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FAQs on Marine Filtration 1

Related Articles: Marine FiltrationMarine Aquarium Filtration, by Adam Cesnales, Central Filtration Systems,

Related FAQs: Marine Filtration 2, Marine Filtration 3, Marine Filtration 4Marine Filtration 5, Marine Filtration 6, Marine Filtration 7 Marine Filtration 8, Marine Filtration 9, Marine Filtration 10, Marine Filtration 11, Marine Filtration 12, & FAQs on Marine Filtration: Designs, Installation, Maintenance, Troubleshooting/Repair, Brands/Manufacturers, DIY, & By Type of  System: FO System Filtration, FOWLR Set-Ups, Reef Tank Setups, Reef Filtration, Small Tank Setups, Large System Filtration/Circulation/Aeration, & By Aspect and Gear: Biol.: Biological Filtration, Denitrification/Denitrifiers, Fluidized Beds, DSBs, Plenums, Algal Filtration, Mech.: Marine Mechanical Filtration, Power Filters, Outside Power Filters, Canister, Cartridge Filters, Undergravel FiltersWet-Dry Filters, Phys.: Ultraviolet Sterilizers,   Ozone, To Skim or Not to SkimBest Skimmer FAQs, Chem.: Nutrient Control and Export Chemical Filtrants (e.g. Polyfilter, Chemipure, Purigen), Carbon, Mud/Algal Filtration Phony: Magnetic Field Filtration, & Troubles: Bubbles, Noise,

Undergravel Filter plates... ancient history?

Canister Filters/skimmers  11/16/05 Hi Gang! I have a question about canister filters. Again, because I have not been in this hobby long, I am not sure which pieces of equipment are recommended. My tank setup is as follows: 29 Gallon AGA Tank Live reef sand 20 pounds of Live Rock (Fiji) Whisper 30 HOT Power Filter (With Carbon and Purigen) Inverts: Orange Ridge Starfish Peppermint Cleaner Shrimp 3 Red foot crabs. Fish (all in treatment tank for ICH) -2 Percula Clownfish 1 Royal Gramma 1 Pink Damsel <Too much antagonism for this size/volume...> Now, I would like to upgrade my filtration to a canister filter since I do not have enough space or anyway to conceal a wet-dry or Sump filter. Plus I don't plan on keeping corals right now.  So, in your experience, which one of these would you most recommend. -Fluval 205 -Rena Filstar XP1 -Eheim (Don't think I could afford a professional model though.) <The Eheim is the best here... not just initial purchase price to consider, but electrical use, quiet, longest life...> And, since I am still on the look for a protein skimmer, I want to be able to provide the best filtration and nutrient control possible during this time. <I would buy the skimmer first> Since my fish will be in QT until about December 24th, do you have any recommendations on how to "prime" the new  filter and grow beneficial bacteria before taking out the Whisper?  Should I run then in tandem? (For a while?) <Yes... a month or more overlap... I'd run both, ongoing> Thanks so very much for your help! PS- Lets just say I purchase the Bak-Pak 2 skimmer. Would It still be  necessary for me to purchase the Canister or could the skimmer provide adequate biological filtration with the "Bio-Bale"? <Mmm, you could likely get by on a CPR unit that incorporated a skimmer itself> would I have to add a sponge to it for mechanical filtration? <Not likely> Thanks again! -Jon <Bob Fenner> 

Confused About Filtration, or He Must be Joking  11/15/05 I have kept a cichlid tank for years and now I want to upgrade to saltwater tank with fish only. I have a 55 gal tank, Maxi jet 1200 powerhead for water movement, Instant Ocean salt mix, CaribSea aragonite formula crushed coral substrate, a master test kit, hydrometer and thermometer. Now for my main question: I currently have a Tetratec pf 500 power filter can I use this for filtration? <Yes... but you may want more... oh, I see this below> And I was planning on getting the Aqua C pro skimmer, do I really need the skimmer for a fish only tank? <I would have one> If the mentioned filter is not suitable what do you suggest? I cannot afford the top of the line stuff so please suggest something reasonable but efficient. Thank you in advance. Kool Lou.  PS I have read a lot of articles on your forum but haven't come across a question like mine. Can you please answer my email so I can get my system up and running and get the tank cycling?  Thanks again. <What you propose (with the skimmer) should work out fine for a low stocking level. Bob Fenner> 

Re: Confused about filtration   11/16/05 Hi Thanks for the reply. So you suggest the skimmer and nothing else as filtration? <Mmm, no... but this likely "get you by" for now> I was planning on getting a Clown fish, Hippo tang, Hawaiian yellow tang, Bi color angel, Hawaiian yellow eyed tang. . If I do need extra filtration what do you think about the Magnum 350 pro 0r the Eheim 2217 ? <A useful adjunct...> Thanks for your reply you guys are the best. <Uhh, you want my real advice? Read, starting here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/filtration/marineFiltr.htm and on to the linked files above, where you lead yourself. Bob Fenner> 

Are Refugiums and Sumps Mandatory? 11/3/05 Greetings, <Hi Brad!> Brad B. here. I've been reading a lot on your web site to try an educate myself, answer questions and get ideas. I'm trying to be a good steward and have a basic question. First, here's my scoop: 46 g bow front marine aquarium / 60 lbs of live reef sand / mix of rock and live rock - a good coverage of LR but not all that much weight as I chose specimens with good color and surface area but light (save $$) / two Emperor 280s (fiber media plus activated carbon cartridges) / AquaC Remora skimmer with MaxiJet 1200 / two AquaClear 50s and two AquaClear 30s for circulation / Coralife 36" with a 96W Actinic, 96W 10,000K white, and two lunar LEDs on a timer - Actinic = 12 hrs and White 10,000K 8 hrs... okay...  Can I expect good success (such as getting/keeping nitrates near zero) with a low fish load - inverts - corals given the above stated setup without adding a sump or refugium? <Brad of course it is possible to get away without a refugium or a sump. Though I will say a refugium is in my opinion a great asset to any marine tank, not only as a nutrient export device as a breeding ground for detritivores and micro-fauna. The sump is a great place to hide equipment and improve the aesthetics of the display. And both the refugium and the sump increase your water volume and thus your margin of error. Having said that yes, as I stated above these are not mandatory. However the heavier maintenance because of the lack of these devices will fall on you. You may need to perform extra water changes; and yes I would understock your tank as far as fish.> I want to/did invest in good stuff but want to keep it simple as possible. Many thanks! <Welcome Adam J.> 

Adding a sump to a 55 gallon Marine Tank 10/30/05 Hi, <Hello Andy.> I'm looking to put a sump on my 55 gallon marine tank. Currently I have 2 Fluval 304 filters as the main filtration , an oversized skimmer, 2 402 powerheads and a Rio 800 for water movement. The space in my stand is limiting me to a sump that is 30 inches long 17 inches high and 10 inches deep giving about a 20 gallon capacity (I think?),  <22.08 be exact.>  I'm thinking of dividing it into 3 compartments. I wanted to keep using the Fluval 304's along with the sump do you think this is a good idea?<You can keep running it but I would not use the media in it, just use it for water flow and the occasional running of carbon.>  Should I connect the filters to the sump and have a kind of refugium with live rock in?  <If you can employ a refugium do so, the benefits are amazing in my experience.>  or can you suggest better ways to utilize the space? <Refugium would be the best way to go in my opinion.>  Sorry for the onslaught of questions but if any one can help me it would be you guys. Thanks for any help you can give, <Andy sounds like your just starting out your research, read through WWM re: plumbing, sumps, refugiums and see how far that gets you. Then if you still have questions….I'll be here.> <Adam J.>   

Uniquarium Revamp - 10/03/05 Gang, <<TJ>> Thanks, you've given me some great advice over the last few weeks of revamping the filter chamber on my 50G Uniquarium (mixed soft/LPS coral, lots of live rock, sand bed, Low bioload.  Great water parameters less Nitrate at 20PPM due to remaining bioballs and mechanical filter sponges (I believe). <<Likely, yes>> In process of removing bioballs and waiting for skimmer to be available in U.S. market.  I would like, if you do not mind, some comments on this design (attached).  Granted chambers are small, because that is what I have to work with.  No room behind tank and no sump (per se). <<understood>> I am going to use a TUNZE 9002 skimmer (only thing that will fit). <<A good brand.>> Roger Vitko at Tunze USA suggests it would be adequate and also suggested the Chemipure. <<Agreed on both counts.>> No permanent mod.s would be made to tank.  Small acrylic block-off plate is a good press fit.  Settling chamber would likely be a removable container for ease of cleaning.  Any additional suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks TJ <<Nice diagram... Looks to me like you've done a good job with what you have.  EricR>>

SW starting up 8/5/05 Hi, this is my first time writing to you, I just sold a 37 gallon salt water tank, I want to go with a 50 gallon (36x15x20-25?) nothing too big, and this was directly asked by my parents to keep it this size. I already have an XP3 canister, I'm using this to keep my filter, live rock, and live sand in a 30 gallon bucket. We're going with a ten inch high canopy with retrofit lighting (compacts: three 96watt:  two 96 watt actinic and one 10k white), is this suffice for a 50 gallon reef tank? <For many types of life, yes... there are other routes...> I say reef tank meaning soft corals, mushrooms, polyps, Leathers, etc. etc. nothing too light dependent. What do you believe to be the best filtration system? A sump? <... this is posted on WWM... I am a big fan of sumps.> I was looking into an ecosystem 60 (a hang on the back refugium?) Do you have any experience with these? <Yes> Do I need a protein skimmer? <I would have one, yes> Which one of those two filtration system (refugium ecosystem 60 or a sump) are more efficient? Do they both have pro's and con's? <Yes... and these are posted...> Are they both enough on their own? Or will something have to be added later on? <Depends... on what you keep, want to do with it...> I know power heads will be must. If a sump is the best way to go, is it a wet/dry system, without bio-balls and live rock? Is a refugium underneath to much for such a small system? I want to do this right the first time; it's too expensive to make mistakes in this hobby. <Agreed... which is why we've invested thousands of hours of our lives assembling input for your perusal... WWM, please go, read there. Bob Fenner> Thank you very much, Jessica Rose Reef: Research, Equipment, Research, Circulation, Research - 8/4/5 Hi, my name is Travis. <Hi Travis, Oh no, they set us up the bomb! ;) - Ali here..> Let me take a moment to explain my situation. I started out with a small tank and a big Oscar about 6 months ago. The Oscar got moved to a bigger tank, and he outgrew it. Then he moved to another bigger tank, 75 gallons, and he got ich and died. Six months ago when I bought that Oscar, I had never owned a fish. Now all I think about are aquariums. Anyway, after the Oscar died, I decided that Oscars were not my bag. So what do I do after failing at my first attempt? <Grab several cups of coffee and start researching?> I decide to go with a reef tank. I know, go ahead and laugh, I'm an idiot. So I've got this 75 gallon tank. I put a layer of crushed shells mixed with aragonite sand in it. I then build up the back with lava rock as a base for my live rock that I'll eventually get. I fill the tank with water and mix in the salt mix, and that's where things get complicated. In my effort to get everything right from the start, I will not buy a single live organism until I know everything is set up exactly perfectly. <Good, however your current set-up needs to be looked over and altered, continue to browse this site along with www.reefcentral.com for proper reef tank filtration methods and do some reading. I highly, highly recommend you pick up Bob's The Conscientious Marine Aquarist and read, read and read some more.> I had a Marineland 350 BioWheel filter and a Marineland Magnum 350, both of which I was planning to use on this saltwater tank. I was given advice against BioWheels, so I moved that filter to my other freshwater tank, and I returned the Magnum 350 to the store so I could afford more important items. I then bought what I thought was a good protein skimmer, a Prizm Pro Deluxe (a.k.a. garbage). So the skimmer did not do anything other than fill the collection cup with water and leak, so I returned it. Then I read some more, and decide I need a reverse osmosis unit, as my tap water is high in nitrates (about 30 ppm out of the tap). I also have a "wavemaker" unit that is pretty much 3 295gph powerheads plugged into a power strip designed to alternate them. <Run your powerheads without the wavemaker. This type of 'wavemaker' decreases circulation within the tank, do a search on this as well...In a nutshell a wavemaker "stops" circulation and then turns it 'on' again. Not a very good method and unfortunately many aquarist fall victim to purchasing these devices. A better option would be to purchase, say for example 4 MaxiJet 1200 powerheads and position one powerhead in each corner of the tank. Position the nozzles so they are all pointing to the center of the tank, causing the currents to collide with each other and essentially creating chaotic and random flow/circulation without 'stopping' the circulation.> Now you know what I know, and here is where I get to my questions. What do I need to buy to get my system set up. I will help by suggesting things that I think I need, but am not sure about: I have no stand, but the tank is resting on a very sturdy dresser that is the perfect length. Do I need a real stand? <Here is a picture of one of my old reef aquariums from 4 or 5 years ago... A standard 50 sumpless gallon tank placed on an underwear drawer: http://reefcentral.com/gallery/data/500/8980ProjectReefOLDTANK.jpg So, no you don't 'need' a stand if you are going sumpless, however if you plan on ever adding a hang on the back overflow box, you will need a standard aquarium stand in order to place your sump underneath.> I now have no protein skimmer: what is the best model for my size tank? <Best hang-on skimmer the market now would probably be the AquaC Remora Pro> I do not have a plenum, sump, or refugium: which would be best to keep my nitrates low? <3-5" FINE grain sugar sized aragonite substrate (CaribSea Aragamax select) along with high quality live rock, good quality skimmer, lots of circulation and a low fish bioload.> I plan to only house coral, and coral safe fish/inverts that thrive in average to moderate lighting, because metal halide is out of the question: how many watts do I need? I saw a 90 gallon glass tank with a pine stand/canopy in the paper for $300, is this a good deal? Is there anywhere that can just tell me step by step what I need to do to set up my tank, and what brands of what equipment are good? <The internet, especially this site and reefcentral.com have a ridiculous amount of valuable information. You need to be assertive and take action - READ, research, then do it again. Don't expect everyone to do it for you.> I have no local fish stores, so it's all pretty much internet for me, and I never know what or whom to trust. Also, please while answering my queries keep in mind that I would like my tank to look nice and function well, but I would also like to be able to afford to put a fish or two in it sometime this century. <Good luck Travis, I'm sure that if you continue your research (how many times have I used that word?), purchase the proper equipment and utilize the proper husbandry techniques - your new reef tank will be a long-term success. - Ali>

Wet dry vs. BioWheel filter 7/25/05 Hello,<Hi> I just purchased a glass 135 gal. tank that is not  pre-drilled.  We want to have a marine fish only setup.  The dealer  told us that we could use 2 Emperor 400 bio-wheel filters and a power head to  circulate the water.  Will this be adequate?  I am concerned with the  load on the systems. <The combination of both bio wheels will only put out a maximum of 800 gph.  You would need to add an additional 500gph of flow by means of power heads to provide ample circulation and eliminate dead spots. I personally prefer a sump as it also gives you a place to place a skimmer, heater, etc.  If you elect to go with the bio wheel, go with the new Bio Wheel 350 as they have been improved.> Do we need a protein skimmer as well? <I believe protein skimmers are necessary.  They remove dissolved organics which lead to algae blooms.> He said  no.  We are planning on using crushed coral and bleached decorative.   I have read many articles and still don't have any clear answers.  Please  help. <Do a google on WWM, keyword, "set up" and read.> Thank you. <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)>

CPR Bak-Pak I just had one question. What info do you have on the CPR Bakpaks (wet/dry, skimmer filters). Good? or Bad? John <IMO, a very nice package for smaller tanks, 55 or under. More can be found by performing a Google Search of WWM. -Steven Pro>

D.A.S. aquarium upgrade Hi Bob, I have a 55 gallon D.A.S. aquarium I've had for about five yrs. now. I am interested in some kind of filter upgrade for water quality & was wondering what you suggest I do. My fish usually do o.k. for 1/2 yr to a 1 yr but eventually die...corals don't do so great & die quicker...Is the self contained filter system in the D.A.S. aquariums enough for a truly healthy tank???? I would like to make some mod.s & changes to enhance the quality of my reef tank. Any Ideas???????? <Many... the zenith? Would attach a sump, lighting, and grow macro-algae there as detailed on the site: www.WetWebMedia.com under "Algal Filtration"... and abandon the DAS skimmer and get a decent in sump or hang on model... my opinions here also on the WWM site> I'm currently changing 20 gallons a wk for the past month, from 10 gallons a month since I've had the tank...I ordered a 4 stage RO/DI filter; should be getting from UPS this wk for my water changes. With the increase of water changes, I'm trying to get my algae problem under control & enhance water quality. So my next step is upgrading my filter system of the tank. <You won't regret having the water purification system for your drinking, cooking and pet-fishing uses...> Lee Harris Dallas, TX P.S. any suggestion would be greatly appreciated. <Chat with you soon. Bob Fenner>

Questions re marine filtration, mail-order, salt-mix use, life I have a Fluval 404 power filter (for a 100 gal tank) two 550 powerheads and a Berlin 23" protein skimmer (for a 25-250 gal tank). In a 65 gal tank with a 2" Huma trigger, a tomato clown, two Percula clowns, chainlink moray about 8"), snowflake about 11") and a mandarin goby. Is this enough filtration, if not what more do I need? <I would add at least another good size outside power filter... perhaps a hang on... for more particulate and biological filtration and water movement, back-up/redundancy for if/when the canister needs cleaning, goes out for whatever reason.> I also have a bubble anemone that I ordered from ff express and it doesn't look so hot. It has a big white (head) that seems to flake off easily and I'm not seeing much activity coming from him. I ordered a medium hoping to get one big enough for my clowns and that sent me this little 2" turd. <Contact them> Also, what is the shortest time I should be waiting before I put my salt mixture in my tank? <You mean? After it's made-up? Take a read through the "synthetic salt" sections posted on the www.WetWebMedia.com site for my rundown and rationale here. Bob Fenner>

Re: the above... thanks for the help!! Also, what is your opinion on the Fluval 404 powerfilter? <A nice unit... Fluval has greatly improved their products over the years (they used to be terrible). Eheim canister filters are, however, vastly superior... in terms of longevity of components, reliability, service-ability... And there are many inferior lines... Bob Fenner>

New S/W Setup I am about to set up a 75 gallon reef tank. It is my first venture into saltwater and therefore I have a lot of questions. Your web site is great and has given me considerable guidance so far. The one issue that I still am not entirely clear on is filtration. This tank will use live rock, probably 90 lbs of Fiji rock. I will of course have a protein skimmer, currently considering one of the Berlin models ( most likely the hang on version). For pure mechanical filtration I will use either a Fluval or Eheim which will turn over the water 5 times per hour. Now the questions. Will the canister filter contribute to the production of nitrate?  <Not if set up, run correctly... can provide both aerobic and hypoxic/anaerobic conditions for culture... read through the FAQs associated with mechanical, biological filtration on the site... invest in Ehfi-mech, Siporax or such (one time purchase)...> Should it be eliminated. Do I need a wet/dry filter?  <No, but having a sump is very nice... flexible... increases safety margins...> Should it be a sump type or one of the wet/dry canister filters?  <Sumps> And since I am at it I should ask if you have any thoughts on the rock, skimmer or the canister filter. <What you have listed is fine... the Eheim is a vastly superior product> Thanks for the time and assistance - I am going out tomorrow to look for your books. Paul <Be chatting my friend. Bob Fenner>

Requirements for a new tank Bob, I have a question on what it takes to set up a Oceanic 72 gal. bow front tank Initially I will be putting in live rock and sand later I will add coral & fish after it cycles I have gone to 3 different dealers and received totally different answers <Many possibilities...> The first dealer said I only needed a CPR BAK PAC 2R with no other filtration 1" thick of live sand (about 60 lbs) and 50-70lbs of live rock 220W light, 1 powerhead this store sells only saltwater supplies, I think I believe him the most but think that 1 BAK PAC may not be enough filtration <Likely not initially...> the others varied some on the live rock and sand but the filtration was much more  2nd dealer recommended an Eheim 2226 or Fluval 404, a wet dry filter w / skimmer (150 Gal. size) and 110 Watt light 50/50 daylight/Actinic Compact Fluorescent The third said 2- CPR BAK PAC 2 ,a wet/dry filter, 130 watt CF (50/50) and 8W UV light my question is which dealer should I listen to ? <All of them> can you have too much protein skimming ? <In some scenarios, yes... but not to worry practically here> is 1" enough / too little sand ? <Depends on... the types of livestock, your filtration... but it's a good start... and you can add more later...> which creatures should I buy to put in the live sand <None... the live rock will supply> how many fish can I put in this set up and which ones ( I am looking for bright colors) <Only you can ultimately answer this issue: please read over the selection sections and many livestock listings on the site: www.WetWebMedia.com... and follow the suggestions on making your own stocking list> does the rock matter I see Fiji, jumbo Fiji, Marshall Island, Hapai Island, deep water Tonga, Manano Island etc. <Yes... price, appearance mainly... read over the live rock materials on the WWM site> what size rock should I buy? <Just "standard"... by the box deals...Be chatting my quizzical friend. Bob Fenner>

New at Saltwater  I have been doing freshwater aquariums for some time and now I am ready to try saltwater.  I am going to start out with fish only and maybe some time in the future go to reef. I have a 46 gallon bow front with an undergravel system and two power filters. This set-up was recommended by a local pet store I have used power filters with freshwater and I have read a lot about protein skimmers. Which one would you recommend? I am considering a SeaClone skimmer or a penguin power filter?  <Welcome to the world of marine aquarium keeping... You have much good background as a freshwater aquarist... Please do read over the following articles and associated files on the site: www.wetwebmedia.com, Fresh To Salt Aquarists, Marine Aquarium Set-up, Skimmers, Filtration... and as much of the related materials as you deem useful... I would not use either the mentioned pieces of gear for your 46 gallon system as they're undersized, and more appropriate gear is readily available. Bob Fenner>

BAK PAK 2 and 2R Hi, I am very interested in your products BAK PAK and BAK PAK 2R,  <Not my products, but friend Suk Kim's of Creative Plastics Research... their URL/link on the www.wetwebmedia.com Links page> I have a fairly new (6 weeks old) Juwel Delta 100 Corner unit of 150 Litres (34 UK Gallons). <A very nice unit> I already have a skimmer a "Seaclone" (sorry to swear on the e-mail).  <You're cracking me up!> I am very dissatisfied with the unit for one primary reason - THE NOISE. I have had it for 6 weeks and "her who must be obeyed" is dripping like a tap. <Yikes... say no more> End result is the skimmer spent more time off than on! Not too bad whilst I was cycling with Live Rock, but last weekend I introduced 4 juvenile Green Chromis, now I have to worry about the livestock as well as her indoors! Your product has been recommended by an expert (Bob Fenner). <"Expert", what's that? Previously married and flow under pressure?> Can you please assure me of the noise your unit makes in comparison to the "SeaClone" (oops there I go again). I really do not want to waste another bucket of money! My tank is planned to ultimately hold fish and Invertebrates, I certainly do not wish a full blown Reef set up. But am planning some Polyps and soft corals, etc. Should I go for the standard unit or the "R" model? I am using the standard Juwel in tank corner filter unit. I would really appreciate it if you can advise some UK internet suppliers. <Tropic Marine Centre carries these products... have your dealer order them through them> And any other advice you can give. I plan to hang it on the back. Sorry to use such bad language, I really must sort out the Skimmer problem. Also I am a dead man if I go out and buy another skimmer and it turns out to be c**p also! <Much quieter I (Bob F.) assure you> Skimmers in the UK appear expensive compared to the US so its plenty cash! PS You would not like to buy an almost new SeaClone would you? The PR Aquarium Systems put out says it's "a "top banana skimmer." Isn't hindsight a wonderful thing? Top banana? bottom apple more like. Kindest Regards and thanking you in anticipation John (half deaf) Mitchell Birmingham UK <Wonderful> PPS I wrote to Aquarium Systems thinking there was something wrong with my unit; they tell me "that's how it is" the noise is a result of the design, I deduce this as an anagram of (thanks mate we've had your money, now on your bike)! <Agreed, and sorry to hear. Be chatting my lyrical friend. Bob Fenner>

Re: BAK PAK 2 and 2R Thanks for taking the time to reply Bob, I cc'd you really to let you see what Aquarium Systems had said. Once "her indoors" recovers from the shock of a mysterious disappearance of money from the bank account and a funny looking square thing on the back of the aquarium. Add to that a long with a round clear tubey sort of thing in the dustbin; I might even get fed again? Kindest Regards and thanks again for your great advice John Mitchell Birmingham UK <You're welcome and I understand, thou Bard of Fishes. Bob Fenner>

Filtration Dear Mr. Fenner, I've been adding LR to a 55 gal. w/ 1 yellow tang 2 ocellaris clowns (tank-raised, as you recommended) 2 cleaner shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis) 1 brittle star that I almost never see Many, many snails: 6 Mexican turbo, 12 margarita, 12 Nassarius, etc. I reached roughly 50 lbs. several weeks ago (one chunk had a ton of dead sponge and is still in quarantine.) <Good idea> Filtration is currently via: AquaClear 300 with activated carbon only Magnum HOT filter which is empty, used only for circulation AquaC Remora skimmer Eheim fluidized canister bio-filter I have ordered a lighting upgrade and am pushing this tank toward reef ever so slowly. Which brings me to my question: I would like to remove the Eheim biofilter from the system; assuming circulation is good, the LR should accomplish filtration without nitrate buildup, right?  <A tricky proposition at this point with your rock being so new... I would leave it on myself... as you really don't have much other mechanical filtration, or too much circulation...> How should I go about removing the filter? I am terrified of an ammonia spike. I'd like to place the filter on another tank (which contains only a damsel for the moment) in order to prevent total die-off on the biomedia. Thanks for all your help. Rob Duff <Don't fret an "ammonia spike"... once the live rock is more "cured" (let's say three months or so with the new lighting), you should be able to remove the canister if you'd like... a clue will be the dearth/lack of collectant coming from your skimmer. No worries. Bob Fenner>

Re: Integrating Euroreef G2 Protein Skimmer Into My Undergravel Filter Thanks for the quick response Bob. I would have replied sooner, but shortly after reading your note, my system temporarily went down (you have to love third world electrical standards). Anyway, I checked out the CPR site like you recommended and ended up ordering a prefilter/skimmer box from Lifereef. I'm going to go with the Eheim submersible pump as you suggested. I'm looking forward to getting this thing up and running. <Sounds good> Regarding diving in Okinawa, I dove about 80 times a year for the three years I was there. I had a buddy who had been on the island for 24 years, knew it like the back of his hand, and had a Zodiac. It was a great assignment. Have you ever dove Okinawa? <Many years ago... back in the 1960's> Have not had a chance to dive the Red Sea yet, but I'm hoping to get down there this weekend (I snorkeled in the Red Sea when I was a kid). <Hmm> My latest hobby -- our ten-month old twins -- takes up most of my spare time. That's one reason I've been trying to get the aquarium set up -- I'd like to get them introduced to it early,  not to mention the fact that it will probably captivate them. I'm planning to start diving regularly again and catching my own fish for the aquarium. <Very nice> You mentioned that you travel to the Red Sea about once a year. Please know that you are always welcome at our house in Amman -- we have plenty of room, and the babies are actually finally sleeping through the night. Thanks again -- Brian MacDonald <Thank you for your genuine generosity. Do like children (other people's!) You may see us yet (the wife, sans bambinos), Bob Fenner>

Filtration - enough not enough Dear Mr. Fenner: Your book is great. I'm on my second reading. just in case I missed anything. I am putting together a 75 gal. F/0 tank. I have a Marine Tidepool II with an Amiracle cross current protein skimmer in the sump and a mechanical pre-filter in the overflow. I will have a crushed coral substrate. Do I need anymore filtration than this?  <Probably not> I have been posting on the forums on the web and many people tell me I should also add a canister filter and a UV sterilizer.  <These would help, incrementally... but they're not necessary... and to put all in perspective, you would do better devoting the same resources to live rock, maintenance... even other filter gear like an ozonizer...> I understand the concept of UV sterilization but isn't that more a concern of reef keepers than with fish only tanks?  <Not really... the benefits of using UV accrue with all types of systems... lowered overall microbial populations, higher Redox, dissolved oxygen... more stable pH....> I'd rather spend any extra money on fish rather than more filtration, but if I need more I will get it. Any input you can give me, will be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance for your help. Susan Krueger <Be chatting, Bob Fenner, who thanks you for your message and kind, encouraging words>

Filtration Bob, is the undergravel filtration a bad type of filter to use? Every one who I have talked to says that the undergravel filtration that runs by 2 802 aqua clear powerheads is a bad set up. They all say that the undergravel filtration will give me nothing but problems. The also say my hang on filter aqua clear 500 is a piece of junk. I decided to first put on a millennium wet/ dry filter first, then later put on a protein skimmer. They also say my millennium wet/dry is also a piece of junk. Bob is this true about what they said about my filters? >> <Well, as the saying goes, all are entitled to their opinions... but do demand "facts" of these folks as to their commentary reasoning. First, no, undergravel filters are not necessarily bad... in fact they have been and are the paradigm around the world... most everyone does use them... they do have shortcomings certainly, and are not for the lazy who won't do minimum maintenance to make sure they don't just become collectors of filth... And as far as hang on type power filters I am not a big fan of the Hagen AquaClear (tm) line, but there is really nothing "wrong" with them... they're underpowered, but they do work, are reliable, easy to clean, quiet, energy efficient... Tetra's Millennium wet-dry I don't care for either... it does work, but is puny size/function-wise, and not easy to use... Yes, there are better filters by other manufacturers... but these will/do work for what they're designed for. Small "beginner" systems. Bob Fenner>

Filters? I wrote you before about the Skilter 400. I have ordered a Seaclone Protein skimmer and am wondering if the magnum 350 with bio wheel 60 would work well enough with a 55 gallon tank. I know that wet/dry is the best filter method. The Bio Wheel says that it is a wet dry and would work with salt water. I have been told to build my own but am unsure how to build my own wet dry.  Thanks for you help Jonathan Finley >> <Much to investigate here... can't encourage you enough, even if you're going the store-bought versus the DIY route, to get/read recent issues of the hobby magazine, Freshwater and Marine Aquarium... many manufacturers strut their wares there... and offer URL's to their websites where you can purview about what they have, their basic designs... The gear you list will work... minimally... and "wet-dries" are not, repeat definitely NOT the best route to go... A sump is a very good idea... but you need to study further. Bob Fenner, who encourages you to visit our site: Home Page for much more on these issues.

External vs. Internal Filtration Bob, I am compiling opinions of which of the two methods are preferred. I like the fact that the internal keeps everything inside with less danger of water leakage but I am not sure that the filtering of the water is maximized. The tank is 48" wide, 24" high and 24" deep which allows for about 4"-5" in the back for wet/dry filter and protein skimmer. What are your thoughts? Charles Early >> External in almost all cases/scenarios... much easier to manipulate... and in modern installs, almost no problems of leaking. Bob Fenner

BioWheel vs. Trickle filter Bob, I'm looking to replace my wet dry filter (which is home made and leaking after 6 years of continuous use). I have a 60 gallon marine aquarium with only 4 fish in it. What is your feeling of BioWheel vs. bioballs. I have a coil denitrator and protein skimmer in the sump, so I need a fairly large sump. Thanks in advance, Mitch  >> Both can/should be workable in your size, type system... Would like to encourage you to convert the sump, or a good part thereof, to a live rock, Caulerpa algae continuously lit (fluorescent to small compact) system... much better, more stable in the long haul. Bob Fenner

Oh Reef Guru! I have ordered a new 90 gallon, 48 inch tank and stand to set up in our living room. Wanting to minimize mess in the living room, I plan to put all filtration, skimmer, u/v, mixing/water change tank, underneath in the basement with other tanks. The tank will contain 100 pounds of live rock, 8 - 10 2"fish, inverts but no coral. Money no object - I want the best. Please give me your recommendation for Mechanical Filter, Pumps, U/V, Skimmer, <Hmm, hard to do... in terms of service factors? Efficiency... how much head pressure? the UV would be a TMC unit... imported by a few folks... have your source bring in from Quality Marine in LA... the pump... one of the direct drive fractional horsepower units... Probably a Dolphin... the skimmer... a Euro-Reef or knock off of the same... powered by Eheims)... the filter... for what sorts of life?...> and other equipment to make this a great environment with remote treatment in the basement. Is there a reference on the very best way to drill the tank for inflow, outflow, and overflow? Can one inflow and one outflow serve both mechanical filter set up and skimmer?? <Maybe Phil Escobal's reference tome... but better, easier perhaps to seek out a "reef guru" in the way of an accomplished accomplice who can give you hands' on assistance... find them through... your fave store? Service company? Hobby club nearby? Acrylic is easy to cut... too easy to make mistakes of where, how big to cut if you haven't good input... Bob Fenner, who wishes he could be "there"> Many thanks

Filter Hi Bob, My husband just rec. your book (Conscientious Marine Aquarist) and it is fantastic. My question is: one of my friends has a 60 gal. bow front acrylic tank. He has a large 5 year old angel with the top fin all chewed off (it is healthy otherwise). The tank has been let go for a long time. He has a lot of green hair algae on the substrate, a under gravel filter, and a whisper filter on the back. He wants help cleaning it up. Their isn't much room in the top for more than one filter so I thought a wet/dry might be better. That way he could put a skimmer in the sump. Or would a BakPak ll be better? He just has reg. fluorescents for lighting. He wants to have his tank looking good again and would like help taking care of it. Money doesn't seem to be a challenge. Thanks for any assistance- Edna >> And thank you for your enthusiasm, and writing. The sump system would be better if your neighbor could fit it in... much more filtration, circulation, aeration and far more flexible... the best value in the long haul. Be chatting, Bob Fenner

Louver... I've seen numerous DIY projects that use egg crate foam stuff for a filter media. Is all egg crate foam stuff reef safe? >> IMO no... not so much that the styrenes are not chemically inert, but physically they do break down... cause trouble from floating about, and are a mess. Bob Fenner

Sufficient Filtration? Hi, I just had a question regarding filtration. I just started a 120 gallon marine aquarium (3 days ago), and I have 2 H.O.T (Hang-On Tank) Magnum Pro System Canister Filters (w/bio wheels), a SeaClone Protein Skimmer, and about 50lbs of Live Rock. Are these filters sufficient enough for my tank, or is there something more I should add? I was told in PetSmart that this would be enough, but I'm just worried as this is my first time to have an aquarium of any sort...and although I read everything I could get my hands on for months ahead of time...I still would like to know if there is anything more I should do. Any help you could give would be much appreciated. Thanks ahead of time. >> IMO, if your system were up and going... with very little livestock, the present filtration (the canister filters and protein skimmer) might be sufficient... but I would not rely on these myself... Do look into a bigger, better protein skimmer at least... and take care in putting together your livestock assortment (curing your live rock if you're going to use it especially)... And take the time, general resource to educate yourself regarding set-up, maintenance aspects of the hobby....  Read! Take a look at the articles, book sections I have stored at the site: www.wetwebmedia.com for overviews of many marine topics... and don't necessarily believe me or any one given source of input... Bob Fenner

Get your own RO! Dear Bob I currently buy my water from the LFS in RO/DI form and am looking into buying my own unit. I realize that the DI part can be quite expensive and was wondering what the effect of switching to RO only would have on my tank.  Also, could you please refer me to a couple of inexpensive suppliers of small units (I do not need it for the whole house, just the tank). <The RO (reverse osmosis) by itself will be fine... this is what I use, have used for decades... for the more/most delicate animals I deal with... Brands? For small volumes (a few tens of gallons a day) I would just buy, rig up a Home Depot, Lowe's warehouse store unit... without their storage container... they also sell the tubing, valves for all this... and dump the purified water into a designated sturdy trash can (my fave are the Rubbermaid "Brute" line)... you can even get some spiffy wheels for these... BTW, if you're going this far for your aquarium systems... I would utilize the RO water for your own drinking and cooking uses> I have read in several publications that the hobbyist can build his own skimmers and calcium reactors. I am interested in adding a reactor to my tank and would love the challenge of building one myself. Is there a web-site or a publication which has blueprints and all of the necessary parts laid out?  <Not as far as I'm concerned... but do look through the last couple of years of the hobby publications, manufacturer's websites, Aquarium Frontiers On-line... for great insights about how you might proceed... a bunch needs to be discussed/put forth about alternatives like constant circulation reactors... sources of carbonate for these units... and much more.... Maybe you'll be the one to write the next definitive tome on this subject... I will assure you, five years from now, over half of reef aquarists will have/use calcium reactors... ASSUREDLY> If not, can you recommend the most efficient of the least  expensive calcium reactors on the market? <These are not the same... possibilities... of course... Knop's units are about the most efficient... the least expensive? DIY> Thanks for your help Sean Murphy >> And thank you for asking, Bob Fenner

Filter/Skimmer Hello Bob- I want to say upfront that I really appreciate your help! I am setting up a 125gal reef aquarium. I am planning on the TurboFlotor 1000 Protein Skimmer, first question, is this the best choice? Secondly, would you suggest purchasing a wet/dry filter as well? If so, is there a particular one to consider? Thanks again <This is a very good choice in skimmers... though there are others... If you have a very crowded or high protein-utilizing system (like a shark tank, or crowded fish-only system), you might do well to consider a down-draft type skimmer instead... like an Aqua-C or E.T.S.S. There are many good wet-dry filters on the market... but once again, I need to know more about the type of system, what sorts of organisms you intend to keep, to be of much help to you here. Bob Fenner>

Constructing a Sump I currently have a 125 gal FOWLR tank which constantly has a high nitrate level. I just purchased a 180 gal. tank that will replace my existing. My problem is that I'm trying to come up with a way of building a sump that would actually help me with this problem. My sump consist of a Turboflotor 1000 protein skimmer and 3 gal. of bio-balls. There is approx. 130lbs. of live rock in the tank. I was looking through your previous Q&A's and I saw that you recommended to someone tobuild an anaerobic/hypoxic denitrator with two different types of sand, and an alternating light dark filter area growing Caulerpa. I was wondering if there were any books that tell you how to construct such a sump and how big? Would this eliminate my nitrate problem and help keep unwanted algae from growing on the tank glass? >> Hmm, the anaerobic denitrator (plenum-including) are detailed and a drawing provided in survey pieces on my site: www.wetwebmedia.com As to sumps, making them, or having them made custom from glass or acrylic is pretty easy... Have you looked around for stock sizes or aquariums already? Want places to bid for making you one? DIY? Bob Fenner

Puny SW Filtration Hi Bob...another question for you!  I have an AquaClear 300, hot magnum, SeaClone (modified) skimmer, UGF w/ 2 powerheads. The 60 gal. tank is stocked with a tomato clown, Percula clown, clarkii clown, algae blenny, 2 sea urchins, and a few hermits and snails. I have 2 Trichromatic bulbs and 2 actinic bulbs for a total of 160 watts.  1.)Is the UGF not worth the risk of having in the system? I put it there to increase water circulation and hopefully reduce thick algae growth on the gravel. I was considering doing water changes with r/o water to see if that eliminated the brown carpet that can't seem to be rid of. Fish are doing well.  <I wouldn't remove the undergravel filter at this stage... unless you're upgrading the major components of your filtration otherwise... the brown algae should be gone... Do you have any live rock, macroalgae?> 2.) What additional filtration would you recommend? I was thinking about a Fluval 404, or another skimmer. What do you think? I want to keep the tubes limited, but algae looks worse than tubes! <Both of these are good ideas... along with the live rock...> thanks again! ps...the mod I found for the SeaClone seems to be effective for those who already own one. It involves cutting down the innermost tube so that the surface area of the intermediate tube becomes the reaction chamber. The skimmate is produced more rapidly, and there are a lot more micro bubbles produced in the reaction chamber this way. I wouldn't say it is a reason to buy a SeaClone, but for those who have one it will help! >> <Thanks for the tip... sounds like a worthwhile modification. Bob Fenner>

Wet Dry versus Canister Filters I'm a little confuse with an answer you wrote with some guy that has a wet dry with 2 Magnum canister filters in a reef type. I am sure you can tell me the difference between them for reef and fish tank and if the wet dry is a algae problem. Thanks again Bob from William Bob) of PR... >> The difference between a open wet-dry under the tank sort of model filter versus a closed/pressurized canister type like the Magnum? Both are mechanical, biological filters... the wet-dry can "ramp up" much more quickly than canisters... to available nutrients.... and tends to drive nitrification much more via the mix of air and water and surface area of nitrifying microbes on its wet-dry media... Both very good "types" of filtration for both marine in general and reef systems... The only real downside to the wet-dry is the necessity to put up with the effects of excess nitrates... OR the provision of gear, practices to offset their accumulation... Like denitrators, copious amounts of live rock, macro-algae.... Bob Fenner

Marine filtration Hi Bob, question number 2. How would you go about filtering a 120 tank (84" x 18" x 18"). At present it is fairly heavily stocked, but it is about to undergo renovation. Stock at present is: Emperor Angel 4.5" Queen Angel 4.5"  Yellow Tang 3.5" Regal (hippo) Tang 3"  Foxface 4"  2 Humbug damsels 1" each  Royal Gramma 2" 6 Line Wrasse 2" Midas Blenny 2.5"  Algae Blenny 3.5"  Maroon Clown 3" Soon to leave are the queen, damsels, maroon, and midas. They are going to friend, who really likes them, so I am selling them to him, and am going to replace them myself with other species (although I will be substituting the queen for a flame .... not another large angel). Presently the main filtration consists of a Berlin classic skimmer, and a Lifeguard Fluidized Bed (for 300 gals). At present there is no LR or LS in the system. I am unhappy with water quality in general, especially constantly high nitrates ... sometimes more than 50ppm, despite biweekly 25% water changes with nitrate free water. How would you suggest I filter my tank ? Thanks, Matthew (Co. Cork, Ireland) >> Thank you for writing... I would definitely be adding the live rock... and allowing it to make your sand live.... And checking to assure your lighting will be adequate for the live rock's photosynthetic component... Save your money and thank me later for not buying and doing all those water changes... and get a nice needle wheel type skimmer (foam fractionator) like a Turboflotor, and place it in one of your sumps.... The other, I would stock with some more live rock, a continuously on light (small fluorescent will do) with some Caulerpa Algae... You will soon be of more of the "sailboat" mentality of aquarium keeping (as opposed to fighting the declining water quality "motor boat" ways...) my friend, Bob Fenner

Bioball nitrate time-bomb? Bob: What's the best way to avoid the wet/dry Bioball nitrate time-bomb? For reasons that I don't want to go into here, I'm pretty much stuck with the trickle filter I now have. ANYWAY, I've heard that frequent water changes (I change 5 gallons every week in my 75 gallon system), use of a fluidized bed filter, and occasional partial rinsing of bio-balls are all decent ways of preventing the nitrate problem. Are these adequate?  Some have suggested that I use RO/DI water, but it's too darned expensive, and my tap water doesn't have any detectable nitrates anyway. Do I have any hope if I don't want to invest in 50-100 pounds of live rock? As it now stands, my system is about 6 months old with three damsels and a yellow tang; my nitrates are about 1 to 2 ppm.  Thanks, jwl >> Hmm, like the way you put it ("time bomb")... partial water changes will dilute nitrate concentration partially... and at five out of seventy five gallons, not much. A fluidized bed filter and rinsing the bio-balls will do almost nothing to the nitrate build-up...  Most appropriate, best available technology (if you are sticking with "the bomb") entails either a purposeful denitrator (like a plenum... that you might fit in your tank, a sump... even "la bomba"... or some anaerobic biomedia placed in the flow path... like Siporax Beads, Ehfi-Mech by Eheim... the more the merrier... one time purchase)... or a bio-concentrating mechanism like an algae/mud or Berlin system in a sump most likely... or the macro-algae could be situated in the display tank... Consider these mechanisms together or separately... they are the path of your "de-fusing". Bob Fenner

Nitrate Build-up The wet dry I have was given to me by a friend. Its a bio-life that is about 5-10 years old. It has 2 foam pads, ceramic balls and another filter coral type media piece along with a replaceable filter containing charcoal. To clarify, you suggest removing the hard medias and placing pads in the filter. Second taking the top of the filer and throwing on a compact. Another problem may be also that the directions with the filter say that you should rinse the pads bi-weekly, clean the porous piece and balls every since months and replace the filter insert weekly. Is this perhaps preventing the growth of the organisms I need to make it work properly? <Definitely so... I would only clean the materials when they're obviously clogging... and never any more than one of the components in any one week> By adding algae would you recommend a Caulerpa. I purchased some from you once in the past and it died 2 days after inserting into the tank. At that point though the tank was only 3 months old. Its now been up since May. <Yes, the better species for your use are C. taxifolia or C. sertularoides... and they should do better now> Is there a better filter system that I could use with my skimmer that would provide for better water conditions? If so would it require that I tear the tank apart to insert. <IMO, I'd just modify what you have... add some Siporax beads to the lower sump area... and do what you can to spiff up water quality by way of the main tank itself... e.g. the Caulerpa growth there> Bob Fenner

Filter less Problems Bob, We were in between homes last year for about 7 months. I ran my 55 gallon in our rental for that time period with no filtration. I can't report any adverse affects. As a matter of fact, I may have had less algae during that time period. A filter can be a decaying matter (read nitrate) factory. I don't use substrate heater but DO run an UGF with a 25 gallon per hour pump. Regards, John Haydt <Can't disagree with your experience OR your observations... Never seen much of the aquarium filter gear on reef's myself! Bob Fenner>

Nitrate question Bob, I have read many of your answers over the past few months and notice you are not a big fan of the highly touted wet-dry filters -- stating they are nitrate farms. I have a hang on the back, Rainbow Fluidized Bed filter. I also have about 30# of live rock in a 45 gallon tank. Do you feel the Fluidized filters are also nitrate producers? My nitrates are higher than I like, but not out of control. I have been pleased with the filter, but am interested in your opinion. Thanks >> Fluidized beds can overdrive nitrification... but not, by design as overtly as wet-dry media... Note, it is not the wet-dry concept or the original filters (used to be a big fan of George Smit in the mid 80's) that are lacking... it's their latter day common modification.... THE wet-dry used to incorporate a purposeful denitrator... So much for progress... Anyhow, re your question, fluidized bed filters are fine for unstable, vacillating bio-load situations for converting ammonia to nitrite to nitrate...  Bob Fenner 

Tiny bubbles ("blowin' in the sun") Bob, With all of your experience and knowledge, you must know if I am about to make a mistake. I have a venturi style protein skimmer, 3 power heads, and a canister filter that receives water flow from an overflow chamber located in one corner of my 75-gal glass tank. The canister outflow is pumped back up the overflow chamber through a vessel which then curves over the side of the chamber and empties the filtered water through 10-15 nozzles at the rear base of the tank.  I think the skimmer and the overflow chamber provide plenty of opportunity for oxygen exchange and the power heads circulate the water very well (maybe too well). However, I like the bubbles I see in some tanks. I was thinking of drilling a hole in the canister outflow vessel around the point that it curves back down into the tank. I would then insert a tube with a simple valve to control air flow. The idea is to allow air bubbles to emerge from the nozzles at the rear base of the tank providing something for me to look at other than the tubing, plugs, and skimmer power head hanging in the tank. Have you seen anyone try this? Do you think it would work? Can you foresee any downfalls to this experiment? Did I provide a clear image of my idea? I can explain anti-viral agents to a layman, but know I find myself as the layman trying to describe to the expert marine biologist. I have tried using the air inlets that accompany the power heads. They really don't give me the look I wanted.  >> Thanks so much for writing... and yes, I understand your explanation clearly (maybe we're both off!). And have done these sorts of modifications myself... and seen many more attempted by others.... There are some downside possibilities to this arrangement... having to do with the usual plumbing, leakage, breakage considerations... so I would actually "just" run an airline down the side (maybe drilling a tight fitting hole in the top of the tank (plastic lid, acrylic tank), and hook up a good air pump... like the Tectra, and a good glass-bead airstone... with a plastic check valve... lest capillation be your undoing in a power outage.  Does this sound okay instead? Less problems with modifying your present gear... and more controllable in terms of looks, effect. Bob Fenner

Better filtration Hello, What is your opinion on the reef systems that use "Miracle Mud" or mangrove type filtration? Should a system like these be attempted by someone entering into the reef aquarium hobby from freshwater or is it best to stay with a proven Berlin type system? Also, is there a plan to update your Q&A archive? I enjoy going back through earlier questions and gathering information without bothering you for something you have answered in the past. Thanks, Greg >> Thank you (more than I can state) for writing the last... Movements afoot on that point, thank goodness... Regarding the "mud filters"... of a certainty they are very "real" in their usefulness. Have seen them working all over the US and abroad... in fact/reality, the same concepts and reactions are common in all reef systems... just sped up and made more stable by having a dedicated sump, lighting and continuously growing macro-algae... and a lighted Berlin system with some species of Caulerpa does pretty much the same thing...  B

Better filtration Hello Bob, Robert here,... Love your articles and daily Q & A's...I have a 125g with twin overflows leading to a w/d sump. The w/d has a protein skimmer build into it and also a denitrator. I was thinking of taking out the denitrator and using that space for LR, and also adding a Ozonizer to the skimmer portion of the filter. From what I've read, ozone is a take or leave addition without any more useful info...would you recommend an ozonizer for use in sterilization and skimmer enhancement? My system has been set up for about 2 years and all has been well so far, but the built in skimmer is "weak"....thanks for your insight. Robert C. >> Why not add the live rock on top of the denitrator? If you have room, this is the route I'd take. And yes to the ozonizer... in most circumstances I would add ozone way ahead of a UV unit... It will improve skimmer enhancement, raise ORP, dissolved oxygen, lower total bacteria count... Nuff said? Bob Fenner

Better filtration I had my saltwater tank for a while I've had mediocre success to it and was wondering what kind of filtration do u need to have in order for it to work... as of right now I have a Fluval canister and a protein  skimmer (BakPak)... I just recently added the skimmer and the seem to be doing  fine... I have a 30gal.. tank a little small for saltwater but I don't need  nothing bigger... so my question is to u do I need anything else? thank you  very much for your time and I hope u can be helpful. Ryan >> These two units (a good canister filter and a skimmer) should be enough to have success... with a fish only system... and maybe more if you had given info. re your lighting. Re the canister filter; do install and leave in place some biological filter media in the bottom (like ceramic or sintered glass beads)... and two units, trading one out every month, of activated carbon...  Bob Fenner

Better filtration Bob, I have been keeping a marine aquarium for about a year now. Until now, I have stuck with the more hardy Triggers and Tangs. I'm at the point now that I am wanting to set up another 75gal, or maybe a 125, to start keeping some of the Butterflies and Angles. I have had great success with my Triggers running two canister type filters and live rock. I don't have a trickle filter. No doubt, if I am going to have any success with the Butterflies and Angles I will need a good wet/dry trickle filter. Are all wet/dries created equal? What do you think of the canister-wet/dry, manufacturer to go un-named, that claims to be better than trickle filters? Besides a good skimmer, what other equipment should I consider in order to successfully keep these guys? Kevin W. Austin >> Both modes/types of filtration (wet-dry, canister) "do" filtration functions (chemical, physical/mechanical, biological) to varying degrees. I am a BIG fan of canister-type outside power filters. Some brands, particularly Eheim, have time-honored records of quiet, dependable service and are excellent for all types of captive aquatic environments. Wet-dries as pushers of nitrification are also unparalleled... but have little else going for them. Most require relatively large pumping expense, are susceptible to problems of overflow... and are comparatively poorly thought out... But they do have their places... in particular in conditions of variable and high bio-loads (like collecting and wholesale holding facilities). Most people who have wet-dries would be better off converting them to sumps with live rock and skimmers (Berlin Systems)... removing the wet-dry media... or better still adding a light to the Berlin method and growing some macro algae there, either on a light/dark cycle alternating with their main tank... or leaving the light on the sump permanently...  But, these two and other filter gear and methods ends are the same, and this is really what one should keep in mind... improved, stabilized water quality. You don't need a wet-dry... but a sump with the additions noted... along with your skimmer, which could be situated there as well, are called for in your step-up to more difficult/demanding forms of marine life. Bob Fenner High Nitrates Hi Bob! I'm only sixteen, and I don't know much about fish. I own two Percula clown fish and one four stropped damsel (I used to have two). At one point, my nitrate level was high, about 70, and I used buffer to temporarily bring it down. Unfortunately it killed one of my fish. My nitrate level is still high, I've stirred, changed my filters mixed up the bottom, added new rock, and coral. My nitrate level is still way to high, while my ph is at a normal level at 8.3. Do you know anything I can do to bring down the nitrate level? I also was wondering what my best options are for my fish that are still alive, because they seem to be feeling the affects on the high nitrate. Please help. Sincerely, Laurie Matthews >> Hi Laurie, I'm "only" forty seven, and know embarrassingly little for all the years I've studied fishes as well; but will gladly share my observations/opinions. First, let me assure you, don't worry much about nitrates. By themselves, they are not such a big deal... especially for fish-only systems (I take you don't have a reef set-up, otherwise you would have mentioned other livestock). You do know where the nitrates come from? An end-product of nitrogen metabolism from your fishes, food and wastes... that can be removed/used by photosynthetic life like algae... so, one of the things you can do to lower their concentration is grow algae! Like with live rock in your system or some macro-algae (the big stuff you can see). Another important filtration tool for keeping nitrates in check is a protein skimmer, often called a foam fractionator. Do you have one of these? You should. It will also help you keep your tank clean and fish healthy. Does this all make sense to you? Bob Fenner

New to SW, filtration << I am just starting to set up a new FO saltwater tank but an concerned about my choice of filtration. I have a 125gal. tank and am going to go with the large Eheim wet/dry canister, an Emperor 400, and a Berlin HO P. Skimmer. I was also going to add about 40 pounds of live base rock. Am I going to have a problem with too much filtration? or is there no such thing. I am afraid of to many nitrates and then algae problems. Thanks for your help. Michelle >> No problem with too much filtration, but maybe with inadequate circulation. I'd add a couple or three powerheads. Don't worry re the nitrate menace, do use some live rock, even though you say this will be a fish only set-up... it will help in many ways including keeping those nitrates (and other metabolites) in check, as well as competing with noisome algae for nutrients and light use. You're gonna have a blast, and a nice system. Bob Fenner

Aragamight'ed Hi Bob: I really enjoy your column, and your book. I have a 135g reef that has been set up for 4 months now. There are 100lbs of Fiji live rock on 3" of crushed coral. I have several corals, a few fish, 2 cleaner shrimp, and a couple of snails. There is an approximately 10 gallon wet/dry sump with floss, bio balls, and a skimmer. Temp 81, salt 1.023, PH steady at 8.4. I consistently get these readings Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, and Nitrate 20-30ppm. I do 10g water changes every 2 weeks. I add 4 drops of Iodine once a week, and add a gallon of Kalk'ed water and a gallon of Aragamight'ed water once a week. I am about to receive an order from FFE for several more corals, a few more fish, and a bunch of snails & crabs. I'm also getting one bag of sand and I'm going to turn one section over to sand and locate a couple of corals that like sand there. Here are my questions - I've received conflicting advise on the bio balls. Some say to remove them now that the tank is maturing and that removing them will reduce Nitrate levels. Others say to leave them in. Could you give me your opinion on this please, and any other advice you have for my setup. Also, I have a bottle of bacteria that I used to help cycle the tank initially. My LFS says to keep putting it in once a week. Others say no. What do you say? Thanks! Dave Reid >> I myself would remove the bioballs, they are a major source of your nitrates... but I would go beyond this change, and definitely look for a larger sump, and outfit it either as a denitrator or lighted algae and live rock Berlin Filter area. You shouldn't' t have to add any more of the "boosting" bacteria at this point (I wouldn't). The rest of your set up and maintenance/operation routine sounds fine. Bob Fenner

Question: I currently have a 180 reef tank I keep heavily loaded with both inverts and fish (I know, I'm bad; but so many fish, so little space and time). I currently have an AMiracle wet/dry, and want to substantially increase my filtration capacity. I know you have gone on record as being a proponent of the Berlin method vs. wet/dry, but I'm not sure why. How does additional biofiltration over and above that provided by live rock hurt anything. It does provide additional aeration and cooling. Yes, it produces nitrates, but the live rock in slow current areas theoretically does some denitrating. (I am also experimenting with some Bioblox in the wet portion of the sump to provide additional denitrating. Thanks in advance. Bob's Answer: Gary, not so sure I'm following your message's intent: Berlin type approaches I favor for what you've listed as benefits. Wet-dries are fine for many applications, but are nitrate factories and alter water quality in other detrimental ways... still superior to simple undergravel filtration of yore, but requiring more countervening action than Berlin... which is in turn not as universally self-adjusting and water-quality optimizing as mud filtration methods... Keep experimenting and reading; that's what I'm doing.

Question: I just finished reading your Q&A column for February '99 and had a question regarding your comment on the feeble nature of SeaClear System II filtration. I have a 75 gal SeaClear that has been up and running for about a year and a half now. I have about 10 pounds of live rock in the tank and usually keep about 3 to 5 medium-sized fish at any one time. I have a good deal of trouble keeping the nitrates down below 25 to 30, even though I only feed about 3 times a week, vacuum and change out about 10 gallons every 10-14 days, replace the air stone every 3 weeks, clean the filter sleeve every water change and replace it once a month. I also seem to lose a fish every month or two for no real apparent reason (i.e. no visible parasites, trauma, etc.). Although I think the tank is aesthetically pleasing, I have started to question the effectiveness of the filtration. I have already beefed up the filtration a little by adding a few things. I have placed a small power head in the tank that streams right over the live rock, I set up a UV sterilizer that runs off a Maxijet 750 placed in the back-right filtration cavity where the chemical tray used to be (I just put the chem bag on the left side of the bio ball drip tray instead) and I use separate Tetraluft pumps for the protein skimmer (running at full speed) and the bio ball air line (running about 3/4 speed). All of this and I still have trouble keeping the protein skimmer consistently frothy and wonder how much circulation and oxygen my fish are really getting. I think (you tell me) I am stuck with the counter-current protein skimmer situation since I only have that small little chamber to deal with (no way I'm doing a sump). I was wondering, however, if I could possibly change out the main water pump with something a little heftier. I have no idea what is down there since I can't see behind the tank and would have to rip it out to see (which I'm not even sure how to do without breaking something). Do you know if its replaceable and, if so, what other pumps are compatible with it? Can you think of any other modifications that might help? Thanks in advance. Bob's Answer: Thanks for your response. Yes, I too have misgivings about this particular product line's inadequacies in terms or overall circulation and filtration. Very likely your "anomalous losses" can be attributed to at least a large part of these deficiencies. And yes, though the four owners of SeaClear/Tradewind/CASCO (Calif. Aquarium Supply Company) are friends and do otherwise make good to great aquariums, chillers and more, their integral system displays are bunk. You can access the pump from removing the stackable components from the top-back. Most likely the pump is a latter model Aquarium Systems/Italian import (this or that jet) or an admittedly beefier Hagen product. And affirmative to being able to replace it with a higher flow rated pump... as long as same will fit in the space available... Of course there is the further rate limiting factor of the tubing diameter, turn and restriction of those holes at the discharge.... So, if it were me, I'd instead opt to augment the existing puny back gear with an outside power filter... My fave manufacturer is Eheim... a great investment... as big as you can afford, at least a 2027...

Question: I have a 125 gal. tank that has been set up for about 1 1/2 years. It has a UV filter, Eheim canister, a wet/dry sump, several power heads and about 2-3 months ago I added a protein skimmer. When I bought the tank, I went with the recommendation of the fish store and got the wet/dry sump over the protein skimmer. After reading your book, and talking to another fish store, I bought the skimmer. My problem is keeping fish alive. I just lost a juv. Imperator angel that I had for about a year. Prior to that, some fish would last a few days to a few weeks. The water always has tested OK except for the nitrate level, which has generally been around 60ppm. After I installed the protein skimmer, the level slowly came down to around 20ppm and I thought I was finally making headway on the problem. After the Imperator died, I checked the water again and it had climbed back up to around 40ppm. I have always done weekly or bi-weekly water changes of 15-20% using RO water. Help! I'm down to 3 fish that seem to be doing OK (2 tangs and an angel). I'm afraid to get any more fish. I'm wondering if the protein skimmer is too small. I empty the collection cup every few days of about a cup or so of liquid. I'm not sure what size the skimmer is, again I just went with the salesman's recommendation. In your book you state the wet/dry sumps are 'nitrate factories', am I spinning my wheels have both the sump and protein skimmer? Where do I go from here? Bob's Answer: Andy, I sense and feel your pain. Re: the skimmer, does it produce "foam" continuously? It should not. Instead there ought to appear a sort of cyclicity with the unit gathering more and less during different parts of the day. But more to the point, no, you are not doing anything "wrong" by operating a wet dry and a skimmer (millions do). There are a few approaches that would get you big help, but the best (that will also drop those not-really-so-important nitrates down) is to add a good quantity of live rock. Buy a box or two of cured rock and write me in a month or two to tell us how it's all going.

Question: I have a 65gal Reef aquarium and I have a question. My wet/dry has been working very well for about 2 years with very little problems. I have read that the bio balls should be removed from my system and also that they should be left in place. As stated before, I have had very little problems with my aquarium. There is currently about 65lbs of live rock in the tank. Any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Bob's Answer: Patrick and Tina... if all has been going well for two years why would you want to change anything? I wouldn't. Though bio-balls and other wet-dry media frequently ARE nitrate factories, and create some other induced problems, these are not necessarily damning (as you know). Your system has "adjusted" to the wet-dry media "effects" and therefore I wouldn't switch to a "Berlin" method at this juncture...

Question: I have a 375 gallon aquarium. It is a predator type tank. For filtration, I have a wet/dry filter rated at 2500 gallons, a large trickle filter and a U.V. sterilizer. I have 400 pounds of live rock. In the tank I have 1 large Red Sea Emperor Angel, 1 Regal Angel, 1 Blueface Angel, 1 Scribbled Angel, 1 Queen Angel, 1 Passer Angel, 1 Majestic Angel, 1 Radiata lionfish,1 Miniata Grouper, 1 Marine Betta, 1 10 inch Naso Tang, 1 7 inch Clown Trigger, 1 12 Niger Trigger, 1 Harlequin Tuskfish, 1 Black Ribbon Eel, 1 Hawaiian Dragon Eel and my favorite fish a 24 inch Tassel Wobbegong. My tank has been running for 1 year without any problems. Do I need to get a bigger tank for all those fish, and do I need to get any more filtration for my tank? I also want to get some more fish. Can I? Bob's Answer: The set-up sounds interesting, and though crowded and bizarre in it's assortment of livestock, if all are getting along (amazing) I wouldn't necessarily remove anyone. You definitely will have problems adding much of anything new to this system, and the Wobbegong (shark) is going to start eating its tankmates in future... Do you have a back-up (redundant?) filtration, circulation system? You should, and maybe an uninterruptible power supply (APC, UPS...).  

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