and two sand sifting stars. Yikes….. that is quite a line up you have in that 37 gallon. I hate to be the one to break the news to you but your tank is much to small for it’s inhabitants. I am surprised you have not had any problems up until now. I hope you have plans for a much larger tank in the very near future. Your Niger can get to be 18” in the wild, sorry I am not sure of it’s size in captivity but for sure much to big for a 37g.  Tangs need a minimum of  50 gallons or double depending on who you read.> My water reads: pH 8.3, no detectable ammonia, no detectable nitrite, however I have 20 ppm nitrate. <Amazing considering the stocking density.> I'm heading to the store to buy 15 gals of seawater-in-a-jug (which I use exclusively) and try and siphon out as much of the red stuff as I can. < A good place to start.> Soooo, would 20 ppm nitrates kill my snails and hermits, while leaving everything else alive?   <Nope. There is info on nitrates here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm .> And what on earth could cause the red algae outbreak? < An accumulation of excess nutrients for starters. Your 37 gallon tank is much to small for the fish it is currently housing. Please do have a look at the following article…. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bluegralgae.htm, for just about all you need to know and more on the infamous Cyano.> Nothing has changed, I feed the same amount I have for the past year, but never had this stuff.  I am afraid it's killing the great crop of coralline algae under it!  Thanks, and Happy Easter (if appropriate). <You’ re most welcome and Happy Easter to you as well, Leslie.> Coralline Growth In A FOWLR - 03/30/06 I have a 180 gallon FOWLR tank, in your opinion is it worth the expense of a calcium reactor to enhance coralline growth on the live rock (I have about 200lbs of live rock)?  If not, are there alternatives you suggest.   <<Simple water changes should be enough to maintain calcium/alkalinity/magnesium/et al in this system.  To boost coralline growth I would dose Seachem's "Reef Calcium" for a few months as per the manufacturer's recommendation.  This is a polygluconate complexed form of calcium that some have reported induces excellent coralline growth.>> D'Wayne <<Regards, EricR>>

Ready to fire up the 180!  1/1/06 Hello Crew, I finally have my 180 waiting on it's stand to be plumbed and cycled for the transfer of my fish from my 55g FOWLR. I think I have this pretty well   planned out, but I would like your input before I make the final decisions. My  180 came with two internal overflows with a 2" and 2 3/4 " hole drilled in  the bottom of each. I have an empty 55 gallon tank that I want to put underneath   the 180. I purchased an Aqua C EV240 skimmer with a mag 12 pump to put inside   the 55, and two mag 9 pumps to move the water back up to the 180. I'll also put  a heater in the bottom tank. I will be purchasing aprox. 130lbs of live rock to put in the 180 to go   along with about 20 to 30lbs that is already in my 55 that has been running for  a little over a year. I want to put about 2 to 3 inches of sand in the tank. <Better less than one or more than four...> And I have a Coralife 6 foot fluorescent with the lunar lites for night viewing. The  fish that will be transferred are :   1 Purple Tang   1 Hippo Tang   1 Foxface   1 Royal Gramma   1 Orchid Dottyback   1 Clown Fish   1 6 Line Wrasse   1 Cherub Angel   along with a cleaner shrimp and 3 feather dusters My questions are: should I have some form of mechanical, i.e. charcoal, filtration ; if so any recommendations ; <I would use carbon occasionally... like a unit of Chemipure... once a month... switch out with the older/est of two present...> what else should I have in the 55  gallon sump to "filter" the water; <... many choices... gone over on WWM... a DSB, LR, Macro-algae...> am I missing any critical parts; and can I  add an Emperor or Queen Angel to the mix without creating overcrowding in the  180? <I'd wait a few months... after the new live rock is cured...> I am dying to get it running but want to do it right. Thanks for  your help. <Am feeling like a fortune cookie insert writer here... "Your patience (between the sheets) will be rewarded with continuing good prospects". Bob Fenner> Just A Few Questions - 12/22/05 Hi- <<Hello>> First, my marine life and I thank you all for everything you do.  You have saved many lives. <<You're very welcome.>> I have a few questions that I have been collecting for some time and would appreciate a little direction.   <<I shall make an attempt to assist.>> The basics: I have a 55 gallon FOWLR plus inverts that is fully stocked (to an appropriate level). <<I hope so <G>. >> It has been running for about nine months.  I have canister filtration, 100 lbs of live rock, an Aqua-C Remora skimmer and 96W of 50/50 CF lighting. Ammonia and Nitrite are 0, pH 8.2, Nitrates average 20-30 ppm. <<ok>>    I would like to work on lowering the nitrate level. <<Good idea>> With the 100 lbs. of live rock, would I gain any advantage by removing the ceramic bio-rings from my canister filter? <<I think you would, yes.  But just as/more important, this filter needs to be cleaned on a weekly basis.>> The other trays contain mechanical media, Chemi-Pure and carbon. <<Ah, good...an opportunity to add Polyfilter to the mix then!>> Should that empty tray be filled with something that might also help? <<Yes, the Polyfilter.>> I have stepped-up the frequency of water changes (RO/DI water) and filter cleanings to weekly. <<Always good>>    Also, my wife was recently being "helpful" by feeding flake during the day.  The food was added too fast for the fish to eat and I caught on after a few days feeding. <<Sounds like some "training" is in order.>> At the same time, I cleaned the lighting fixture, bulbs and reflector, effectively bumping the output.  I now have traces of red Cyanobacteria where the light hits strongest.  Will temporarily cutting back lighting time, along with the water changes resolve this issue? <<I doubt it...best to determine the true cause.  An increase in water flow might be helpful.>>    I currently have about 2" crushed coral for substrate.  I would like to cut this back to 1" or less as you recommend.  However, I have a Fromia star on hold at the LFS and want to be sure he has enough to scavenge on.  Competitors include a tiger striped serpent star, about 4 Nassarius snails and a small group of crabs (10 blue-leg, 2 scarlet reef, 1 sally lightfoot and 1 emerald).  Is this a good move?  Should I expect him to eat mainly on the live rock, or is the substrate a major food source? <<The live rock will provide this...and kudos to you for going with the Fromia specie as opposed to the much less hardy/suitable Linckia specie.>> Finally, I will be going on a cruise to St. Thomas, Dominica, Aruba and Barbados in a couple of weeks.  I don't dive (or swim, for that matter) but want to take full advantage of this marine-viewing opportunity.  I am doing a helmet dive and glass bottom boat, but was wondering if there was some part of the trade that is accessible to the public.  Can a tourist go where the local catch is brought and offered to wholesalers, local hobbyists, etc.. and how would I go about finding this? <<I would think this to be difficult without some type of "connection", but I honestly don't know.  If Bob sees this he should have a better insight.>> <As you state Eric... not easily done... You can catch, transport some (allowed) live material "for personal use"... I would move this in your checked in luggage... double, triple-bagged. Some ideas re capture tools, techniques and shipping wild-caught marines are archived in Articles, FAQs files on WWM. RMF> Sorry for the length, but I want to respect your time as much as possible. <<No worries mate...and "thank you" for the consideration.>>   Thanks again. <<Regards, EricR>>

Nutcase 101 - 7/31/05 Dear Sir or Madam, to all it my concern etc. <Hi friend, Ali here...> My 45 gallon FOWLR is about to crash, it includes many  Invertebrates, and a variety of fishes. <Very unfortunate> I can no longer care for or  maintain this system.  My question is do you think it prudent for me to  drain the tank remove the fish, and suffocate them under a bed pillow?  And  should I bury the inverts in my backyard to puzzle archeologists for years to  come? <Take your animals to the local fish store. Offer them a few dollars for their assistance in providing a good home for your animals.> Thank you for your time, Frank <No problem Frank, I hope some time in the rehab institution will be enough to give you a chance to read Fenner's Conscientious Marine Aquarist. I'm quite sure if you behave well they will allow a couple hours per day of internet activity. Although it can be hard at first, try not to blow it all on plastic mannequin midget porn sites and do your best to invest just a fraction of it towards aquatic awareness. Perhaps, your next aquarium be will be a success.>

Magnesium In A FOWLR - 07/13/05 Hello, <<Hi>> I was just reading the article on alkalinity and a Kalkwasser stirrer. It mentions the magnesium level should be 3x that of the calcium level. <<Yes...about.>> I use natural seawater.  So I need to find a magnesium test kit and start adding magnesium right? <<Not necessarily.>> I test for nitrates, kH, ca, ph, nitrites, ammonia, phosphates, salinity. <<ok>> Is there anything else I should be worrying about in my FOWLR tank as magnesium is a new one to me? <<I doubt you need to worry about the magnesium, really.  As this is a FOWLR tank, you don't have a large quantity of calcifying organisms (e.g. - SPS/LPS corals).  If you are applying frequent partial water changes you're likely supplying all the magnesium this tank needs.>> I supplement trace elements as well. <<Another waste of money in my opinion.  Again, the water changes will supply.>> Many Thanks, James. <<Regards, Eric R.>> Salinity\sg Hello, <Hi there> I was just reading the article on salinity. It says many people keep it at 1.017 to 1.020 for fish only systems. I have FOWLR. Should I be doing this to cut down on parasites and increase gas solubility? I run at 1.022 at the moment. Kind Regards, James <1.022 is fine... I would not keep your spg lower than this for routine purposes. Bob Fenner> 

20 Gal Live Rock tank. Hello Bob (or whoever else may be answering), Appreciate your site very much!  My son has the big tank :). He had some left over LR that I used to set up a 20 gal high tank.  My 20 gal high has aragonite substrate, in addition to about 15 lbs LR. It's got 65 watts of 50/50 power compact lighting running 12 hours a day. It's also got a big powerhead (400 gph) and a Bio-Wheel outside filter (which might be unnecessary, but was a "seeded" filter that was used to accelerate the original tank cycling).  No fish in the tank (maybe will add a couple, sometime). It does have a small crab that came with the LR.  Tank's been set up for nearly a year, and mostly doing fine (though a hermit crab died recently, I suspect because of water quality problems (accidental switch between our two wells plus unintentional use of softened water -- all presumably under control now that we have a RO/DI system in use).  There is some Halimeda green algae, and some coralline algae in the tank. I haven't had problems with other nuisance algae. I'd especially like to encourage the coralline. So these are my questions: Is this too much light for corallines? I'd rather change 3 gals of water weekly than mess with testing the water and adding supplements to encourage the coralline. Do you think just changing this much water regularly will be sufficient? Is the Halimeda algae good to have (I know Caulerpa is frowned upon)? If I change 3 gals. of water weekly, is a protein skimmer unnecessary? Would it still be unnecessary if I added a couple fish. Should I take out the BioWheel part of the filter (some say BioWheels are nitrate generators)? Thanks, Tom >>>Greetings Tom! You cannot have too much light for coralline, so no worries. Some varieties grow in bright light, others in partial light or complete darkness. You don't need to test your water really at this point given the critters you have. Your water change schedule sounds just fine for your purposes. HOWEVER, Halimeda consumes calcium, so if these levels are not maintained, it may wither. I do like it, but it's not the algae to keep for nutrient control, for that Chaetomorpha is recommended, and in the sump rather than the main tank. You don't need a skimmer, and certainly not with a tank such as yours with almost no animals. As far as the BioWheel, it's superfluous at best. If you remove it, you might want to add a small powerhead to make up for the lost circulation. Cheers Jim<<<

FOWLR water quality Greetings, Can seem to resolve this longstanding issue. I have had my FOWLR tank for a good year now. Its  a 90 gallon. I have 75lbs or so of LR and of course LS. At this time, I only have assorted crabs and snails and 3 damsels in the tank. My issue has always been a seeming in-ordinate amount of suspended debris, that is always in the tank. Yet when I go to the LFS's and see say their setup, the water is crystal and they have a similar setup as I do I have tried many different combinations of filters, skimmers etc and it seems to always remain the same. I currently am running  a Remora Pro skimmer with a mag drive pump and a skimmer box. I also have an Aquaclear 802 powerhead with a Quickfilter attached and I direct the flow toward the surface for movement. Is this not an adequate setup to promote water clarity of  suspended particles.<First of all, you will want to have a minimum of 900gph water flow in your system.  Either by way of power heads or power filter in combination.  I think a Rena, or other, power filter with a couple units of Chemi Pure will give you the clarity you want, but definitely get that water flow up there.  One 802 is not nearly enough to help keep debris suspended for removal from the tank.> James (Salty Dog) The advice is most appreciated Paul

Water quality and water changes Blundell, once again, thank you very much ! When I move on, there are more and question marks appearing in my head. I hope you can help clarify a few more questions regarding marine fish keeping : << I'll do my best. >> 1. I plan to add 2 Dottybacks of the same size at the same time : 1 Pseudochromis porphyreus  Goldman (Magenta Dottyback) and 1 Pseudochromis paccagnellae Axelrod (Royal Dottyback). Will there be any compatibility issue << I think you are fine. >> ? Currently I have 2 pigmy angels (eibli and rusty), 1 yellow tang, 1 banner butterfly, 1 blue tang and 1 maroon clownfish. 100 gal tank with 80 pounds live rocks 2. Since I'm keeping FOWLR tank, I only turn on the actinic blue light during day time and turn on the 'full spectrum' day light for 3 hours a day from the 8 pm until 10pm at night ? at night from 10pm to 7am in the morning, all the lighting will be off. Will there be any impact to my fish. << No, but I'd keep the full spectrum on all day to help grow algae. >> 3. I'm able to maintain 0 ppm nitrate through DSB, plenum and refugium method. do I still need to perform water change regularly. << It is a good idea.  Maybe not necessary but it helps. >> currently I change 25% water every 3 months. will it be sufficient ? << That sounds good. >> looking forward to hearing from u soon. Thanks !!!!! Best rgds,<< Good luck. >> Ooi PuJieh <<  Blundell  >> Small FOWLR Set-up I am setting up a 29gal FOWLR again, I have 20lbs of live rock curing in a lg trashcan. I am going to use 20lb of Arag-alive special grade to cycle the tank and then add the live rock in 2 weeks. (rock will have cured for 4 weeks) When can I add my first fish, cleanup crew? <I usually wait 6-8 weeks, or when nitrates hit zero.  This only goes for hardy fish that will readily eat prepared foods.  Stock slowly...> I have a Emperor 280 /PolyFilter pad,3 Rio water pumps and a Red Sea Prizm skimmer, which worked great for me before. I get conflicting info about when to start using the skimmer. When should I turn it on? <I always turn on my skimmer right at the outset.  In fact, I would put it on your trash can right now.  The more die off byproducts you can remove from your water now, the better.  More life will survive the curing process this way.>

Water parameters for a FOWLR 06/16/03 Hey crew, <Hi Adam, PF with you tonight.> I have a 40 gallon eclipse style aquarium, that is going to be emptied,  purified (bleach.) and redone for a FOWLR setup. I have been reading into calcium and alkaline requirements, and am starting to get scared off of live rock. <Well, really, there's nothing to be scared of. LR is about as undemanding as you can get.> What all do I need to monitor and add buffers/supplements for to stabilize aquarium, since there will be a difference between a FO and FOWLR setup. (our transition since we used copper in display tank). <Ok, if this is the same tank, then forget the LR. Copper never really comes out of a tank, it soaks into the sealant, etc. If so, then buy a new tank, and use the old one as a very large QT.> We have two fish in it right now, a lunar wrasse (going to be adopted when too big) and a false/blue eye puffer. They will be put into Q tank while fixing/cycling tank. I use UV sterilized water for the Local Grocery store, and after adding salt I add it directly into tank. <You should aerate the water with the salt in it at least for 24 hours, many people aerate before hand too.> Since this is a weekly 5 gallon change, it doesn't fluctuate temp or anything at all. My pH is steady at 7.8 which is a tad low, but steady. What can I do to correct this? <Buffer your SW, you can use a small amount of baking soda for this. Try 1 teaspoon per 10/gallons and test.> Again, this is without a skimmer, or aerator which soon will be added. Will this help increase pH? <No, it will not.> And in general what else should I watch for when having a LR setup. I probably will have some sort of a calcium drip (if needed??), to reach desired levels for some nice algae growth... <You can also use a two part buffer, such as B-Ionic, there are several brands out there to choose from. That will buffer your water as well as provide calcium for your algae.> But corals are not going to be successful, or attempted. So what parameters should I be aware of for healthy water/Rock/fish/algae. I've read that as long as you don't have corals or clams etc that require specific amounts of calcium, as long as you do small weekly water changes, your parameters in your water will be ok. Is this correct? <Yes, but since your pH is kind of low, look at buffering. Start here and read on: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/calcalkmar.htm> Thanks for your time, Adam
<Have a good night, PF>

Small Marine Aquariums
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ook 2: Fishes
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