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FAQs on Reef System Maintenance 1

Related Articles: Reef Maintenance, Marine System Maintenance, Reef Set-Up, Refugiums, Reef Filtration, Vacations and Your Systems

Related FAQs: Reef Maintenance 2Reef Maintenance 3Reef Maintenance 4Reef Maintenance 5Reef Maintenance 6Reef Maintenance 7, Reef Maintenance 8, Reef Op. 9, Reef Op. 10, Reef Op. 11, Reef Op. 12, Reef Op. 13, Reef Op. 14, Reef Op. 15, Reef Op. 16, Reef Op. 17, Reef Op. 18, Reef Op. 19, Reef Op 20, Reef Op. 21, Reef Op. 22, Reef Op. 23, Reef Op. 24, Reef Op. 25, Reef Op. 26, Reef Op. 27, & Marine MaintenanceReef Systems 1, Reef Systems 2, Reef Set-Up 1, Reef Set-Up 2, Reef Set-Up 3, Reef Set-Up 4, Reef Set-Up 5, Reef Set-Up 6, Reef Tanks, Reef LightingReef Lighting 2Reef Filtration, & Reef LivestockingReef Livestocking 2, Reef Feeding,

It takes "stuff" to keep aquariums clean and running well.

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

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

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

Cyano... WWM 8/28/05 Hey guys...I really need advice.. I have had a small Cyano problems in one corner of my tank. I went away on a dive trip to Cancun/Cozumel and had my brother take care of the tank. When I got back Cyano was in one whole corner of my tank like never before. I really need a solution to get rid of this mess. It ever grows near the outlet of the powerhead so it cant be an issue with water flow. I've read that queen conchs are good for this. What organisms will eat this mess?? <Not many... read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bluegralgae.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Joe

Corals out of water - 9/14/05 Hi Mr. Fenner! <Paul here to help> Thanks for the last reply! I only forgot to ask about SPS and the water line. I know one should initially place corals 4" below surface and that is what I did. My Pocillopora is now noticeably growing. When I do my weekly water change it gets very close to the lowered water line. Within months I wont be able to do water changes without having part of the coral emerged. So is it bad to have a SPS coral (Pocillopora and Montipora species) partly out of the water for (at the worse) 30 minutes each week? <OK. Well, I have the exact same issue with the exact same corals. The short answer is for a short time, I would say I haven't experienced any issues with bleaching or color problems or anything of that nature. Any longer than that though, I would have to think you might see some issues. Now all this depends on the water replacement, health of the coral, lights on or off etc. I use raw natural seawater from Monterey Bay, I feed my tank a mish mash of Mysid shrimp, Cyclop-eeze, enriched brine, and other stuff, and I do try to water changes with the lights on but not always. Of course there are many more factors that I am sure could be an issue and/or might affect the corals ability to be above water for a short time. For some corals in the surf zone this isn't an issue, but the corals you mention aren't technically surf zone corals. Try and see. Let me know what you find. ~Paul> Thanks again!!! Dominique

Porcelain crab, refugium, etc.... not reading   1/22/06 WWM Crew, I recently purchased a 5 inch piece of Stylophora pistillata from liveaquaria.  The day after I got it I noticed what I believe is a porcelain crab.  He never comes out far enough to get a clean view.  He seems to be eating the brine shrimp plus that I give the fish.  Is there anything specific that I should be feeding him? <?> Also, do you recommend that I feed supplements to the corals I have and if so can you recommend some? <See WWM re> I also have 2 Acroporas and 2 Platygyra.  Everything is in a 75 gallon reef tank with an AquaC Remora Pro and Emperor 400 Biowheel.   Also, I want to add a refugium to this set up so I can add a mandarin in the future.  After much research, I have decided on building a 25-30 gallon DSB refugium that will sit next my tank.  It will be powered by an Eheim 1250 Submersible pump (317gph) and water will exit the refugium via gravity.  The refugium will probably be 2 inches above the main tank.  I want to section of part of the refugium, where the water enters, so I can add another protein skimmer.  I was looking at the AquaC Urchin and the AquaC EV120.  Would either of these be overkill, keeping in mind that I already have the Remora Pro?   <Mmm, not necessary> Also, would my Eheim pump be enough/too much to run this setup?   <Likely okay> I was planning on adding 3-4 inches of live sand, some live rock, a few shaving brush plants, and some Gracilaria.  Would you recommend any other kind of algae for pod growth? <Posted...> I want to run the setup on a reverse light cycle, what spectrum bulb would you recommend? <...> Lastly, I have heard that you should remove the bio-wheels on your filter once the refugium is going.  Why is this?   <Unnecessary, nitrate producers> Is there any disadvantage to leaving them on? Thank you guys for all your help! Tim <Thank you for following instructions, reading/searching WWM ahead of sending queries. Bob Fenner>

Inherited Tank 8/18/05 Hey Gang, <Howdy Judson, Ali here...> Great site and very helpful. <Thank you dear sir!> I have tried to find the answer to my question on your website and I did not see it so I thought I would ask you directly. I have a 29 gallon tank with about 15 med size pieces of live rock and about 2 1/2 inches of live sand. I have a SeaClone 100 protein skimmer, an Emperor 400 Bio-wheel, and a powerhead for additional circulation and a heater.   This tank was set up by someone who wanted to get out of the hobby and sold it to me. The lighting is pretty weak at only 2 florescent tubes. Your site has let me know that I will not be able to keep much in the way of corals at that light level. The live rock is covered in small patches of brown zoo corals and about 5 small clear anemones.   <Eeek! Try to get 'rid' of these anemones as soon as possible. Do a search on Aiptasia anemones and you'll soon see why.> I do have large patches of pink algae on the rocks, snails and powerhead. Tank inhabitants are one tomato clown, one blue damsel, one spotted hawk, 2 emerald crabs, about 5 small hermit crabs and about 10 small snails, One good sized brittle star and many small brittle stars living inside the live rock( I see the legs come out when I feed). I did not want to add anything until I know what I need to do.  Is this set up ok? <Sounds okay for this particular system. Removing the "bio-wheel" will help with nitrate issues a bit.> I also cleaned the protein skimmer last night and it had a lot of white things stuck to the sides of the tubes and all inside the skimmer. They were about the size of a match head. What are those? <Completely harmless. :) > When I got the tank, it only had about 1/2 inch of sand and after reading some of your articles, I added 20 more pounds of live sand bringing the sand bed to about 2 1/2 inches. <Good move Judson!> That was about a month ago and I have noticed that there are a lot of white worm looking things in the sand between the sand and the glass.  Is that good? What are they? Any suggestions on what other fish would work well? <Don't worry about these critters either, completely harmless and beneficial detritivores. Sounds like things are going really well Judson!> Any tips you could offer about what I should do will be greatly appreciated. Thanks...Judson <Continue to do your research Judson along with the regular water changes. :) Sounds as if you're quite excited about your new acquisition. Wonderful! Best, Ali>

Fatal Mistake 7/27/05 Hi guys,   <Hey, Mike G here this afternoon.> I just got back from a four day vacation and found that my reef tank had crashed.   <Ouch.> I lost my Xenia and a colt coral.  They appear to have completely melted away.   <Again, ouch.> I also have some mushrooms and star polyps. The mushrooms are bunched up tight and the star polyps won't come out. <Definitely a problem.> I didn't lose any fish.   <That's a good sign, and also helps to pinpoint the problem.> I suspect that my tank temperature may be the source of my crash.   <Agreed.> I forgot to leave the AC on and my tank temperature was at 95 degrees (F) when I returned (normally around 82 during the summer).   <Ouch, fatal mistake.> Would this alone be enough to kill off the corals? <Yes, it would. That is an extremely high temperature. Your tank should never go above 84 degrees Fahrenheit. Fish are much, much more resistant to temperature shock/high temperatures, so they pulled through. Your corals, however, were not so lucky.> Thanks for your help, <Glad to be there for you. Mike G> Eric

DSB, Corals and Fish - 06/27/05 Hello! (again) <<Howdy!>> I had emailed you earlier and had gotten a speedy response to my questions--thank you very much!  But, I am back again with more questions.  I do not have a tank yet, but it will be a 29 gallon tank with a DSB (5") and live rock.  The inhabitants will be some of the following, I haven't made a final decision yet--I know all of them will not fit in the tank--can you advise me which would be best inhabitants for my tank? <<Will give you my opinions, yes <G>.>> -pair of clownfish percula, false percula, or Clarkii <<In a 29 gal. these will likely become the "bullies" of the tank.  Many folks don't realize just how aggressive (and mean) clownfish can be.>> -pajama cardinal -mandarin fish--my favorite! he will be added at least six months later after my reef is ready <<Mandarins are NOT recommended at any point in time with this size tank...just not big enough to support a large enough colony of micro-crustaceans to feed/keep it alive.  The mandarin will slowly starve to death.>> -long nosed hawkfish--I am concerned that he will eat the shrimp. <<Yes, a possibility.>> -jawfish--another favorite -Banggai cardinal <<About the neatest "black and white" fish you'll find.  A bit more aggressive than the pajama cardinal, and as such maybe a better choice to house with the clowns.>> -pair of scarlet cleaner shrimp <<Beautiful crustaceans.>> -blue-legged hermits <<Hmm...if you must...>> -blue Linckia starfish---six months later <<Do look to the hardier Fromia species...Linckia starfish never seem to fare well/long in captive systems.>> -and a fish/invertebrate that will stir up my DSB <<With a sugar-fine sand bed this isn't really necessary...or even desired.  Bio-turbators such as the worms and micro-crustaceans that will naturally inhabit the sand bed will "stir" it enough.  Spend the money on ensuring adequate water movement (for betterment of ALL life in the tank) instead.>> I believe that the jawfish will not stir the DSB and from research that I need to stir the DSB in order to have a healthy bed--is this true? <<The jawfish will likely find a spot to its liking and dig/stay there.  In my experience you do not need to stir the sand bed.  Use a fine substrate that won't allow detritus to settle in and provide lots of water flow and all will be good.>> I am worried that those fish/invertebrate such as sand-sifting gobies and starfish will eat the beneficial organisms and those organisms are my only source of filtration! <<Not filtration so much, but VERY beneficial nonetheless.  And yes, gobies and especially a sand-sifting star, can decimate the fauna in a sand bed in a hurry.>> Is there an animal that will stir up the sand without eating my filter? --If such an organism is necessary. <<Not necessary re my earlier comments.>> I also am interested in adding soft corals such as: pulsing Xenia, Tubastrea, frogspawn, anthelia, and an anemone or hammer coral for my clowns--I think the Hammer coral might be a better choice because it will not eat my mandarin fish, but I like the look of an anemone. <<Anemones really do require specialized/specie specific tanks and expert care.  Please do restrain yourself from purchasing one.>> I think  that the Tubastrea may not be happy in my tank because it lacks the ability to produce zooxanthellae and prefers weaker lights in comparison to other corals. <<Another coral requiring specialized care.  Most starve to death from inadequate feeding.>> I am more confident that the other corals will be happy in my tank as long as they don't overcrowd and fight with each other for territory. <<They WILL fight...tis a fact of nature.  But as you already are aware, not overcrowding, along with proper filtration (skimming) and frequent partial water changes can mitigate the dangers.>> Will two 55 watt PC be enough for those corals? <<For what you have listed (excluding an anemone), yes, I would say so.>> The dimensions of the tank will be 30" long, 12" wide, and 18" deep.  I read in a book that this is the minimum requirement, and with my small budget I am hoping this will be suitable for those corals. <<Lighting is only part of the equation...proper feeding and water flow are just as important to coral health/color/survival.  Don't get too hung up on the lighting.>> But, if they need more light I will gladly purchase it for them. Of course, the corals won't be added to my tank for at least four months, and I will add them one at a time. <<Very good.>> Do you advise installing PC when I first get my tank, even though there won't be corals right away?  There will be live rock and fish- This is expensive, but changing from NO to PC may be more expensive then initially using PC. My concern is that the fish may not like such high wattage and that there will be more algae blooms. <<The fish won't mind the light at all...and algae will be controlled by not stocking the tank too fast, along with diligent husbandry/frequent water changes.  But most importantly, be sure to cycle the tank properly through the natural algae succession before adding ANY livestock.>> One last question...When I put the 10 pounds of live sand that Bob recommended for my tank, should I place it on the bottom layer of sand and the rest of the sand on top of it? Or should the LS go on top and the regular sand on the bottom? <<I would place the "live sand" on top.>> I also think that perhaps a mixture of crushed coral and "sugar sand" will not be as beneficial for filtration as a DSB of only sugar sand would be. <<Agreed>> But, won't the jawfish need substrate of different sizes? <<You can add a small amount (handful or two) of crushed coral/broken shells for the fishes benefit.>> Thank you very much for your time! I appreciate all your help as I am trying to learn from mistakes before I make them. Thank you very much again! <<Thank you for taking the initiative to ask BEFORE getting in to trouble.  Do have a search/read through our archives...much more "learning" to be had than what I can share here.>> Jennifer <<Eric R.>>

Snowstorm Hey there. I have a question about Calcium/Alk relationship in a 40g with 12 gallon sump/refugium. 3months old. over 4 inches of live sand (including sugar size aragonite) in tank and sump. 70# of live rock, with healthy coralline algae growth, SPS, LPS, and soft corals, lawnmower blenny, yellow tang, ocellaris, coral beauty, 2 peppermint shrimp, 2 cleaner shrimp, serpent star, long spiney urchin (HH), many hermits, snails, emerald crab, more HH crabs. I have macro algae in the sump/r and overall water flow of ~ 600 gph or more. running a Prizm skimmer. 200 watts of pc lighting. PH 8.2 (stable), temp 81-83, NH 0, NO2-0, NO3-10/15, calc 380-420. So here is what happened. This morning, just like every other morning, I checked the tank and prepared top off water (1/2 gallon) with 10ml each part of 2part calcium buffer. I added this to the sump slowly. Unlike an ordinary morning the ph meter did not rise to high 8's and then fall back to 8.2 and the whole system suddenly went milky. Now immediately I thought SNOWSTORM! and I read up on this on this site. I am not so sure though. So I checked calc again, its ~480, ph is 8.2 (verified with chemical test). I have not been testing alk, so I ran off and got a KH kit. Well hardness is 16-17, arrrgh. my bad for not testing this, definitely will now.  I have no idea what it has been running. It still does not make sense to me however. I thought that all of these measures could not be high at the same time. Also the Snowstorm did not look exactly like descriptions on this site (no flakes, just milky white). I changed 4 gallons of water and the tank has pretty much cleared up. Oh yes, I tested the hardness after the water change. it is presently at 16-17. Should I be concerned, and if so what would you suggest I do? thank you so much for your help in the past. this site offers invaluable education and piece of mind. <Robert, if the alk reading of 16-17 is dKH, then it is rather high.  Calcium and alk supplements do create a challenge.  If calcium levels get too high (over 500ppm) there will be a tendency for the alk to drop.  On the other hand, if alk gets too high, then calcium tends to precipitate out of solution.  I would get some Sea Chem Acid Buffer (freshwater product) and lower the dKH slowly over a few days.  Do not use full dose of this product as per instructions.  Quarter dose at most.  Don't add any calcium supplements until you get the dKH 8-12, then measure the calcium level and go from there.  Why the snowstorm, I don't know.  Personally, I don't like the two part supplements.  I think they are expensive for what your getting.  James (Salty Dog)> Robert

Fish tank, set-up, other very open-ended questions Hi there.   <Ho there> Could you please give me some advise. <Maybe advice> I have a tank measuring 96 length by 44 h by 44 w and what I would like to know is which pump would you recommend as I have a dolphin 4600 gallons per hr at the moment going from my sump through 2'' pipe and it discharges through six jets ? each at the top of the tank.  Also at the top there's 4 1 ?  returns or drainages going back to the sump.   The tank is a reef system.  Here are the problems that I'm having :  first of all is the pump big enough for this set up, <Mmm, likely so> also I was told to drill 2 holes side by side on each side of the tank and hook up a close loop system  for more flow if this is correct how big should the holes be and should I add more drainages from the tank to the sump?. <Well... you could drill holes... but if you think you might change your design, you could just run the return lines over the top... the four 1 1/2" lines should be fine... only actual operation will show> Or more jets going in and how big should they be? <What you propose is fine... some folks might make more discharges... but the final result will be about the same> The second problem I have is tiny air bubbles  so with the new sump that I'll be adding I'm thinking putting baffles in it to hopefully get rid of the problem. <This and the bubbles issue are covered on WWM> When there is a power failure the water overflows all over how big of  a sump should I get? <Large enough to handle the transit volume... can be calculated by measuring the space from your lower/est drain lines and the surface/top of the tank... multiplied... in inches, length times width, times height... divided by 231 to get gallons... give yourself a wide margin... some twenty percent or more... Or you can fill up, run, turn off your pump/s... mark the highest point in the main sump you will want to have your water... never fill more than this...> And also if you could advise on what you would do for quiet operation although it's not a big concern. <Can be a huge concern... again, covered on WWM...> How many lights should I have as at the moment I'm running 4 400w  m/h <Heeeeee. Please see WWM re> and last but not least I have problems with red slime algae I use r/o water  and my phosphates are at 0 please tell me how I should set up this tank as I want to do it properly without anymore problems thanks a lot <I'll bet... see WWM... keep reading. Bob Fenner> John

Opinions (I have a plenty!) - 06/25/05 Hey guys. <<Howdy>> Just wanted a professional opinion on my reef tank, what I'm doing wrong, right, or not doing.  my tank setup is as follows: 55 gallon, penguin biowheel200 filter, 60 gallon skimmer, under gravel filter, 60 lbs. live sand, 25 lbs. live rock, 260 watt lunar AquaLight, 56 watt t5, 40 watt fluorescent, of these 93 watts are actinic. <<Hate to see under gravel filters used in marine systems, especially reef systems.  It will pull and hold detritus in your substrate causing water quality issues...best to remove this.>> all water quality tests are good. <<Won't stay that way with the UG filter.>> livestock is as follows: 2 feather dusters, 4 turbo snails, 5 blue legged hermit crabs, brittle star, flame scallop, 4 damsels, yellow tang, tomato clown, snowflake eel, green open brain (on sand), elegance (in between live rock), colt (on live rock), moonstone (on live rock). <<Some problems here as well...the tank is too small for the yellow tang and the snowflake, even on their own...the flame scallop is doomed to starvation...the elegance coral is another questionable acquisition, and again likely doomed as well.>> I add distilled water for evaporation, calcium, strontium, trace elements, iodine, live phytoplankton, ZooPlex, feed fish flakes, feed coral scallops and shrimp. <<Do buffer your top-off water...only add elements you are testing for...I don't really see anything you need the phyto for, and the Zooplex is probably doing more harm than good.>> 10% water change a week. <<Excellent...this will likely provide all the calcium/trace elements you need.>> so just wanted to know how I'm doing, please be brutal, I want the best for my little bit of the ocean. <<Have been straightforward my friend <G>.  Please do research our FAQs re filter systems and tank setup, and do research your livestock before purchasing.>> thanks <<Regards, Eric R.>>

New tank questions Dear WetWebMedia crew, <Hi there> Hey guys. Thanks advance to take the time to answer my question. I've recently set up a new 40 gallon tank. I currently only have 45 lbs of live rock in the tank in order to cycle the water. That's it. My questions are as follows: 1) I have a protein skimmer. Should I run it now or wait until after the cycling is complete? <I'd run it now> Will it speed up or impede the cycling? <In the vast majority of cases it will speed it up> Does the timing change if I plan on having invertebrates later? <Not appreciably> 2) I've scoured your FAQs and remember seeing somewhere that you are not suppose to do any water changes until after the cycling is complete? Is that correct? <Mmm, no... best to measure aspects of water quality, do few changes, but not to let the water become/stay outright toxic from too much nitrogenous material, too little biomineral and/or alkaline content> My friend told me to do at least a couple 25% water changes before introducing fish. I need a second opinion. <His advice is good> The tank has been set up for about 2 weeks now. I'm trying to be as patient as possible and not rush anything. However two weeks of staring at my live rock search for signs of life is getting old if ya know what I mean. <Heeeee! Yes. Maybe a few visits to fish stores, others tanks...> I recently checked the ammonia level a couple of days ago and it came back at 2.0. <Keep this under 1.0 ppm> I'd really like to buy at least 1 green Chromis to put into the tank in about a week, just so that I have something to watch while the water cycles. Would that be ok? <Not a good idea> That's all the questions I have for now, but I'm sure I'll have more as things mature and get going. thanks a bunch, Hung Tran <Patience my friend... Bob Fenner>

Hi bob! my anemone again Hi Bob. first I'd like to thank you for answering my other 2 emails personally.  I was so honored!!  :-) <Mmm, thank you for writing> I took your advice and upgraded my pc lighting to 250W mini pendants, 14K Hamilton bulbs, purchased a 20 gallon life reef, custom made w/protein skimmer sump. two MaxiJet 1200 power jets and actually had to purchase a chiller .. to refresh your memory  I have a 72 gallon bow front, with live sand, 100 lbs of live rock, 2 tomato clowns, a flame angel, a blue eyed Anthias (which eats flake food, lucky me!), a black cap Basslet and a scopas tang, bleached BTA, a crocea clam, toadstool leather,  mushroom coral, frogspawn, red open brain, green mushrooms, 2 cleaner shrimp, various hermit, green and anemone crabs, some snails, 3 giant feather dusters and several peppermint shrimp.  Oh, and yes, I have not tried to capture the hairy teddy bear crab (a hitchhiker, but he seems to be harmless at this point). My water conditions are great, except 10ppm of nitrates. I guess I tend to overfeed.  I need some advice: 1. My BTA bleached white (the final straw, I upgraded my system).  She seems to be doing better; I shaded her for a week before letting light really get to her.  I feed her 3 times a week, different "fish", krill, Mysis, cod, we save little amts from dinner... she is still small, but her tentacles do puff up and she has a tad of color in her tips now. will she ever fully recover?   <Very likely so in your good care. Takes time... months> Hoo hum 2. I also have a green sponge growing all around her.  Seems harmless enough, will this effect her? <Maybe so... I would keep the sponge trimmed a few inches away> If this sponge will hurt her, how to get rid of it.?   <Best to use a siphon and single edged razor blades... if you can't easily lift the substrate/rock out it's attached to and scrub with a brush... with running (fresh) water...> The BTA will not move, is it possible for her to be "stuck". <Mmm, no> 3. I do have a problem w/brown slime every day.  It's so dam annoying. I do weekly water changes of 5 to 10 gallons, I use R/O water for top off, but use my well water (tests fine, no anything) for water changes...my R/O system is for my drinking water, therefore does not make enough for water changes. <Look here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/avoidingalgaeproblesm.htm Follow the links where you lead yourself... consider competing macro-algae use, perhaps a refugium with same and a DSB...> 4. Without a pic, I know this will be hard to determine, but on my live rock, over 60% of it, I have small, white, semi circles, they are hard, almost look like small feather dusters, but they are not.  My LFS (whom I've learned NOT TO TRUST) says they are harmless worm pods, and will bloom and then die off? <Mmm, no problem... likely sabellid worms... tube-building polychaetes... read about them on WWM... they're harmless to beneficial... will "go" on their own accord in time> I am concerned because of the clam. any comments? <Read> 5. I also have white tiny small bugs on the front of my tank.  I'm assuming some type of pod? <Or other smallish crustacean...>   They are very tiny, but I haven't seen any fish pickin at them.. 6. Last. I have detritus lots of it, in my water column. It's dam annoying also, any suggestions how to get rid of it..? <Better, additional mechanical filtration> Thanks BOB, you're the greatest, Loni <Glad to share. Bob Fenner>

Growing Algae In A Marine Tank...or...Build It And They Will Come! - 06/14/05 Good Afternoon from San Diego! <<Good evening from South Carolina!>> I've got a new marine tank. <<Congrats!>> It's been up and running for about 4 months, with the nitrification cycle completed about a month ago.  I use a canister filter, bio-wheel and 30 pounds of live rock for filtration, etc.  I'm planning on purchasing another 30 pounds Fiji rock soon, in 5-10 pound increments. <<All good...make sure you service that canister filter weekly/bi weekly at most.>> Three damsels currently reside in the tank as well.  The tank is only a 60 gallon - but seems to have good flow and current. <<Seems?>> The water quality is excellent - as far as readings from test kits, temperature and gravity goes.  I have taken advice of my veteran peers (on WWM) and do one small thing at a time - then wait, check readings, wait once more - then make the next move, etc.  It's a slow process - but a very enjoyable and satisfactory one at that! <<You are the exception my friend...I hope you are able to maintain your restraint!>> (FYI - I'm purchasing a protein skimmer soon) <<I would have done this before now.>> My question is about algae and live rock.  Would I need to encourage algal growth for the tank?  Would the live rock normally produce this? <<The TANK will normally produce this.   Have no fear, algae in one form or another will make itself known sooner or later.  For other than calcareous algae, most aquarists strive to prevent/restrict algae growth.>> I've had the rock in the tank for only a week.  In your forum, you mentioned many life forms could appear from the rock.  How long would that normally take to see growth from any form? <<This will depend on the quality of the rock...presence of grazers/predators...>> Even though I'm pleased with the water conditions, clarity is perfect, etc - I fear I may not be using adequate lighting, or the physical location of the aquarium may be poor.  Lighting is a 40W single fluorescent tube - a plant/aquatic type with 1600 lumens and 2700 color spectrum. <<Your fears are well founded here, you need better lighting for the rock's benefit.  My recommendation for this tank would be a minimum of two 65w 6500K PC lights.>> The tank itself is in a very bright room against the wall, sans direct sunlight.  I do not have/use a timer or regulated lighting schedule for the tank. <<Get a timer.>> Using this setup - not a speck of algae of any kind in the four months of operation.   <<Not surprised...your lighting is dismal.>> Maybe this is fine?  Well, possibly fine for the current venue with the damsels.  However, I feel if I were to move up to some other types of fish, I might need to get that algae growth going.  Is this true? <<This suspiciously sounds like you are thinking of Tangs.>> My hope is to eventually graduate myself into a reefer - well, that's a long ways down the road.  I'm enjoying being a novice at the moment! <<Ah...do strive to learn all you can BEFORE making the plunge.>> Anyway, what are your thoughts on my situation?  Is a tank without algal growth acceptable? <<Actually no...algae is a very natural/beneficial part of a marine system...the trick is to keep it from reaching nuisance/plague proportions. Will the live rock, after a time, produce desired algae? <<Very likely, yes.>> I will end up with 60-75 pounds of LR over the next few weeks. The desired product for the near future is FOWLR, consisting of a blue tang, fire angel, maroon clown, yellow tang OR butterfly, a couple Catalina gobies and a cleaner shrimp.  Too much bio-load for my setup perhaps? <<Yes...your tank is too small for the tangs.>> Is anything in this list a potential problem for others?  Or possibly too difficult for a beginner such as myself? <<Yes again...the Catalina gobies require much COOLER water temperatures (below 72 degrees) than the other fish...these fish are best kept in a temperate/species specific environment.>> Well, that's the plan for the short to medium term.  Long term, I'd like to move into a reef, but I know that will require substantial equipment upgrades, replacements, knowledge and so forth. <<You seem to have a good understanding of what's ahead...>> Am I fine with those livestock choices - or do their presence require more than I possess currently, in a non-algal environment?  Can they live happily without it? <<Dietary requirements for algae can be easily supplemented, but do rethink your stocking plan re this tank.>> Thank you and all the folks at WWM for your time!  The information you put out is a welcome - and comforting thing to a nervous and eager beginner such as me! <<Thank you...one more reason why we do what we do <G>.>> As always - I'll keep reading your forum.. <<Good advice for all.>> - Jim <<Regards, Eric R.>>

90 Gallon Reef Tank, nitrate 7/23/05 Hi Guys, I have a 90 gallon reef tank that has been up and running for over a year. All is well other than my feelings about my livestock and a possible overstocking issue. I currently have 5 small Green Chromis, 1 Neon Dottyback, 1 Lawnmower Blenny, 1 Malaysian Clown, 1 medium Hippo Tang, 1 Medium Sailfin Tang ( I know, but they seem to get along just fine :), 1 Six Line Wrasse,  1 Jawfish, 2 Black Ocellaris Clownfish, 1 Blackcap Basslet, and 1 Blue Chromis. That's right 16 fish in all. My corals include 1 HUGE Toadstool Leather, Ever reproducing POM POM Xenias, 1 Devils hand, 2 clusters of Sun Polyps, some star polyps, 1 Large Sebae Anemone, 1 Leather finger coral, Several Ricordea rock and mushroom rocks, some Seamat, and 130lbs of coralline encrusted liverock. I also have a cleaning crew of several Brittle/Serpent/Sand Sifting Starfish, many hermit crabs, a Sally lightfoot, Porcelain crab, Turbo Snails, 2 Cleaner Shrimp & 20 or so Nassarius Snails. (Hope I got that last one right :) <Quite an assemblage> I change 10 gallons of water every week religiously using R.O. only. My Ammonia and Nitrites are 0. PH is 8.4. Alkalinity is in the 200 range. Nitrates are currently in the 30ppm range most likely due to the bio load. I use the quick dip test strips several times a week. The corals are acting normal, Sun Polyps open in the P.M. all others in the A.M. when the actinics kick on. I feed sparingly, maybe too sparingly but I want to keep my water as good as possible. My question is, are my Nitrates too high? Should I downsize my bio load or change more water weekly. What do you think??? Thanks in advance..... Doug- <Sounds like a very nice, well-maintained/operated system... Nitrate concentration, as an abstract, concept... is "over-rated" in terms of its "importance"... I don't think its presence here is indicative of trouble, much stress. I've written re, following up on Tom Frakes (now out of Aq. Systems) piece/ideas re "Nitrate Menace" (in their qtrly. infomercial SeaScope)... not to worry. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Need of help (for operating a reef system...) First let me start by saying " I haven't a clue as to what I'm doing" I purchased a 150 gal reef tank two months ago, with a local saltwater service contracted to set up and maintain.  <Yikes... a big commitment... time, money, knowledge-development wise> They set up the tank, came back twice and I've never heard from them since. <What? The bums!> Meanwhile my tank is having major problems and I have no where to turn. The tank had been running for 3 years problem free, so we kept as much of that water as possible when we moved it.  <Mmm... the tank you bought two months back had been running for three years? Bought used I take it> I have 100lbs of live rock, 3 yellow tangs, 1 lipstick tang, 7 damsels, 1 goby, 2 clowns, 1 butterfly, 1 angel, 7 pink tipped anemone., 3 brittle stars and one reg star, and 2 peppermint shrimp. Now my problem, the lipstick who is about 8inches, my biggest, is laying down on his belly all the time, and very seldom swimming, and has some small red sores starting to appear, my tangs have drastically lost there color and appear to have microscopic black spots on them, and one has split fins, but they appear to be eating and acting all right.  <Stop! Do what you can to test your water quality, increase aeration. Do contact your local fish store, ask if there is a marine club in your area, beg, buy someone to come over to assist you, QUICK!> The two clowns are showing the same black spots but are otherwise fine. The Lipstick started acting funny 3 days ago and the others just started looking bad this morning. I read some of your other articles tonight and went ahead and gave them a freshwater dip, they all actually seem to be doing much better, but I'm sure its only temporary.  <Yes... the root problem/s are likely environmental... having to do with the set-up, maintenance...> I don't have a second tank, so cooper is not an option without losing my rock and stuff, Please advise me as to what I might try, also advise me as to what type of fish or shrimp I could buy that would help to rid my tank of any infestations, any help you can give will be greatly appreciated, as I said I never intended to try this on my own, but I'm now forced to, the service I had hired is the only one for 65 miles around me and my tank is already running, so I guess I'm ready to learn, PLEASE HELP!!!! Jim <Only you can help your livestock. At this point, junction, not likely with only your involvement on-site. Call, contact the avenues mentioned and keep us informed. Bob Fenner>

Bioluminescence Hi, how are you? <very fine, thank you. I hope you read this in good health and spirit. Anthony> My question: At night when we turn off the lights in the tank, after about 5 minutes, we start to see little almost green sparkles, or little lights shine in the tank. Sometimes it lasts for almost a minute, and sometimes the little "lights" move. What is this?  <a magnificent marvel of nature... the living fireworks of bioluminescence. More than a few marine organisms can do this, but you most likely are observing tiny starfish doing it. They do it for various reasons (fright/feeding/mating/unknown)> I have searched on your site for any answers and I couldn't find anything. Thanks for any info. you have. : - ) Marci <I'm just going to guess that you have live rock (or perhaps some wild sand) from the Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico (perhaps aquacultured rock?). Many such stars come from this region. I have fond memories of live rock shipments being put away late nights in my greenhouse (nearly dark) and pulling handfuls of these creatures from the bottom of boxes to have them light the dark night in my hands... just flash and sparkle. Truly a marvel of nature. Another reason to count yourself blessed, my friend... few people ever get to see this. Anthony>

Need some help again!!! <don't we all?...hehe. Anthony> I have an 80 gallon reef tank with about 100 lbs of live rock. No sump. A Remora protein skimmer which is rated to 75 gallons. Just added two 175 watt German halides. <sounds like a very nice start, although a second or larger skimmer might be nice> I have been getting a lot of red slime algae and in addition, lately some dark brown/green looking algae on the bottom.  <Hello! more skimming <smile>> Additionally, there are thousands of bubbles covering the bottom and some of the rocks. What produces the bubbles? <first guess is that your MH bulbs are on too long... 6-9 hours is fine (less if indirect sunlight). But if you are on the higher end of an 8-12 hour photoperiod with halides, hollow O2 bubbles!> I assumed this was all due to insufficient skimming. I checked nitrates and they're at 10 PPM. Would not nitrates be higher if my problem was a surplus of organics?  <means nothing... you likely have enough dissolved organics to feed the nuisance algae. In an 80 gallon tank, you should be able to collect 4-8 oz of dark skimmate daily. Is this so? If not, perhaps better tweaking of the skimmer is needed. Such skimming daily for 2-3 weeks alone will get rid of that algae> Is lack of skimming the most probable cause of the above? <yes, sir> As I had mentioned previously, I had been ignoring my alkalinity and I found it to be terribly low. I am in the process of correcting the problem. Have alkalinity up to 2.2 milli equivalents, however now my PH has shot up to 3.6!! Help!!  <I suppose that is a typo and you meant 8.6...an if so it is perfect (not high at all). *.6 by day and no lower than 8.3 in the dark night is ideal> I have been using the Red Sea fish Pharm alkalinity test kit. I'm not sure I can rely on the accuracy. Any suggestions for a better test? < a tough call... colorimetric tests are so subjective. I'd recommend buying a digital pH meter...especially if you expect to stay in the hobby for some years. You can even get a digital pen for around $50 although I like the handheld meters better ($ 80-120)> Once again, your patience with this novice is appreciated. <truly my pleasure. Kind regards, Anthony>

Amphipods, Copepods, and Diatoms Oh My! I am in the process of cycling a 100 gallon salt water tank. I added some live rock about a week ago. Yesterday I noticed little (hardly can see) white bugs on the glass, rocks, and gravel. (Are these critters ok?) <Yes, they are OK and a good sign of quality live rock.> I have one more question concerning a brownish film that is beginning to grow on my live rock. Is this okay? <This sounds like diatoms and is completely normal for a new tank.> If not should I try to remove it from the live rock? <No need. They usually die out on their own after the first month.> (I don't want it to kill the purple and pink algae.) I currently have my lights on for 12 hours, should I reduce this until the tank cycles? <No, you can leave this natural light cycle alone. Please read through some of the FAQ's about live rock here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/MarInd5of6.htm> Thank you, John. <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Rock and Feeding questions Hello Mr. Fenner , <Greetings, my dear... Anthony Calfo in your service> I'm new to the Reef Hobby, and I've been doing a lot of reading on your Web Site. Great Site, specially for newbies like me. I've done some research, and I know that Live Rock shouldn't be added to the reef tank, unless it's previously cured, However, How bad would it be to add it , maybe 5lbs at a time, if possible?? <if it is uncured...never in any quantity... it is too risky regarding stress, disease/infection and nutrients that cause nuisance algae. However, if it is truly cured live rock... the more you add the better!> I also have a question about feeding. I feed my livestock every other day (formula1, and brine shrimp cubes dissolved in water) 1 big squirt (from Turkey Baster) <feeding is a bit too light and your animals will definitely starve slowly by attrition with brine shrimp being a significant part of this infrequent diet. Frozen adult brine shrimp are remarkably deficient in nutritive substance. Try Mysid shrimp, or fine plankton (Pacifica) instead for a whole prey substitute> I also feed phytoplankton twice a week. <absolutely useless for the animals that you have listed below with the possible exception of the feather worm...and even that is debatable...more likely feeds by absorption and by mucosal capture of bacteria and the like> Do you think this is sufficient. I don't want to unnecessarily pollute the tank <I must admit that I think you are with the phyto...your animals are all zooplankton feeders or "other" filter/organismal feeders> I have 1 Torch Coral<feed fine shredded meats 2-3 times weekly> 1 Tridacna Clam <what species?> 1 feather duster 1 Yellow Tang <heavy greens needed will suffer on meats. Try Formula 2 and dried Nori seaweed for starters> 1 Bicolor Angel <same as tang> 1 Flame Angel <same as tang> 2 Percula Clowns <eats meaty foods/zooplankton> 1 Orange Spotted Blenny 1 Catalina Goby 1. Flame Head Goby My Tank has been set-up since November. I have a 75G tank with 50 lbs of live rock Fiji, and Marshall /lots of holes and caves) from my LFS . An Amiracle Wet Dry, with UV sterilizer and Custom Sea Life In sump skimmer. <does your skimmer actually produce 4-8oz of dark skimmate daily? If not, you can expect nuisance algae in the near future> All my water parameters are in acceptable ranges , Ammonia:0, PH: 8.0, Nitrites: 0, Nitrates:10 <whoa! common problem...pH is too low. Get that up over 8.3 please> I just started Using a 2-Part Liquid Kent Calcium Doser to encourage Coralline growth , Do you think this is OK, <yes, a nice product... but before you begin using, you must confirm/correct alkalinity and free calcium into reasonable ranges (8-12 dKH and 380+ppm respectively> Any additional items that could improve my setup? <a second/better skimmer> My ultimate goal is to remove the bio balls and convert to a sump with Live rock, but after reading a little, I don't think I have enough Live rock, yet to support the Bioload. <agreed and agreed> That's the reason, why I want to add (Gradually ) more live rock I just don't know how to go about it. Sorry for so many questions <thank you for caring to hear a shared opinion. Kind regards, Anthony> Thanks Maria

CO2 and plants question Hi Bob, We have a debate brewing on Seahorse.org regarding plants Expiring CO2 in the evening, as a reciprocal process to photosynthesis. Is this true?  <Sort of. The vast majority of plants, algae, other photosynthetic life do produce more carbon dioxide during "lights out" (the so-called dark reaction/s) than oxygen production> Do plants actually give off CO2 when the lights go out.  <Yes> I have never heard of this, and the people purporting it are basing the info on the fact that pH changes in the evening (we are talking about marine environments here, but I do not think that matters). I was always under the impression that the pH shifted in the evening because the carbonic acid released during photosynthesis was no longer being produced. <Mmm, no> What is the truth of this issue?? Cheers, Christopher Burns Curator Seahorse.org <Be chatting my friend. Bob Fenner>
Re: CO2 and plants question
Interesting! Is there some botanical term for the "dark reactions"? This is very illuminating, no pun intended! :> <Ah, do think, use the term "dark reaction/s of photosynthesis" myself. See here: http://esg-www.mit.edu:8001/esgbio/ps/dark.html Bob Fenner> Cheers, Chris

Sound/Noise Level in my aquarium Mr. Fenner, I am an "intermediate" level marine aquarist from New Hampshire. I have been reading "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist" and so far am very happy with it. I had this thought for some reason about sound in the system and was wondering if anyone (you :-) has done studies on the effects of noise levels in an aquarium. I was wondering in passing how loud my system might be compared to how loud it might be living on an actual reef. It strikes me that what SOUNDS like an almost silent set up must be like living in the loading house for a giant roller coaster to the inhabitants. Have you looked at this ever? <Not myself, but have read, heard others speculations re over the years> What are your thoughts. Could life be improved if I had no pumps and just shook my tank up every time I walked past to keep the water moving (that was a joke ;-). OR maybe the reef is actually louder than an aquarium. <Reefs are indeed noisy places at times> Not being a diver I have no way of really measuring. I guess it might be somewhere in the middle maybe. Whereas the aquarium is something close to a constant noise level, a reef probably fluctuates with the conditions on the surface. Maybe there are some real lulls and then some REALLY loud episodes as hurricanes pass by. <Assuredly, you are correct> At any rate, I just thought it would be fun to email the author and pretend to be intelligent. I guess with my current set up...it is what it is....next time I might try a pure live rock/sand set up with nothing but lights for noise and a big Orbic Batfish to stir the water :-). I love that fish. Wesley Sonner <You will do well my friend. Bob Fenner>

A Question of Algae Eating Inverts Dear Robert, <You reached Steven pro today, filling in for Bob.> Thank you for answering my last question. I now have another question. I have hair algae problem, in my 29 gallon tank, can I put red legged hermits with my live rock? Will they destroy my rock? <Scarlet red reef hermit crabs are one of my favorites. They are pretty much strictly algae and detritus feeders. I have never had any problems with these, unlike the blue legged hermit crabs.> I do have a sally light foot crab and was thinking that I should put an emerald crab to help control the hair algae. I know that it is a possibility that they will fight or kill each other, but is this usually the case. <Hard to say for sure. That is why there is a difference in the articles you have read. I would probably advise against both in a 29. Less room for one to get away.> In some articles that I read says that they have different habits and don't usually bother each other. My tank has plenty of hiding places and live sand if that helps any. I do want some more inverts in my tank, what is the route that you would take in my situation. I won't hold you responsible for any decisions that I make, so please give any advice or info that you have. Thanks <I hope I have been helpful. In recap, Scarlets yes, emerald no. -Steven Pro>

Re: weird Bob, When the sunlight hits my tank at the right angle, I seem to be able to see the water teaming with zillions of tiny white filaments. They look like tiny short white hairs and only if the light catches the water just right, though they are invisible the rest of the time. The last time I observed this was just before my battle with cloudy water began....Any idea what it is? Any cause for concern? <Very likely a population of varying density of polychaete worms. No problem as long as not too many/concentration> On a lighter note, I've taken some WWM advice and I just ordered some macro algae. Also some tiny algae grazing hermit crabs & snails to try to keep the less desirable algae down. (Hope they do not also snack on Caulerpa??) Thanks, -Pat <You will see. Bob Fenner>

sand bed cleaning I got a question regarding hydro-cleaning a sand bed. I've got a 125gal tank with about 5-6in of fine (sugar sized) sand. I haven't vacuumed it for about three months because I've been attempting to 'automate' the process by employing a highly diverse and strong fleet of detritivores (spaghetti worms, amphipods, copepods, Mysid, cucumbers, micro stars, brittle/serpent). regardless of how great the system sounds on paper it just doesn't work well enough. so no im stuck with ultra fine sand that needs to be hydro-cleaned.  <Or stirred perhaps... not shaken, call me Bond> can you recommend or point me to a place where I could get a cleaner designed to get waste and not sand? I've heard that they exist, but are pretty expensive. id rather DIY the vac. <This can be done... easy enough to build a large enough diameter gravel vacuum... that you can "fine tune" the flow with so you don't suck out the fine substrate...> anyways im struggling with a dissolved organics issue and im left with few options. <Why?> im doing frequent, large water changes 50% every week <This is too much> and I vacuum out large patches of Cyanobacteria and other slimes/algae's. so at least the organics locked in them are out of the system.  <99.9 some percent water...> also I harvest my Caulerpa tank regularly, sadly that's the only thing that is enjoying the sewage issue. oh, and the bio load exerted by my livestock is medium-low. god, I hate vacuuming tanks... it looks like my quest for a (mostly) carefree system got me into trouble. thanks Jon trowbridge <Time to investigate your options a bit more... do post your query, situation on our chatforum: http://talk.wetwebfotos.com/ Bob Fenner>

reef ADDITIVES Hello Dr. Fenner, <<Greetings, JasonC here filling in for Bob who's away diving>> My name is Anne Marie and I just started reefkeeping and my head is already spinning with so much conflicting information and I have already burnt much money. <<this is not an unusual trend, unfortunately>> GARF advised me to use a whole list of SeaChem products (Reef Calcium, Reef complete, Reef builder, ReeFadvantage calcium, etc.) as weekly additives as well as in my makeup water. My local aquarium store told me that Kalkwasser drip was the way to go. I started one thing and then I start then next, I get unsure. Which is best, most economically, easiest, etc. Trying to do web research-hard with young kids. Can you set the record straight for me. Im only doing soft corals. Can you explain it so a beginner can understand. <<as much as I'd like to just spill everything I know, I'm not sure I can give it fair treatment in a single email. Granted, there is much to know, and it can become overwhelming. If the web doesn't suit your research, perhaps a book or two is in order [shameless plug for Bob's book "Conscientious Marine Aquarist"] There are many, and it wouldn't hurt to have more than one. Once you find yourself with a book on the topic, you will find that there are many ways to produce the same end, and to this point is why you've heard so many ways to accomplish your goals. The problem [or is this a challenge] is to find the mechanisms that work best for you and your situation and stick to that. As for the calcium additions, my opinion [and this will be a third] is to not use Kalkwasser, but use a two-part calcium and buffer solution and apply as directed. The two-part solutions that are out there work quite well [there are several, and SeaChem has one] and keep the method simple - just add the recommended parts daily, before the lights come one.>> thanks!!!!!!!!! <<Good luck, cheers. J -- >>

Marine Pests--please help Hi Mr. Fenner <Hello> Re--pest problems I am new to your site and to marine reefs. I am just getting started but I have finished cycling and have added rock, sand, a few fish and a few corals. One of the rocks I purchased has a small Anenome and also what I believe to be a large bristle worm. The rock has been in the tank for 2 weeks and although I have removed it now, I am concerned my tank is infected. <Very possibly if what you refer to as "infected" is having other anemones and bristleworm species... Almost all systems have these.> There is one other specimen on the rock I cannot identify--Ill try to describe it: Adherent to the rock are 2mm X 3mm darker colored bases from which protrude a 1/2 mm in diam and about 3mm long bright orange tubular structure. There are at least 10 scattered on the rock. I am assuming with my luck so far that these are more pests and probably all over my tank now. <Mmm, not "pests" per se... "more life"... A good lesson for many in aquarium keeping is the abandonment of a "didactic view" of their universe... there are not "good/bad guys" cleanly divisible into categories of "desired"/"hated"...> Do you know what these are?  <Not from this description... could be worms of many sorts, Mollusks, some sorts of stinging-celled life... but very likely not "pests"> Can you recommend an army of cleaner creatures in any combination that I can introduce to the tank to beat these pests (and others I don't even know about) back before they begin to multiply? <Could not, would not> Any reef fish that would be good for this? <Best to relax, enjoy your system, study at this point... No reason to worry... Worrying will not change the future. Leave these animals be. Bob Fenner> Thank you for your time--Marty Freeman

Water Top Off Hello Mr. Fenner or Jason, whom ever it may be :) << Jason here, I'm sure Bob says hi too >> I have a question I was hoping you might be able to answer for me. I am setting an automatic top off system for my 75 gallon tank. I have a bucket that hold five gallons of RO water ready to fill the sump when the level goes down. My question is this: Do you know if it is OK to add a 2 part solution for Alk and Ca (am using b-ionic) to the top off water? I loss about 1/2 to 1 gallon a day (depends on the heat of the day). If you have any knowledge of people doing this with success could you drop me a line and let me know? Thanks in advance! Josie << It's my sense that Kalkwasser is a better item for use in the top-off system that you describe than a two-part system. I also checked ESV's web site [http://www.esvco.com/prod6.htm] for the directions for the B-Ionic. They don't mention use of the two part in a dosing system. I would probably just add the two-part as usual, and do the top off as it's own entity. Perhaps consider Kalkwasser as an augment if you can't say ahead of the calcium demands of your tank. Cheers - J-- >>

Carbon Dioxide Infusion (Marine) Hi Bob, I read some books which strongly recommend the use of carbon dioxide infusion system for reef system so as to provide enough CO2 for coral growth. What is your opinion? <Hmm, a very useful adjunct. We ran such on our coral farm, and have seen other facilities, "serious" hobbyist culture systems with the same around the world... for photosynthetic species. Don't have an article on CO2 for marine use per se on our site (www.WetWebMedia.com), but you can use the Google Search Feature there to find bits, FAQs on the topic. Bob Fenner> Regards, David Chow

Mold Bob, I hope you had a great 4th of July. I have a quick question for you. My 90 gallon has a stained pine canopy, underneath where my PC lights are I am getting a lot of mold on the wood. <Just algae hopefully... have you looked for mycelia under a scope?> Aside from looking disgusting what implications might this have? <Likely no problem... but I'm always leery of more fungal spores in the air (and your lungs)> and what is the safest way to rid the wood of this? <Take it down, wipe it with a cloth/paper towel (unplugged and cooled-down), and if really grungy with a bit of bleach, then with a few water-damp cloths, then let air dry before reinstalling> I am getting concerned.... Any ideas? Thanks much as always. regards, Pete <Be chatting, and breathing my friend. Bob Fenner>

Reef tank "cloudiness" Bob, Over the last few days I have noticed my tank seems to be cloudy. It looks like thousands of little white particles floating all over the tank. Do you know what it might be?  <Perhaps "plankters" of some sort... maybe a "reproductive event" of like origin from some of your intended or not livestock... maybe a re-make of Peter Pan vis a vis Mike Eisner's crowd... could be a few large categories of possibilities here...> I did a water change two weeks ago and have kept up on my chemical additives. Also my arrowhead crab died 4 days ago and there seems to be some thin mucus covering my corals this morning after I added some Kalkwasser water last nite. Please help me figure what it might be before I lose anymore pets . Thank You, <Oh... could now be many small organisms feasting on the chemical remains of the crab... precipitate from the Kalkwasser dosing... a minor "re-cycling" from the water change, something toxic therein... I would add a mechanical filter (like a Diatom, you may be able to rent one from a LFS for the purpose, or a canister, outside power filter... and use a powerhead, small submersible pump to keep this dust stuff stirred up to aid removal... and otherwise, "just wait". Bob Fenner> Jason
Re: Reef tank cloudiness Bob, Last question, should I do a water change or "just wait". <Just wait my friend. Too much likelihood of amplifying your problems with more change here. Bob Fenner> Thanks again, Jason
Re: Reef tank cloudiness
Bob, Its been about 48hrs and everything looks ok except my maze brain coral which seems to be turning white, does that mean it is dying and if it is should I take it out?  <Could "just" be very stressed... I would leave it be unless there are obvious signs that its demise is polluting the tank "too much"... as in too high ammonia readings (more than 1.0ppm let's say) or your other livestock are apparently suffering... it may rally> Also my long tentacle anemone seems to be moving slowly. I think I had a calcium burn. What should I due next time to avoid this problem, do you suggest C-Balance by Two Little Fishes and CombiSan and discontinue the Kalkwasser?  <The last thing I suggest is Kalkwasser... two part supplements for alkalinity, biomineral are fine... please read over the "pH, alkalinity, calcium, calcium reactors..." sections on the www.WetWebMedia.com site... you need more background, input... Bob Fenner> I only have a 40 gallon tank so I do not have room for much equipment, plus $$. Thanks again, Jason

Worm id, shedding shrimp, algae and skimming... I am the one with the 37 gal. tank and the tang problems... This morning I noticed 7 white blades of grass?? (1 1/2 inches long)--- growing from a live rock, it looks like the cleaner shrimp antennae. Is it a plant or some form of algae? <Mmm, strange as this may seem, this is very likely the feeding apparatus of a "spaghetti worm"... a type of tube dwelling sedentariate polychaete annelid... you can see a pic of one of these in the wild on our site: http://wetwebmedia.com/worms.htm> Also, do cleaner shrimp shed their skin like a snake? <Sort of... their ecdysis includes their entire exoskeleton> I saw what I thought was skeleton skin from a shrimp. <Leave it in there for a few days... often the shedding animal will consume a good part of same to help in making the new one> Every week I have to clean off brown algae from my glass tank and one dead coral. I am putting in a protein skimmer today and was wondering if that would help control the algae. <Absolutely... likely the "best" single improvement to reduce nutrients that fuel pest algae growth> I'm not sure what the protein skimmer does besides take the extra protein out of the water.... does it just help keep the water quality better. or does is affect the ph of the water? <Both. And this issue covered under "Physical filtration" on the WWM site. Bob Fenner> Many questions, <Indeed, a life time of them> Thanks, Cheryl

Detritus Question Bob, I swapped emails with you a few weeks ago regarding an entrenched parasite problem I have with my 75g reef tank. The problem was so bad that I lost all my fish and am now in the process of letting the tank go fallow. At this point I have a couple of LPS and soft corals, 4 shrimp, numerous snails and hermit crabs, 75# of live rock, and 40# of aragonite live sand. I have built-in DAS biological filtration and air-driven protein skimmer units that came with the tank. I replace the airstone about once a week. One oddity is that sometimes the skimmer produces an abundance of bubbles and percolates at a high rate and sometimes it doesn't percolate at all - even with a new air stone. <You are witnessing a rhythm... of your small and the larger universe, my friend> My question for you at this point is regarding detritus. I assumed that with the absence of fish that my detritus accumulation would be less than with the fish. However, my detritus accumulation is worse now than it was when I had fish in the tank. What is your educated opinion on what could be producing an overload of detritus that essentially covers my sand substrate on a daily basis and any thoughts on how I might be able to reduce the volume of detritus? <Many inputs, living and not... and without the fishes to help sort it out, push it around... A possible MSc or PhD thesis?> Thanks, Rocky Phillips <Press on my friend. Bob Fenner>

Skimmer, vacation, planning, PA First the details. I have a 150 gallon reef tank that is about 3 months old. I have a deep sand bed with a plenum. About 200 lbs of live rock. I have a sump with a 900 GPH recirculating pump. Five power heads (three on a wave timer) . I dose Kalkwasser and strontium. My water parameters are great. No algae problems, and lots of coralline algae. I use a Kent RO and have float valves for auto top off. I have a Berlin turbo skimmer that I run continuously. I have two 175 Coralife MH and one VHO Actinic. It has the usual clean up crew (hermits, snails, shrimp, stars etc.) It also has 14 very small tank raised soft coral frags. The only fish are three Percula Clowns. I change 5 gallons of water every week. <Sounds very nice> Now for my question. I am going on vacation for a week (in April) and I am having my daughter attend to the tank. I have a float switch plugged into a second float switch for auto top off, which means two switches would have to fail for a flooding catastrophe. I will leave her 5 one gallon containers of RO in case anything else happens to the auto top off. I will have food portions ready for her and have her feed the clowns. The tank pretty much runs itself, except for one thing. The skimmer. It is very dependable and rarely needs adjustment. I have the scum cup drain hooked up to a 2 litre bottle that she will empty every day just to play it safe. However, every once in a while (twice in three months) the skimmer gets a mind of it's own and starts to flood or put out allot of thin liquid foam.  <This happens... maybe a one gallon plastic milk bottle would be better?> It is never enough to cause a problem if checked every day. However I'm not sure my daughter would understand the operation enough to make adjustments. I have several choices. I can leave for vacation with the skimmer operating at normal flow and tell her to just pull the plug on the skimmer if anything goes wrong. Or I could turn down the flow, which would make the skimmer run much less efficiently, but would be less likely to go haywire. With such a light load, would it be better to turn down the flow and have the skimmer definitely run less efficiently for 7 days, or let it run at full flow and take a chance that it may end up being shut off for 5 or 6 days? <I would do the latter here myself.... and if you are familiar with a person/people in a local fish shop, hobby group, fellow marine aquarist, give your daughter their phone numbers, introduce them... and make them give you the "do no harm" affidavit...> While I do empty and clean the cup every two or three days, I think the tank has a pretty good balance because I could probably run for 5 or 6 days without emptying the cup. I guess what I am trying to ask is how detrimental would it be to shut off the skimmer for a week, if I would do several 5 gallon water changes before I leave and perhaps two when I get back. (one AM and one PM). Thanks for your help Frank, Red Hill, Pa.  <The turning off the skimmer, will not be a problem at this point for this system and its inhabitants... there is very little chance of something going "terribly wrong" as far as I can tell here... No worries. Enjoy your trip> PS: I was so focused on describing my question that I forgot to mention what a fabulous web site you have. I just discovered it several days ago and keep going back to read it more. It is unbelievably informative. <Ahh, thank you so much... And I will be out in PA in a couple of months, giving talks at the local marine club (PMAS) and the freshwater group (on koi selection, breeding). Perhaps I'll see you there, or Elmer's, or one of the other shops. Bob Fenner>

Fish and the art of learning the hard way... Dear Mr. Fenner, Thanks for the invaluable resource your book provides. It is well written and just packed full of information for neophytes like myself. I have read your Ich FAQ's and have found the information insightful, however I would like to ask a series of questions specific to my current situation and have your opinion on it, if you wouldn't mind. <Thank you, and please go ahead> I have a 60 gallon saltwater set up, about 8 weeks old. It has an Emperor 400, and an inadequate (only temporarily as it will be upgraded Tues. 12/26 protein skimmer). The current, columnar skimmer is rated for a max of 50 gallon tank size, and I have heard that air driven skimmers are notoriously hard to adjust.  <Only some... more often, they're just more trouble maintenance wise... mainly their airstones need constant checking... occasional cleaning, replacement... that and once a month or so scrubbing of contact chambers and collection cups...> A Remora from FFExpress is on it's way. There are also two Rio 600's and one 800, providing circulation. It has a 220W CF with 50/50 actinic/10k light setup. It is packed with live rock and more recently a variety of polyps, mushrooms and other soft corals, all of which appear healthy and growing. Just last weekend I added a nice selection of Macroalgae which seems to be growing at surprising speed. There is also an annoying and fairly consistent BG algal bloom - which I hope will be abated by my live rock and macro algae. Yesterday, I registered a fairly increased (20ppm) level and did a 4 gallon water change. I did another today and registered no ammonia, nitrite or nitrate levels. <Yes, the BGA will go of its own accord with the path you're set on> I introduced a Blue Gudgeon about week four, with apparently no ill effects. However, and probably unwisely, I added 3 new fish a couple of weeks later. A Maroon Clown, a Royal Gramma and a Bicolor Blenny. The second night after introduction, the Clown took to one of the caves I constructed in the corner of the tank. He ate a bit, only what drifted into the cave and "disappeared" the following day. Thinking that he was dead I moved and rearranged rock until I found him, hidden. He had a few isolated white dots on him so I hastily assembled a 10 gallon with a Whisper II (sans all but floss media) a heater, lid and light.  <Reverse order (introduction/extraction and treatment), I'm sure you'll agree> I added copper (up to 3.0 as the literature recommended (CopperSafe) and started a broad-spectrum antibiotic treatment (Triple Sulfa) <Not an antibiotic (sulfa drugs), but I understand... and not suggested/necessary.> a day later. The ich symptoms seemed to disappear, although the fish's listlessness did not. Its rapid respiration rate and excess mucous production seemed very much like the symptoms described as Brooklynella.  <Possible... and possibly you're between infective stages with either Amyloodinium, Crypt... or a combo...> I ceased the copper addition, added fresh carbon and did a 50% water change on the tank, leaving it until a negligible copper reading registered (during this time the Clown was given a 10 minute fresh water dip).  <All this "a day later"?> I then added Formalin (two drops per gallon) and started to follow the regimen recommended on the product's label. I did a 1 gallon water change every other day adding two drops of Formalin for the water added, careful to keep track of ammonia levels. The Clown remained listless and indifferent to food so I again started the antibiotic treatment on 12/23. The poor Clown eventually expired early Christmas morning. Do you have opinions or recommendations in the aftermath of this poor creature's demise? I'm particularly fond of the maroon clowns (esp. Yellow Line/Stripe Maroons), and I hope I might raise a spawning pair one day. (I've had much success spawning African Cichlids in the past) <Well... like the stocks I wish I had/not... woulda/coulda/shoulda... you might have done a prophylactic freshwater dip on the new fish livestock, quarantined them and/or at least let the CopperSafe product run the requisite two weeks, left out the sulfa (who told you to use this?)... Check with your dealer re whether their Clowns are infested with Velvet, Brooklynella, or....> On with my saga... A day or so (12/21)after I removed and isolated the Clown, I was watching the Gramma and the Blenny. I saw the Gramma scratch itself and was concerned. <Me too... ever find yourself not wanting to continue exposure to a story?> While I know that some fish occasionally scratch, I know that extended scratching usually indicates a condition irritating to the fish. I tested the water and found no appreciable toxin levels. I continued to observe the Gramma. It scratched itself 3 times during a 45 minute period and the Blenny also scratched. I immediately (although with some difficulty) removed the two fish from the 60 gallon and put them in a separate 20 gallon set up with a Whisper II (w/floss media) some PVC pipe sections (elbows and joints) a heater, top and light strip. The Blenny acted quite strangely, racing about the tank in apparent panic, so I added a small piece of lace rock to the right back corner of the tank. Both fish and that rock have been inseparable, although the Blenny has shown a recent interest in the PVC joints. I maintained the SG at .019-.021 and allowed it to creep slowly up to about .023 on the 25th. On 12/21-22 I maintained the copper level at 0.3ppm and from 12/23-25 at 0.25ppm. On 12/24 I measured the ammonia and found it at 2.0ppm, I immediately did a 4 gallon water change. A couple of hours later, it registered 0.50ppm and I did another 4 gallon water change. On 12/25 the ammonia registered 1.0ppm and I did a five gallon water change. What would account for such high ammonia readings? I carefully net and remove all uneaten food and fish excrement. I feed lightly as well. <Hmm, the loss of nitrifying microbes from... the manipulated spg, copper...> Both fish seem rather bored, especially the Blenny. It eats normally and shows good color (as far as I know how Blennies show color) as does the Gramma, but its morale seems low. The Blenny was an active algae grazer in the 60 gallon and although food containing algae was introduced, it doesn't have that luxury in the quarantine tank. We've been scraping the 60 gallon's glass and capturing the algae in the net, feeding it to the Blenny for the past couple of days.  <No... the parasitic problem, if it exists (likely) is IN YOUR SIXTY... and you're continuously restocking it in your quarantine/treatment tank...> He eats it avidly. They have exhibited no scratching behaviors (wait, it is 11:05pm 12/25 and I just saw the Blenny try to scratch itself twice on a PVC pipe). I propose to reduce the copper level for 5 days and observe the fishes' behavior during that time and treat again with copper for another 5 days after that. Do you recommend such an action?  <Emphatically NO! Treat these fishes for a total CONSECUTIVE time of two weeks... then remove the copper... lower the spg, raise the temp. in the sixty and allow it to run for a good month (two will be better)... buy some live rock for the treatment tank, feed algae sheet (nori) to the blenny there... keep all gear separated from the two systems...> Alternatively, a cleaner shrimp was added to the main tank last weekend (there are also two peppermint shrimp in the 60 gallon), I could always attempt to reintroduce first one fish and then the other, letting the cleaner shrimp work them over. However, I am hesitant to do this. Do you have a specific recommendation regarding this? <Don't do this with the current shrimp... too much problem of infectivity, shock to the shrimp.> I increased the 60 gallon's temperature to 82F as I have read this increases any potential disease organism's lifecycle and may thus get rid of any present more quickly. The Blue Gudgeon, still in the 'infected/untreated' main tank, shows no signs of illness at all and eats heartily. But then again, it is also extremely shy, spending most of its time in hiding. I lowered the SG to .020-.021 and have maintained it there the past 3 days. Should I leave the tank fallow longer? Or should I re-introduce the fish and see if the cleaner shrimp takes care of things sufficiently? (The two L. wurdemanni and the L. amboinensis were not present when I first moved the Blenny and Gramma to hospital) <Move the gudgeon to the treatment tank as it may well serve as a reservoir host for the problem in the main tank> Also, since these too poor fish have been steeping in copper for several days, should I let them 'rinse' their systems awhile in untreated water, perhaps from the main tank, before putting them back?  <NO. Please read over the parts of wetwebmedia.com on parasitic disease and all the linked files and FAQs as well> I have several soft corals and mushrooms, not to mention live rock, various Caulerpa, and other fantastic macro and calcareous algae, courtesy of Dick and Ray Perrin at Tropicorium. I'd HATE to poison it all with copper! <You mean Dick Perrin?> Thanks again for your time and valuable insights (and the great book and invaluable site), and sorry if this (long) letter is info-overload! Sincerely, Christina Gonzalez btw, my husband penned the top rated (27/27) review (5 stars, of course) of The C.M.A. on Amazon.com... <Ah, please thank him for me... Obviously a man of impeccable tastes in women and writing. Bob Fenner>

More on fish and learning lessons the hard way... Dear Mr. Fenner, I had an additional question regarding the previous e-mail I sent you. I failed to mention that before introducing the Gramma to the 60 gallon that I treated it with a five minute freshwater dip. My husband lost two Grammas in his 30 gallon system. Is it likely that the carrier of whatever organism introduced was the Maroon Clown?  <Yes, possible> Seems like a possible to me, although it could have been the Blenny as well. And, do you recommend a particular test kit over another in terms of accuracy?  <Affirmative. LaMotte, Hach, Salifert, on the low end, SeaTest...> I currently use the Saltwater Master Kit of Aquarium Pharmaceuticals. I have respect for the company and the name, do you?  <Some of there products are very good... not their test kits for marines.> Thank you once more for your time. Sincerely, Christina Gonzalez <Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

More hard lessons and one less fish...then two more fish Dear Mr. Fenner, Yes, yet another addition to an expanding collection of e-mails, and you haven't even had the opportunity to reply to the first.  <Been away... with real laptop troubles...> The Bicolor Blenny's curiosity and/or boredom lead to its untimely demise.  <Or overcoming stress... from movement, treatment.> Late morning of 12/26 I noticed it missing and began a frantic search in and around the tank, which netted nothing. The Whisper II's intake did not have the bottom screen portion attached, leaving it open to the explorations of the Blenny. I found it, just short of the impeller, caught in the black plastic section. I suppose it swam up there, got stuck and was unable to back out. Because it was still quite energetic, I doubt it was just sucked up there. So, it is dead. <Yes, agree with your submission... died first> This afternoon we went to Oceans and Seas (what an atrocious place, I'd never purchase anything from that store *shiver*) then to Aquatic Discoveries. Their shop is clean and orderly and their salt water displays are clean, the fish in good condition. There I purchased a Jawfish, the Yellowheaded variety, and another Bicolor Blenny. I added ten drops of Methylene Blue to the Blenny's bag and thinking perhaps I had added too much, only 8 to the Jawfish's bag. They both spend roughly and hour, perhaps a bit more in the bags while I made the necessary accommodations for the Jawfish, the addition of substrate to the 10 gallon (which I completely stripped, rinsed with very hot water and put fresh water with activated carbon in it) aquarium. Both fish also received five minute fresh water dips in buffered, dechlorinated water with 10 drops per gallon of Formalin. Neither fish showed undue stress, although the Jawfish was actively defensive, opening its mouth in a most threatening fashion. Both are currently in the 10 gallon with a SG of .018, 77F the same the fish store kept them in. I believe I will observe them for a week or so and only add copper to the tank if they show signs of infestation. The fish store kept a running .15ppm of copper in their fish holding boxes, but I'm not sure it's necessary...yet. I am keeping a written log of everything. Thanks and everything, Christina Gonzalez <Good for the keeping of the log... but would wait on all livestock purchases... allow the main system to go fallow, w/o fish hosts per the previous e-mail correspondence... Bob Fenner>

Bleach Total Cleaning a System, UVs,   I am 100% impressed with your PROMPT reply and thank you accordingly. I will continue to promote your name and professionalism to fellow "Conscientious Marine Aquarists". Do post information on further publication release dates. <Will do so. Thank you for this>  This one will be brief...or so he says 1) I believe you mentioned, perhaps, that I need not pitch the Aragonite or live rock as long as I bleached the system. I must acknowledge my> ignorance...are you suggesting I add bleach directly to the system and perhaps water change/carbon it out at a later date? If so, at what concentration and time span? Do I leave any filtration on during the bleaching? I must admit I think I misunderstood you, because if someone at a LPS (LFS) told me to add bleach directly to my water, I might be a little suspect. <Have covered these biocide/wipeout procedures in pieces stored on the www.wetwebmedia.com site... Thank you for asking for clarification re... Yes to adding a cup or so per ten gallons (watch for splashing, mess problems about the tank!... And dumping about an hour later, rinse, running all your gear, with freshwater a couple of times... then just fresh for about a week...> 2) Would you recommend the addition of a UV Sterilizer just prior to the re-introduction of the fish and maintain usage from then on, so as to avoid the possibility of having to add chemicals again. (I know, PREVENTION is the best cure, but this ordeal tested my fortitude and confidence and I would best like to avoid it again) <I hear you and do place, run it now, and keep running except when using medicants that are affected by irradiation (e.g. sequestered copper)... Do help improve water quality, lower infectious, parasitic, general microbial populations...>  3) If so, which one in the $120-130 range would you recommend? I do have a canister filter (not in use) if the H.O.T. could not be utilized. <May be supplied by either unit. The best ones for hobby use are made by www.tmc-ltd.co.uk TMC in the UK, can be found, ordered by your dealer through... Quality Marine in L.A....>  4) At what point would you recommend proceeding on to a 100-120 gallon for the Passer? He is currently about 5". <ASAP> Thanks a million Bob! <You're welcome my friend> P.S. All fish are looking fantastic at this point. With the "Baptism of Fire" that the Passer received, I can assure you that little bugger will be forever pampered throughout his life. He gained my permanent respect. <This is a tough species for sure... and intelligent and beautiful to boot. Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

Vacation time, and who's minding the fish?  Dear Mr. Fenner, I'm sure that a lot of people have this question but I wasn't able to find  a definitive answer out there in the electronic world.  I am planning to be out of town over the holidays. I have a 125G Reef  Setup which is about 5 months old. It's is well established, having been  built with cured live rock and seems to be doing fine. I have a hand full  of fish and reasonably self sufficient corals:  1 Yellow Tang  2 Kupang Damsels  3 Green Chromis  1 Bicolor Blenny  1 Cirrhilabrus Wrasse 1 Cleaner Shrimp  1 Green emerald Crab  1 Sally lightfoot Crab  and the rest are not specifically feed or seen feeding directly from  offerings.  I feed seaweed in the morning and a frozen carnivorous offering in the  evening (Mysis shrimp or the like -- store bought mixture --)  I don't usually worry when gone for a weekend (i.e. Friday night, Saturday,  and Sunday morning)... Ok I'm lying, I worry whenever I'm not looking at  the tank, but I'm still a new parent at this husbandry. I feed heavy,  about 2 times normal amount, before I leave and there is usually only a  little scrapping between fish when I get back. However, I will be gone for  4 Full days for Thanksgiving (4 hours away) and then a full week for  Christmas (4 hours away). All of the people who I would normally call upon  to help are going out of town themselves, leaving none who I know to leave  key, instructions and food with/for. The LFS suggests just feeding heavy  before I leave and heading on my way... But, like I said, I'm a new parent  at this. What do you suggest...?  John Boiger <Thanks for writing, and sorry for the delay in response... have been in Australia, and ignoring the few thousand messages on the AOL acct., pls write to this addr. henceforth.  If it were my system, I would do the following exactly: Do have someone responsible, preferably with some pet-fish experience (a service company otherwise) come in at least every other day while you're gone... AND have labeled (by day, date) EXACTLY ONLY the foods you want placed in your system(s)... in PRE-LABELED plastic cups in the fridge... ON a piece of paper... and HIDE ALL OTHER FOODS... and carry a pager, list of numbers where you (and a back-up, like a service company) can be reached should there be an emergency or dire question... Bob Fenner>

Stirring my sand Hi Bob, I hope you had a great weekend, I wondered if you could recommend a good sand  sifter (I have crushed aragonite) for my 26 gallon reef. I have read on  FFExpress they recommend a white burrowing starfish (Archaster typicus) and I  wondered if my tank was too small for this star?  <Hmm, will the Archaster would work... if started small in an established system... As might a Cryptocentrus (Watchman) goby.... or one of many other possibilities... Here we/I go again, sending you to the site for the std. spiel written/recorded there: Home Page ... are you not finding these referrals? Always looking for ways of getting folks to where they need/want to go, with the greatest of ease.> I have approx. 30 lbs of  live rock, Banggai cardinal, gold stripe maroon clown. blackcap Basslet,  lawnmower blenny, yellow Coris wrasse, and a six-line wrasse. Would some  sort of goby (or pair of) do a 'better job'?  <Not really... and your Yellow "Coris" (actually Halichoeres chrysus), ought to be doing about as good a job as might be done... sand-sifting wise... and the Basslet may well go after any easygoing newcomer... and lastly, this tank is too full already fish-wise> (I figure they might be more  interesting to watch?) If so any particular type? I figure maybe the  gobies might just stir the gravel where they build a cave, where the star  might move around more? You thoughts? I'm starting to get algae growing on  my substrate and figure I need something to stir it, in addition to monthly  vacuum.  <See both comments above> Secondly, I purchased a lawnmower blenny to help control algae, knowing that  I may have to bring it back at some point to prevent starvation. Well, he is  the fattest blenny I have ever seen now! He eats the live brine and frozen  formula one (which I occasionally dip in garlic oil to prevent parasites, I  really think this system works remarkably well) as well as pruning the algae  from my live rock, and tank walls. If his belly always looks round and  plump; should I not worry about his starvation? (Unless the belly gets small  of course!)  <Always a good idea to keep your eye on your livestock... and plumpness is a good "index of fitness">  Thanks for the advice, Brian >> <Bob Fenner>

Hi Bob Thanks for all the info you have given me last time, I have 100 galloon with 2 fish, 2 purple tip and 1 polyp, 2 VHO and 2 40watts NO ( 2 actinics of the 40 watts that goes on/off 1 hour from the VHO (actinic/Aquasun). I've had many brown algae growing so I decided to buy a turbo snail, but I noticed their waste product is all over my live sand. Is this a concern? I'm just worried about my live sand from all of the poop around it and I know I'm not suppose to be messing around the sand, but they sure do the job of getting rid of the brown algae. Tried to play around with the light combination and time wise, but yesterday I also noticed that white coralline algae is predominating as well. What I wanted is the red, purple, pink, orange, green color. My lighting stays on for 12 hours, ammonia 0, Nitrite/ nitrate remains at 0, calcium 300 alkaline 4+ (using Kent pro Buffer) and Tech CB twice a week. This past Saturday my LFS told me that the Kalkwasser is much better than the Seachem calcium that I'm adding in order to get the different color of coralline algae.  >> I would periodically vacuum up the loose material above your live sand (with a gravel vacuum), while doing your water changes... Maybe look into some more circulation (from well placed power heads, internal pumps) to assist in moving this matter along to your mechanical filtration. Take care on using the Kalkwasser (drip in at light near area of high current) lest you drive your alkalinity down... both calcium and alkalinity could/should be higher. Bob Fenner

WetWebMedia is great! Thanks for all of your work!! Question: I have a 40 gallon tank with a small tomato, 1 Sailfin tang, a peppermint shrimp, 1 Condylactis Anenome, 1 royal gamma and 2 damsels. I feed one cube of frozen brine shrimp and a small piece of Nori nightly. My lights are on for 12 hours daily (with timer) and I do a weekly water change of about 20%. I am having a profusion of ugly, slimy, velvet red algae. It grows very little in the substrate. However, in a matter of days it is taking a 10lb. piece of tufa and all other decor in the tank. It is probably worth mentioning that all water tests usually come out great except for nitrates. Today, they were about 8.0 Anyway, what can I do to stop this insidious problem? I've tried changing water more often: no good! (I refuse to use antibiotics.) HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELP!!!!!!!!!!  Thanks, David Dowless  >> The better of approaches to these blue-green algae problems (which is what this is... and it's actually not algae at all, but a group of microbes called Cyanobacteria) are to optimize water quality (do you have a skimmer? Is it clean?), and provide conditions more optimal to "higher" algal life... Consider increasing aeration and circulation... maybe a couple of powerheads, and that classy air stone/bar at the end of the tank... 8 ppm of nitrates is not THE/A problem... your phosphates are probably high... but I would "cure" the problem as I hint... with improved water quality overall. Bob Fenner

fresh water top off Hi Bob, I'm going to hook up a simple gravity fed top off system running into my sump. About a five gal container. My question is, would it be ok to add Kalkwasser to the top off water. As it will be a gravity fed system, will the "dust" settle to the bottom and potentially give my tank a "lethal injection"? If this is the case, are there any products that remain suspended that would perform the same as Kalkwasser? Thanks once again, and hope all is well, Tony Revinski PS Have you used/heard anything about the new CaribSea additives that boast "no chance of overdosing"? >> Not too much problem with dosing Kalkwasser this way... I wouldn't allow too much "dust" in the solution though (in other words, I'd make the solution dilute)... There are better "all in one" ph/alkalinity/calcium (et al. alkaline earth materials) products on the market than Kalkwasser... that could be used in its place... And beyond all these, simple to elaborate calcium reactor set-ups, with/w/o controllers for doing what needs to be done to "boosted" (intensely lit, stocked) systems (buffering, replacement of essential minerals).  Don't believe in "no chance of overdosing" products being both safe and effective... Re-read the "Emperor's New Clothes"... Bob Fenner

Brown Carpeting Algae Bob Please help I have a problem with Brown Carpeting algae I can clean but within a week to 2 weeks it starts coming back. It gets on the glass crushed coral (which I use as a bottom) and anything else that doesn't move. I have a 70 gal. that uses two power heads with filters attached as well as a canister filter and bio wheels. The canister filter contains foam and bio balls. I have only 6 fish which range from small to med. Water quality is good and changed frequently. Could you please give me a hand. Thanks, Jeff >> This is probably a mix of single celled algae called Diatoms... and there are a few approaches to limit diatom proliferation:  1) Due to their use of silicates for skeletal construction, limiting this necessary material is requisite: At the tap/source water (using filtered water), as well as decor (some rock, sand has a great deal of silicon dioxide)... and foods/feeding. 2) Making other nutrient sources limited: by: A) Using a denitrifier... chemical filtrants... frequent partial water changes... B) Out competing the diatoms for nutrient by fueling the growth instead of desirable macro-algae, using a mud/muck algae sump/filter, striking a balance with other photosynthetic life (like hermatypic corals). 3) Utilizing biological cleaner uppers.... Like Ctenochaetus Tangs (which are Diatom feeders), sand sifting organisms like Valenciennea gobies, goatfishes (family Mullidae).... This about sums up the best, most straightforward approaches... consider using all/or a mix of these. Bob Fenner

bad hair day (green algae)! Bob help! Have 125 gallon tank. hair algae problem. As in wavy long hippy hair algae. have addressed lighting and water quality. Need to know if adding a filter system (Fluval MSF) with UltraLife phosphate remover will do the trick or if the phosphates collected eventually leach back into the system. Have adequate foam fractionation and plenty live rock and sand. Please respond to James. Thanks. >> Same answer as previous... with a little more info. The product will not leach the phosphates back... under "ordinary" aquarium circumstances... but as I have/had stated, this is not the route I would go to improve your water quality/fight the filamentous algae in your system. Bob Fenner

nitrate level I tested my water recently and the ff are the results ammonia 0 nitrite .10 nitrate 140 my nitrate level is at the maximum, is it toxic to the fish? Right now  I have a yellow tang, clown fish and blue damsel. By the way my tank is 30  gal. How do I keep the nitrate level low. Thanks Francis >> Hmm, well, as you know. Fishes can become "accustomed" to high nitrate (and other nutrient) levels... Don't try putting in anything else though at this level! There are a few ways to approach nitrate accumulation problems: Some basics: 1) Water changes... the dilution solution,,,, half the water switched results in... half the concentration... for a while 2) Chemical filtrants: most don't work at all, the rest unreliably... 3) Algae and live rock photosynthetic and other photosynthetic organism users of nitrate and other nutrients... with lighting... etc., these will remove a good amount of nitrate... and make food for your fishes. This living matter can be in the main tank or easily cultured in an attached sump. 4) Purposeful denitrators... doing nitrification in reverse... mostly. These are low or no oxygen settings like plenums, more live rock... you do have some don't you? Hmmm, where anaerobic microorganisms denitrify these sorts of nitrogenous wastes. And a few other more novel ideas...  Bob Fenner

crabs and snails Bob I am a newbie, I have established a 75 gal mini reef it is now two months  old. It is doing very well, I am curious about scarlet hermit crabs ( I have  3), I have three 8 Astrea one sally light foot, 3 Turbos, 1 sand sifting  star, a brittle star one small yellow Cuke, a large sea Cuke, 2 cleaner  shrimp, 2 perculas a bicolor blenny, a yellow tang and some soft and hard  coral 6 shrooms and an Anemone, 90 lbs of Fijian live rock. whew, do I need  more crabs and snails? chemistry is excellent, nitrate are 0 every week I  treat with b-ionic every other day and CombiSan weekly. I have read Dakin's  Marine aquarium and sprung and Delbeek's reef aquarium, but have no idea  about the numbers of crab and snails. thanks for your comments. >> In my opinion, no to the addition of more snails, hermit crabs... leave well enough, well, alone! You're on a roll... that adding more would not help. I take it you have a 75 "long" style (i.e. rectangular) rather than a hex... but even with more square surface area... I wouldn't add more snails/hermits. If you develop a filamentous algae problem, consider a Lawnmower Blenny... otherwise, enjoy your tank as its inhabitants grow together... and start planning for that new, bigger system! Bob Fenner, who is familiar with formulas for so many of this and that cleaner for oh so many gallons, square feet of tank... but doesn't find them useful rules of thumb.

Dear bob: My 180 gallon reef tank has been up for nearly two years, has been going along well without any major problems. I dose with replacement Kalkwasser, use SeaChem chemicals twice a week, run both uv and ozone controlled by a Neptune unit. I have substantial coralline algae growth on live rock and on 3 walls of the tank (I scrape it off the front regularly). I try to use natural algae control. The first thing ever put in the tank were Astrea, Trochus snails and red legged hermits from GARF. I have both cucumbers and brittle stars to chomp on detritus. I use only deionized and/or ro water in the tank. I filter with a Berlin system, with carbon and occasional phosphate and silicate absorbents. My 3 metal halides, 2 VHOs (actinic), and 2 40 watt "warm-up bulbs" are all controlled by the aqua controller to the proper length of daylight. Problem: recently, I've developed a moderate problem with what I would call green hairy algae. Algae is filamentous, will sway slightly with powerhead current but does not dislodge. In certain places in the tank it appears reddish. I also have Mithrax crabs in the tank. I can't figure out what has changed or what else I can do to prevent this from getting out of hand. I prefer to control algae naturally. Are there any critters I can add to handle the problem (tangs don't touch the stuff. Thanks again for your help. >> Some parts of your alkaline reserve have become exhausted... with the use of Kalkwasser and the commercial supplements... and semi-selective chemical filtrants... your system is "out of balance" (natural and not)... and cannot, will not be returned to such by your current practices... you can dilute half of the unbalance by changing.... okay, now, everyone take a guess... 50% of your water... I would look into getting out of the CaOH habit, and/or the SeaChem additive usage... or getting and using a "calcium reactor"... Look around in the current pet-fish literature... many folks are becoming aware of the antagonistic relationships of alkaline earth/buffer additives and CaOH (Kalkwasser)...  Bob Fenner

sources for information I was noticing on FFExpress that they are selling the cleanup crew animals at significant discounts. I also notice that the are including an emerald crab with the set. I am interested in the different varieties of snails and crabs. I purchased some time ago from FF Express several snails, hermit crabs, and an abalone. I want to know how to get the abalone to get larger, it hasn't changed size in 5 months. Although it seems healthy. I read somewhere you suggesting feeding it nori, however when I put nori in the tank the tangs I have immediately eat it. If I offer it directly to the abalone it seems that it may nibble a bit at it but only if it is held directly in front of it against the glass. It will not grab it, as soon as I let go of it, it floats away. Any suggestions? <Well, abalones are slow growers... and macrophagous herbivores... that eat large brown and red (phaeophytes and rhodophytes) algae. Growing and offering these is best... or buying them... and placing bits, sections under the shell of whatever type of algae is offered. Barring these possibilities is making "feeding stones" with algal food base. Do you know how to make these? Basically a paste of food is smear onto a piece of base rock (not live rock) and allowed to dry. Then placed near the abalone.> Also, not too long ago, I purchased from my LFS a creature which was labeled a snail. However after searching for it, I believe it is a small conch. It seems to be doing okay, it has been alive for over 4 months. It doesn't seem to do much however. It moves around the tank slowly and apparently only at night. I also don't know if I am supposed to be feeding it anything, although it seems as though it is finding things to eat since it's still alive. It also hasn't changed size at all... is there anything I should be doing for it? <There are many species of conches, but most eat algae, detritus... so don't try to keep your tank meticulously clean... I would not vacuum the substrate much if at all. Again, there are algae you can grow or buy to purposely offer these animals. Ocean Nutrition and Two Little Fishies are offering oriental food algae in fish bags, or you can just go buy it from stores directly> Further, looking around at various sources, I see that multiple varieties of snails and crabs are available. I want to know the relative diets, merits, differences of each. Where would I find such information, such as why turbo over tapestry? I haven't seen a good book on snails and little crabs (such as one would use for cleanup). Can you suggest one? Thanks, Alex Landman >> Good guest ion, maybe you will be the one to finally pen (and take pictures) of such a work. I'd encourage you to serialize bits of it and run them in the national aquarium hobby magazines (as well as the international ones). Information about these species is to be had, but not much in hobby works. Instead, make a pilgrimage to a large college library with as many of the animals' scientific names as you can gather, and ask a reference librarian in the life sciences area to help you search the literature. It's actually very easy in the age of computers... and fun! Bob Fenner

Cloudy water in the morning, Clear at night... Bob, I have a 207 gallon tank, large wet/dry filter with a huge amount of "bio-targets", protein skimmer, and two power heads hooked up to under gravel filters at one end of the tank. The tank has lots of live rock and was 100% clear until recently. It has the eight fish (damsels), a banded starfish, several small hermit crabs, and 20 Trochus snails for clean up. I just recently added the clean up crew to reduce my need to clear the algae from the tank sides and I noticed that every morning the water appears cloudy but by the afternoon it is nearly clear. I vacuumed the undergravel to make sure it was clean and checked the other filters. The water in the filter (before it is pumped back into the tank) is crystal clear. The tank is about 75-78 degrees. Also I wanted to make sure that the snails would not hurt the Live rock. They have been devouring algae both green and brown at an unbelievable rate. It took them a few days to figure out that there was algae on the sides, in the mean time they cleaned up the rocks throughout the tank (both live an otherwise). So my questions: Why is my tank cloudy in the mornings? Is it harmful to the fish? Is there anything I can do to encourage a banded starfish to come out of hiding? Thanks, Rodney Korn >> 1) The cloudiness is due to an in-tank plankton bloom and natural cycling (it occurs on the reefs of the worlds oceans as well). It is being added to by the fine splicing and eating of the "clean up crew" organisms. You can cut back on it by placing a filter pad over your "bio targets" wet-dry media... Make it two and replace or rinse and put back the upper one once a month or so. 2) It's not necessarily harmful... to some extent, it is an indication of the suitability of your system. The "little life" that is coming up when the lights goes off feeds filter feeders like many of the corals, sponges... I wouldn't be overly concerned about it. 3) Nothing can be done to really bring the star out. They are shy, retiring... if you try to feed it meaty foods it may "learn" to come out, but also become more bold at eating your other livestock. I'd leave it be. Bob Fenner

Cloudy Water

I have a tank that has great water (all the bad levels @~0-1ppm), however the water has gone remarkable cloudy, but it seems to clear up slightly later in the evening an hour or two before lights out. At first I thought that it must be one of the clownfish stirring up the sand (Aragamax sugar sized), but it is very persistent. I've done a 20% water change every day since it started, but to no avail. I have also changed the filter pad daily for a few days, but it won't go away. What is in my water? >> Hmm, either it is the Aragamax and/or a transient microbe bloom. I wouldn't worry about it or do much to effect a change... All will "settle" itself without causing problems. Cut the water changes back to your regularly scheduled interval and amount... the current practice may be forestalling improvement. Bob Fenner

What are the proper levels of Ammonia, Nitrate, Nitrite, PH, and Temperature for a 75 Gallon Tank Marine Salt set up? The tank has been set up for two months. Here are my levels: Nitrate - 5 Nitrite - 0 , Ammonia - 0 , PH - 8.1 , Temp - 79 , Salinity - 1.022. Also, how long should I quarantine fish in my 10 gallon tank before introducing them into my 75 gallon tank? Thanks for your time, Herman Herrera >> Let's see, in an established/mature reef system? Undetectable ammonia and nitrite... "Low" nitrate (a few to several ppm), if you can, not more than 10ppm on an ongoing basis... pH: low 8.s... Temperature? Mid to upper seventies, but more importantly, that it not fluctuate wildly (several degrees a day), and no general problems with low to mid eighties, but this does indicate higher metabolic rates, lower dissolved gasses (hence need for more aeration), periodic upper eighties not advisable, but not the end of the world in well set-up and maintained, aged systems. Your system sounds fine (I'd raise the specific gravity a thousandths a day to 1.025 though). A good two weeks is a/the standard period of time for new marine livestock, but longer if there appears anything amiss of course. Bob Fenner

Question: What do you think about the Electro-Chemical Nitrate Reducers on the market. They advertise that they can quickly reduce nitrates to a "low" level and maintain it there. The idea of eliminating water changes seems "too good to be true". I am interested in using this with a medium-heavy stocked fish aquarium.

Bob's Answer: Such devices do work, but at a large cost (relative to what you get) and the whole world of "wastes" chemically, physically and biologically is definitely not limited to nitrates and denitrification. Put another way, no, IMO these tools are a scam and a waste of time for home aquarists. I don't use them and don't endorse their use.

Can you solve my confusion? Some "experts" say you need to have sand sifters like cucumbers in a Jaubert-style tank with live sand. Other "experts" say invertebrates like that dig too deeply and wreck the water flow to and from the plenum. Which is it?

What is an "expert"? We used to say "previously married" and "flow under pressure" ("ex""spurt"). But seriously; sand sifters of all sorts, fishy and non-vertebrate can be a great asset in a properly set-up and operated NNR (Natural Nitrate Reduction) system. Ideally, these arrangements have a barrier (usually fiberglass screen cloth) betwixt layers of calcium carbonate based substrate that restricts would-be diggers to the upper half. So, in my opinion, there are sufficient benefits to utilizing sifters and diggers (prevention of clogging and channeling, enhanced solubility, more stable pH, trace levels...). I'd use them; with the proscribed permeable barrier.

Cheesy Illustration of NNR w/Mesh-Cloth Barrier:

-------------------------------------------------------------------- Top Gravel Layer (1-2" live sand, aragonite)

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Screen Barrier/Mesh

___________________________________________________ Bottom Gravel Layer (1-2" crushed coral)


Question: I have a 135 gal. tank that has been operational for about 14 months. I have approx. 75 lbs of live rock in the tank. On a couple of the rocks there seems to be an algae growth that has no color to it. The stuff is kind of a white cottony looking. It does seem to be spreading slowly. I really have not seen any of my fish eating the stuff. Can you tell me what this is and is it good or harmful? The other rocks have good growth on them and the fish seem to pick on these all the time. Water quality is real good. Having no problem with fish. Thanks for your help.

Bob's Answer: Hmmm, can't tell you for sure Rusty, but might well be an under-colored algae of some sort. Most likely not important in the way of being dangerous, and will likely be succeeded by another life form soon. If you're real interested take a bit in some of the system's water to a college near you after finding a biologist who has a microscope.

Small Marine Aquariums
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