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FAQs on Reef System Operation/Maintenance 24

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

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

Hydrozoans! No thanks!

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

2 Tanks'¦Which Equipment Where? Reefs, maint. -- 05/17/10
I've had freshwater aquariums all my life.
<<Me too'¦well, that is if a couple outdoor ponds count. Once I made the switch to saltwater 'aquariums' many years ago I pretty much left the freshwater aquarium side of the hobby behind>>
I am getting back into the saltwater hobby after about 30 years.
<<Ah! I do hope you've invested in some good books>>
Needless to say, the technology has changed a great deal since then.
<<It has improved in many aspects, yes>>
Were you even born yet?
<<Hee-hee! I set up my first saltwater tank in 1976...when undergravel filters and bleached-white coral skeletons were the norm'¦and the local fish stores told folks that marine fish only lived for about a year!>>
Anyway, I have 2 saltwater tanks. My home tank is a 75 gallon reef tank with fish, live rock, "mushrooms", cabbage coral, polyps, and an unhappy anemone.
<<Mmm, not surprised'¦considering the noxious mix of organisms. Anemones generally do better in systems designed for 'them.' Aside from their tendency to roam and wreak havoc among the sessile inverts in an improperly stocked system, they require pristine water conditions and maintenance/husbandry practices the novice marine fish keeper often is not ready or experienced enough to provide. Please start reading here and among the associated links in blue: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/inverts/cnidaria/anthozoa/anemones.htm >>
It's been running almost 2 years. It once housed turtles and therefore has a Rena Filstar 3 canister filter with a heater on the intake - easy to clean and very reliable.
<<And will need 'cleaning' one or more times a week to remove decaying matter before it adversely affects the system>>
I added a Sea Clone protein skimmer,
regrettably without doing any research.
<<Lesson learned?>>
It also has a powerhead for extra circulation and two airstones.
<<I would get rid of the airstones'¦real mess-makers re salt creep. And I think it likely the 'one' powerhead is insufficient re water circulation. Do look to adding more'¦and consider 'upgrading' to the more beneficial 'wide flow' pumps available like the Tunze Stream, Hydor Koralia, or even the 'Sure Flow' upgrade kits for the Maxi-Jet powerheads>>
I'm not sure if the occupants matter.
<<Indeed they do>>
Just in case you need to know, it contains: misc snails and hermit crabs, 2 emerald crabs, porcelain crab, Sally Lightfoot crab,
<<Can be a danger to small fishes as it grows>>
green serpent sea star,
<<Is certainly a danger to fish as it gets large'¦do see WWM re>>
black spine sea urchin, 3 peppermint shrimp, algae blenny, Clausewitz blenny (sp), spotted sentinel goby, mother dragonet, tomato clown that hangs out with the very anemic looking anemone, coral beauty angel, Sailfin tang,
<<This tang gets way too big (to 18' in the wild) for this tank>>
royal gramma, red Firefish goby, and 2 small cardinal fish. The water parameters are good and I'm happy with everything but the Sea Clone skimmer.
<<I would very much consider removing/returning the anemone. As for the Sea Clone'¦have a peek at the 'Remora' offering from AquaC as a much better alternative>>
The other tank is at school and it's driving me crazy.
<<Saltwater 'office' or 'school' tanks very rarely fare well in my experience. Aside from the 'unknown' that goes on (or 'in') when you aren't around to observe (supervise?) the tank, unless highly 'automated,' just leaving the tank alone for the weekend can bring on troubles>>
I thought it would be fun for the kids to see a saltwater tank to compare to the trout tank we raise fry in every year. Not so much.
I set it up this past fall and it has been plagued all year with reddish-brown water.
<<Strange'¦perhaps 'something' in the rock/substrate dissolving or otherwise breaking down and fouling the water>>
It's a 40 gallon "breeder" with live rock, snails, hermit crabs, a large Clarkii clown, and a sea star.
<<Okay'¦simple enough I reckon>>
It has an Aqua Clear 110 power filter on the back,
<<I think this tank would be better served with a small canister filter containing some filter floss or similar material and a small amount (½ cup to 1 cup) of carbon'¦cleaned/exchanged on a weekly basis. Do also have a read here and among the associated links: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/filtration/marineFiltr.htm >>
a power head in the corner and an airstone.
<<Refer to my previous comments re>>
I change the filter media at the recommended intervals (and not all at once). We do frequent water changes and I've tried the powder to kill red cyanobacteria with no effect.
<<Do not use this'¦ Aside from the 'reddish-brown water' not likely being 'Cyano,' use of this product will kill/has killed off your biological filtration'¦such as it may be here>>
The blue tube on the light needs its switch replaced so it's not running right now. I'm not sure if that matters or not.
<<Not likely a factor here>>
At one point I put in new charcoal and it miraculously cleared up for a week or so, but the next time I tried that it had no effect.
<<Carbon is 'used up' quite rapidly, but I suspect there is more going on here. I think biological filtration is probably lacking on this system as well. Please read through the info I've provided to gain some insight and a better understanding, and then come back and we can discuss alternatives>>
Any ideas on what's going on?
<<As stated>>
Soooo.. I'm thinking that perhaps I should take this annoying Sea Clone skimmer in to school to see if it helps and get a better one for the 75 gal I have at home.
<<A good start>>
Am I correct in assuming this will help with the cloudy, brown-tinted water?
<<If it is simply a matter of some type of suspended material, yes, maybe so'¦at the least it can't hurt, and should also help with the organic load (as much as 'this' skimmer can)'¦and will also provide for improved aeration (and another excuse to ditch the airstone)>>
Since a better skimmer will be more expensive I've started asking myself other questions and am starting to wonder about my whole home system.
<<Reading the material I have referenced will help with this>>
I set it up with the canister filter because I already had it.
<<These can be very useful adjuncts to filtration'¦especially as chemical reactors, in my opinion>>
The filter sits to the side though, which is not attractive.
I have to do that because the stand is designed like a sideboard with 3 doors and an open shelf underneath.
<<Unfortunately, most 'manufactured' tank stands are lacking re configuration and space for filtration/support equipment for marine/reef systems. Something that 'hasn't' changed since the days of 'undergravel filters'>>
The shelf only has 12" of head room. The compartments behind the doors are about 14x14 and 17" deep.
<<Mmm, yes'¦no place for a sump and/or refugium>>
The top is solid and the tank is not drilled. If I put together a wet-dry system on the big tank, I could put the better filter on the tank at school.
<<I would not utilize a wet-dry for a reef system (see WWM re), but even a simple sump for the added volume and placement of ancillary equipment would be a boon>>
Would it be possible to rig up a wet-dry filter and refugium underneath that is less than 12" tall?
<<I suggest you forget the wet-dry here as mentioned, but a sump/refugium could be custom fabricated to fit the space'¦although'¦I think the money spent would be better utilized in upgrading the stand and then utilizing an inexpensive standard manufactured tank (or tanks)>>
Or a system 14" tall that would have separate sections in the 3 cupboards, connected through the partitions?
<<Could also be done, but'¦>>
I'd like to get a bigger, pre-drilled tank with a more accommodating stand
<<Now you're talking! [grin]>>
, but that's really expensive.
<<Ah yes'¦>>
Or should I stop making myself crazy and just buy a better H.O.T. skimmer?
<<This is a place to start (check out the previous mentioned AquaC Remora skimmer), along with some time spent reading/researching>>
Thanks for any advice you can give!
<<I hope it proves helpful'¦and lets chat some more about your systems and what can be done once you spend a little time 'updating' yourself with the material available on our site. Be chatting'¦ Eric Russell>>

UV On A Reef Tank? -- 04/12/10
Can you use a UV light on a reef tank?
<<As in an Ultraviolet Sterilizer unit, yes you can (read here and among the associated links: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/UVFAQs.htm ), though I consider these units to be too cumbersome re their maintenance (the sleeves need to be kept 'spotless'), and maybe even detrimental on a reef tank due to some loss of microscopic planktonic life>>
Would it be better or worse?
<<In reality'¦it's likely of small consequence either way. EricR>>

Back to Basics, Marine Setup and Maintenance, reef 4/7/10
Dear Crew,
I set up a system in earlier December 09 and added the following fish/corals 1 or 2 at a time every 2 or 3 weeks, tank is :-
46 Gallon bow front tank, 30 pounds cured live rock, 20 pounds of live sand, 1 single propeller powerhead, 1 double propeller powerhead, small internal filter box with carbon and nitrate remover, Oversized hang on protein skimmer not a mainstream brand. Upgrading in a week to a Deltec MCE300.
Tank inhabitants are 5 turbo snails, 3 hermit crabs, 1 boxer shrimp, 1 royal gramma, 1 yellowtail blue damsel, 1 yellow watchman goby, 1 coral beauty.
<The Centropyge will need a larger home eventually.>
Corals:- green striped mushrooms, red mushrooms, clove polyps, Zoanthids, leather mushroom, green star polyps, mouse's ear leather.
Now my main question is I set up my system as minimalistic as possible to cut out a lot of the confusion and concentrate on maintaining the basic set up whilst keeping water quality high and having my system thrive. I know
people would not live without their sumps and fuges calcium reactors and all the other bits and bobs that make it run sweet, but me I like to keep it simple, less to worry about.
<Me too.>
I don't add any additives nothing calcium, iodine, magnesium or anything else, I only test for ammonia 0.0, nitrite 0.0, nitrate 5.0, PH 8.2, S.G.1.021.
<Specific gravity is a little low, aim for a more natural level of 1.025-1.026, and think about a two part calcium/alkalinity which are quite easy to use.>
Plenty of good flow around the aquarium. 25% water change monthly.
<I would bump this up to weekly or at least bi-weekly.>
Now this is what I want to know. Can my system be maintained in this back to basics way with no frills and no additives because so far everything I have put in seems to be thriving.
<Yes, very similar to my setup, but I do weekly 5 gallon changes on my 46G.>
My wife and kids keep telling me to stop looking at it, but to be honest its my pride and joy and I'm proud of what I've achieved. Can you just give me some tips on what to watch out for as early signs of likely problems.
Thanks in advance
<Water changes and circulation are the key here, but a minimalist setup is very do-able.>

08/03/10 New 100 Gallon Reef Tank. various incl. Stocking.
<Hello Jeff>
I'll try to keep these questions short. I've read over your website and a multitude of others and I was just hoping to verify my information before I go ahead and start setting it all up.
<Ok, let's see what we can do>
I currently have a 38 Gallon tank with 40 lbs of live rock and play sand (definitely have to get rid of the play sand as I've had nothing but problems with it), 36� T5HO with 2X 39W
T5HO Daylight 12000K, 2X 39 W T5HO Actinic Blue, 3X LED Moonlights. My tank inhabitants are a Blue Hippo Tang (3 ½ inch),
<needs a six foot tank>
Copperband Butterfly (3 1/2inch),
<Also needs much more space than this>
small Coris Gaimard,
<grows to a foot long>
Sixline Wrasse, Royal Gramma, 2 Ocellaris
<lots of fishes here for a 38g tank. Vastly overstocked to the extreme>
Cleaner shrimp, peppermint shrimp, Emerald crab, Crimson Knobbed Starfish, Serpent Starfish, snails, hermit crabs etc. I also have a large leather Coral and a Pink Tip Anemone.
This weekend I purchased a 100 gallon aquarium and I'm in the process of getting it set up.
<MUCH better, but please be aware that this tank will not enable you to buy more animals here, especially fishes. Even 100 gallons is too small for what you have>
My plan is to use the 38 gallon as the new sump, which will contain my protein skimmer, heaters, a refugium and return pump.
I currently have a DSB in my 38 gallon and I was considering doing the same thing in the 100 gallon, about 4 inches deep.
There are so many back-and-forth views on the DSB I'm not sure which way to lean. Is it better to go with a remote DSB?
<In my opinion it is, yes, but as you say there are many others>
For the lighting I'm going to use the same 36� T5 attached in the hood and then I was thinking of adding 2 250W Metal Halide to compliment these lights.
Currently my protein skimmer is rated for 65 gallons, so I was considering getting a second one and running 2 protein skimmers or would it be better to get 1 big one?
<It depends on the quality of your present skimmer. If it is a good one, then keep it and buy another like you say -- that way you do have a bit of redundancy if something goes wrong with one(which always happens when you're on holiday!), but if it's not such a good quality skimmer then you can just upgrade to a larger one>
I've made 100 lbs of DIY live rock which has cured for the month
<Have you seeded this with 'real' live rock? If the rock you have made is just active with nitrifying bacteria then it is not really 'live' at all, just biologically active>
and the pH is stable so I want to add that to the aquarium with the sand and fill it 2/3 of the way full and then add the water from my display and all the live rock and inhabitants or would that be a bad idea.
<No, I would do it this way. Just shift it all right over>
Do I need to start over with this tank and let it cycle?
<No, in fact you could have done this the day the tank arrived. Just moved everything right over between the two tanks>
Sorry for all the questions, I just don't want to make a mistake with my fish.
<Mmm, you've already done that by crowding them so much in your present system'¦ an accident just waiting'¦>
Especially the Copperband which I know can be really sensitive <yes> and I'm lucky to have (have had him for about 2 months and he's eating great).
<That's good -- I am not a fan of this fish.. MUCH better the Forcipiger Flavissimus if you want a pest anemone eater, does the job and also stays alive..>
Also I have a Koralia 3 power head and 2 Koralia Nanos,
if I add 1 or 2 Koralia 4's would that be overkill?
<No, but if you have the money I would invest in a Vortech either MP40 or MP20>
I'm currently deciding whether to go this route or whether to set up a Closed Loop System.
<The Vortechs are superior to everything else>
Thanks in advance and I'll keep reading.
<Yes! This is the answer to life, the universe and everything.. not 42 but reading! Start here & related FAQ's: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/stocking1.htm>

Water changes in a troubled reef tank, 3/1/10
Dear Crew,
Thank you for running such a great website and resource for we novice types! This is my first time writing all, so please excuse the rambling.
<No problem.>
I have been searching the FAQs and I am more educated now than ever but I still have a lingering question on water changes. But first, a little background on my tank:
100 Gallon reef, 30 gallons in the sump
ASM G3 Protein skimmer
Magnum 350 for Carbon
4x96 power compact lighting
100 lbs of live rock
Soft corals and fish only. I know my lighting won't support stonies (I would love to though)
2-2.5 inch sandbed
In operation for 3 years, same configuration, bur livestock has changed slightly
1 Hippo Tang, 1 Zebra Tang, 1 Royal Gramma, Mated Pair of Clowns, 3 Fire Shrimp, few red hermits, and a Diamond Goby (the newest addition)
My tank has had a rough run due to many factors. My RO filter is located outside, and we have had horrendous cold weather. Then the RO gave up altogether. Then I stopped doing regular water changes. This is my fault, and now I am cleaning up the mess.
<Not fun.>
I just replaced and upgraded the RO/DI system and changed its' location so that outside temp won't be a factor.
What I am worried about is when I was doing regular changes, it was 1 large change a month (20-25 gallons) rather than several small changes. I have now put myself on a tight regimen of two 5 gallon changes a week (Sun and Wed) and in the past 2 weeks have changed 50-55 gallons in two large changes (once for removal of a ChemiClean application, once to do a full cleaning of the sump). Do I need to worry about taking too much water?
<No, not really. I would avoid doing more the 50% at a time, but otherwise you should be fine.>
Can I do 15 gallons a week?
<Sounds like a good amount to me.>
My tank turned into a hair algae paradise and I want to correct that in the worst way. I don't want to kill the tank in a fit of water changes though. Am I worried about nothing?
<Mostly, there is some risk with large water changes, or even relatively small ones with vastly different water parameters, but I think you should only see improvement from 15-20% water changes a week.>
Thanks in advance!
Phil Aenchbacher

Oway Syndrome, vacations, SW aq. keeping 2/22/10
Hi Crew,
<Hello Sam>
This is about a condition that has been reported many a time on WWM. Owner is Away syndrome and when he/she comes back there is a problem. I just went away a couple days after having placed a few new Acans in the tank (that didn't cost me a fortune because I got it through a local reef club).
Anyway, when I returned I found my 14 head Hammer on top of one Acan. The Acan looks fine but the Hammer lost 4 heads and another is retracted but hoping it will revive. And of course there was an Astrea turned over but
that is to be expected.
Maybe you should have a contest for naming this syndrome.
<There is a name for this syndrome, it's called Murphy's Law, Sam. Thanks
for sharing. James (Salty Dog)>

Rehabbing the neglected reef: getting a neglected tank under control. 1/12/10
Howdy WWM Crew,
<Hi Liz.>
Can't wait to see who I get this time. It's like reaching into a grab bag and knowing that no matter what (who!) you pull out it's going to be good.
<Well, you got MikeV today, and thank you for the kind words.>
I'll try to get to the point and keep this as short as possible. I have <exhaustively and multiple times> read the pages about nutrient export, nitrates and phosphates. I have implemented just about everything I should and/or can but I'm hoping that maybe there is some trick, idea.... something that could possibly help more as I have a situation I haven't really seen addressed in other emails.
<Well, lets see what you have.>
I bought an established but very neglected 125g saltwater tank the end of 9/2009. I salvaged all the live rock (100+lbs, it was worth saving) and crushed coral (not so good, wish I'd known to just pitch it and start over with the substrate). I also inherited a nutrient problem that was visible at the time in the form of massive, and I do mean massive amounts of hair algae. Oh, did I mention that this is my first foray into saltwater? I'm learning on the fly.
We broke down, moved and hour away and set the tank back up all on the same day being very careful to keep the live rock and CC damp. Everything came through with flying colors, never tested positive for ammonia or nitrates (had different fish in the tank at the time, didn't loose any of them).
However, my first water parameter tests revealed nitrates at 60+ and phosphates at 5+!! The tank came with crappy equipment which I've been upgrading just as fast as I can.
<That would explain the hair algae.>
I have added in a dedicated 10g refugium, bare bottom with a few chunks of live rock and Chaeto (which is growing like mad). The fuge overflows into a 20g sump (about 10g of water in there) that has baffles to maintain a constant height for my skimmer and a separate return pump area.
<Sounds good.>
I upgraded the SeaClone skimmer to a PM Redline 125 that is pulling massive amounts of NASTY dark brown crud out, sometimes more than a cup a day sometimes less.
The sump also has a large chunk of LR in it and a giant hermit crab that was banished from the DT for being too destructive.
I am running Phosguard in hard plastic media containers in my sump baffles so all the tank water passed through it. I also just started using a Polyfilter pad on the other side of the baffles. It's already changing colors (tan) after just 2 days in the tank!
<Everything you are doing so far is right on the money.>
Tank occupants/other stuff:
100+ lbs of mature live rock
CUC: 8 blue leg hermits and 18 turbo snails and 2 margarita snails
1 yellow tang (still very small 1.5")
Ocellaris clown (2")
Green mandarin (juvenile, and I do have a huge pod population and will be supplementing with live pod colonies for diversification. As of right now the mandarin is fat and happy!)
assorted softies: pompom xenia, neon Palau Nephthea, green hairy mushrooms & red mushrooms, green Ricordea, assorted colonies of Zoas and Palys and green star polyps.
<Do run carbon in your system, you have a few soft corals that can be pretty noxious.>
I also have a small frag of purple digi (high in the tank) and kryptonite candy cane (also high).
4x96w PC lighting 12 hours a day, have new bulbs on order (2 12k and 2 50/50)
DI water run through 4 huge DI canisters with a TDS meter between the last two. I get it at a LFS. Water tests 0 for TDSs, NO3 and PO4. This is used for all water changes and top off water
I feed <frozen> formula 2 & Mysis in the evenings, just a couple small pinches that the fish clean up quickly.
<All good here too.>
Water parameters via brand new API regent tests:
Ammonia/Nitrites: 0
Nitrates: 0 <this is new, it dropped in stages from 60, to 20s then hovered at 5-10 for several weeks. In just the last 3 weeks or so it's been consistently testing at 0>
!!!phosphates: .5 (not happy about this, but better than the 5 they started out at)
<It is on its way down. Keep at what you are doing.>
pH: 8.3
calcium: 450
KH: darn, knew I forgot a test but my KH has never been a problem.
<Do get a kit, but you are correct, it is probably fine as long as you are doing regular water changes.>
I am having a horrible red slime/Cyano outbreak right now. It is all over my CC. Is not growing over the rocks/corals yet, but the CC bed gets a thin covering every day that gets thicker as the week goes on (I siphon it off once a week during 10% water changes). It is driving me nuts.
<The hair algae was consuming all of the nutrients, but since you are getting that under control the Cyano is taking its place.>
I had a nasty diatom bloom that finally went away just to change into the Cyano bloom. I feel like the harder I try with this tank and the better my water parameters look the worse the tank seems to look.
<hehehe... yeah, sometimes it does seem that way.>
I suspect my LR and CC are leaching phosphates at this point.
<Probably your substrate.>
I have some bristly green algae growing really thick on some of my rock and sparsely on others.
<Bryopsis Have a read here:
It does not look like soft hair algae. It is short, tufted, brilliant green and does not pull off easily. The hair algae disappeared, the rock looked really good then this stuff took off and grew in. That doesn't bother me as much as the Cyano though.
<It can be a pest algae as well. I have some in my tank, but it is localized to one area, so I leave it.>
Something I've noticed is that the Cyano is only growing where it gets good light exposure and good water flow. It is growing just in the front part of my tank where the flow is strong enough to 'ruffle' the CC and make the strands of Cyano blow in the flow! It seems to die back at night, then come on strong under the lights. There is no Cyano where rock shaded the CC.
<Completely normal.>
I guess my question is, how do I help my tank recover? How do you get ahead and 'rehab' a tank that has been so neglected? In addition to my 10% weekly water changes I've started doing 2-3g small water changes every other day trying to dilute the pollution.
<I'm betting there is a lit of, for the lack of a better term, crud in your substrate that is feeding the cyanoBACTERIA. I would clean as much of it out as you can and vacuum your substrate as much as is reasonably possible.>
I've considered adding a DSB to my fuge, but wasn't sure if it would help in such a small space (just a standard 10g tank).
<If space permits, you may want to consider a larger refugium. where you could use a DSB>
If the LR and CC are leaching, what is the best way to handle the problem?
Should I try the Kalk trick and try to precipitate out the phosphates? Is this something a newbie should attempt?
<I wouldn't Just keep up with regular water changes, perhaps moving up to 15 - 20% weekly>
Are there any other measures I should be taking?
I was considering taking out more of the CC (it's about 1" deep now, was over 4" when I set the tank up and I've reduced it slowly) and adding/mixing in some fine sand. Two part... I was hoping getting rid of the old CC might help my nutrient issues and also that the sand might be of benefit to all the various small critters. My CC is very alive, all kinds of pods, worms, mini brittle starts, etc. I don't really want a DSB in the main tank, just like the look of the shallow beds better.
<After vacuuming the CC, adding in some fine live sand could be beneficial, even if only to fill in the spaces so food and waste can't get down there.>
I hope there are some additional tricks of the trade you can share to help me get my phosphate and probably residual nitrate (I assume I'm getting 0 readings not because the nitrate problem is gone but because the algae in the tank is using it) problems under control.
<You assume correctly. You are doing everything right. As I mentioned before, aside from larger water changes, vacuuming your CC substrate, and adding some fine sand, the only other thing I can suggest is to be patient.
As I am fond of saying in these emails and from time to time, repeating to myself when I am having a problem with my tank, is that nothing good happens quickly in a marine tank. You have made great strides in a relatively short period of time. the 'last mile' as it were, always takes the longest..
Thank you so much!
<My pleasure.>
Re: Rehabbing the neglected reef: getting a neglected tank under control. 1/25/2009

Hi Mike,
<Hi Liz, my apologies for taking so long to get back to you.>
Thank you for getting back to me so quick.
Since it seems I'm doing pretty much all I can I guess I'll just keep up and hope that things improve. I might shoot that ugly Cyano some ugly looks just to make me feel better.
<It helps!. That and manual removal...>
Had a couple other questions...
When I add in the sand, should I mix it in with the CC or make a layer on top?
<You can just add it on top and perhaps rake it in with your fingers - it will work it's way down with time.>
I did a little experiment last night. I put about 1/2c of crushed coral in a cup of freshly mixed (0-PO4) saltwater. I rinsed the CC and let it drain for a few seconds (wanted to get rid of detritus and tank water) before adding in the fresh saltwater. Agitated a couple times, then let it sit overnight. I tested the water this morning and got a phosphate reading of 2! Not the most accurate of scientific tests but I think it clearly shows my substrate is leaching/harboring phosphates. Ugh! I've been siphoning out the CC & Cyano a little bit every day or two in addition to my 10-15% weekly water changes.
I'm a little worried about sucking out too many of the good critters living in the CC. I rescued a mini brittle star from the water bucket yesterday after siphoning. Is this a bad plan to siphon out the CC? I do one side of the tank one day, the other the next time. I do have a lot of live rock so I'm counting on it to maintain my pod population (for my mandarin) and other little CUC members.
I agree that it is leeching and you are still on the right track.>
Which of my corals are considered noxious (I would guess the Palys and Zoas, but wanted to clarify)?
Here is the list again so you don't have to weed back through my previous email: assorted Zoas & Palys, just added some yellow polyps, neon Palau Nephthea, pulsing pom-pom xenia and a new frag of unknown xenia (does not pulse, but its not supposed to), green star polyps, green Ricordea, red mushrooms, hairy mushrooms, kryptonite candy cane & a tiny frag of purple digi.
<The Zoas and Plays are the worst>
I was running carbon, but got worried about phosphate leaching from it and stopped, switched to using Polyfilter instead. Will the Polyfilter pull the coral produced toxins?
I can go back to running carbon no problem, just got to find a good brand.
<I've had good luck with either the Marineland or Chemi-Pure>
Thank you so much for you time and hand holding.
<My pleasure as always

Reef Tank Feeding and Maintenance Schedule 1/9/10
Hi crew!
<Hello there Jonathan>
I've been playing around with creating a feeding and maintenance schedule for my reef tank, mainly for when I am out of town and someone else is taking care of the tank, but also to just make sure I don't overfeed or underfeed the tank, or let regular maintenance go by the wayside.
<Good ideas>
I hope you can read Excel 2007 format, as the file is attached (it is very wide, so scrolling to the right is necessary).
<Have looked over>
Also, I'm trying to determine a proper feeding schedule for the fish (11 of them: Foxface Rabbitfish at 6", flame angel at 3", pacific blue tang at 5", Tomini tang at 4", 3 blue-green Chromis at 1.5", gold head goby at 3", tiny little yellow/purple thing (diadem maybe) I can't remember the name of at 1.5"
<Perhaps a Dottyback, Pseudochromid>
, 2 osc. clown at 1.5" and 2". Also, for the various coral (mainly SPS) and coral-like inhabitants (Montipora, Acropora, Zoanthids, green star polyps).
<Easy enough to do. Please "look up" each species on WWM, their "Foods/Feeding/Nutrition" FAQs files, and compile the information presented>
In the spreadsheet, anything with an "x" means I plan to do that thing on that day. I've just started using it, so if you see anything out of whack, I'd appreciate your thoughts on it.
<Am querulous re the daily 3 gallon water (changes)... I'd make these larger percentage, weekly tasks>
I'm considering turning this into a web based application that would let users enter in details of their tank, and auto-generate a PDF for them over a certain date range. Think there's any interest in that sort of thing?
<Oh yes. Many folks benefit from such>
Jon Hoover
<Welcome! Bob Fenner>
Re: Reef Tank Feeding and Maintenance Schedule 1/10/10

Ah, the 3 gallon water change does get everyone at first. But, it is about the size of the RO holding tank that I have. I really need to switch it over to a top-off pump of some sort, as almost half of that 3 gallons ends up being top-off water anyhow (especially in the dry winter).
<Ahh, I see>
That's why the 9 gallon comes into play, I consider that the rest of my true water change. Actually, I've gotten quite good at putting the bucket on the washing machine under the RO tank, turning on the valve, and setting the timer over in the kitchen to 15 minutes so I get 3 to 4 gallons out. All the while, I get to look the tank over in the dining room and account for everything in there, clean the glass, check the filters, get some food ready, clean the skimmer, etc.
<A good routine, use of time>
And, I've only forgotten to turn the valve off twice,
but that's why it sits on the washing machine - so any overflow out of the 5 gallon bucket (when I forget) goes into the clothes washer in the utility room, and not all over the floor...
<IF you remember before not too long!>
But, yes, everyone looks at me oddly when I tell them about the daily water change. I just wonder how everyone else does it - sitting around for an hour waiting on the RO unit to make a few gallons of water - maybe everyone else has a bigger tank?
<Assuredly not... nor such a convenient overflow receptacle. BobF>

Clarification on Bubbles on Rockwork 1/6/10
Hello. I have searched the many wonderful FAQs dealing with micro- bubbles on the rockwork and I am in need of a little clarification.
One FAQ seemed to suggest that if you have to much illumination or overbearing illumination on your tank that it can aid in producing these bubbles.
<Often is the case... photosynthetic life producing gas/ses...>
I am wondering how much is to <too> much. I have a 50 gallon reef tank that has been up for 8 months and initially I had a 300 watt Sunpod Metal Halide lighting system that employed 2, 150 watt lights. Both lights were rated at 20,000 K.
<Mmm, I'd replace one with likely something in the 10k K range... and save the "olde" lamp for replacement... use 10ks going forward>
I have since upgraded to a light fixture by Current that employs 2, 250 watt metal halide fixtures (20,000K-- XM Bulbs), and 4, 39 watt actinic bulbs for a total wattage over 600.
<This is a bunch of light>
I wanted to do sps corals that require a high amount of light so I thought I was making a smart move. Have I over
done it?
<Possibly. All other major factors need to be similarly "boosted" with this much light... Nutrient, water chemistry issues...>
I also have read that it could be an increase in photosynthesis because of the change in light intensities.
<Definitely so>
I do notice an increase in algae production but I have an army of cleaners keeping it in check. Does it eventually even itself out?
<Some sorts of stasis is usually reached... all "things" being about the same>
My water parameters are ammonia, nitrate and nitrate all at 0.
<SPS require some NO3>
Temperature of the water is always at 79 degrees. Specific gravity and salinity are 1.025 and 35. The corals seem to be thriving and growing really well, coloration and polyp expansion is awesome, I just hate these bubbles.
<Mmm, I'd encourage you to ignore them/these... at least for now>
The new light has been in place for about 1 and a half months and I did not notice the bubbles until a week ago after I did a routine cleaning of the tank. I have noticed that the bulbs are not as blue as they were when I first installed them.
<! You have very good vision>
I read that it takes bulbs a little while for them to burn at their highest intensity if that makes sense.
<It does and they do>
Maybe now they are at their normal operating intensity and before they were bluer which did not get the photosynthesis rocking like now. If it is the light intensity should I cut the metal halide time back by an hour?
<You could try this>
Or, should I just try and be patient and see if it rectifies itself.
<Or this... is what I would do>
Any help would be great. If there is any other information needed do not hesitate to ask.
<Please peruse the many articles and FAQs files on Stony Coral husbandry on WWM>
I truly appreciate your time and patience with this matter. Take care and thanks again for your time.
<If there is something incomplete, or unclear, please do feel free to write back. Bob Fenner>

more help for 150 reef 10/22/09
Many thanks to date however your generosity is rewarded with more work.
Thanks in advance.
150 Gallon 10 weeks
PH 8.2
Nitrate/Nitrite/Phosphate 0
Salinity 1.024
Calcium 270-300 I know I know.
Magnesium 1200
<I'd reduce in 3:1 proportionality with [Ca]>
Alk 4
Add Iodine and strontium once a week, turn off skimmer for 2 hours.
175 pounds live rock on top of 50 pounds coral skeletons. Wife had all over her old apartment, I know a sin.
<Mmm, no... not by my or known Judaeo-Christian standard>
I bleached, rinsed, left in sun for summer.
Substrate less than 1 inch of crush coral/sand. Not the very fine stuff.
Cleaning crew includes dozen blue legged hermits, another dozen huge turbo snails. Love hermit hate Turbos. They should rename them bulldozer snails. Very little algae although just notice some red hair or diatom on substrate. They do nice job.
<As your photos attest>
Remora Pro HOB skimmer, good filtrate still slightly watery Top off evaporation with RO water, gallon per week. Water change 10% every 2 weeks.
NOVA Supreme 72" T5 12 bulb lighting 8 x 10k 12 hours, 4 actinic 14 hours
AquaClear 3000 empty other than ball of Chaeto. Not sure if it does anything but its growing. Throw carbon bag in once every 2 weeks for 3 days.
Eheim 1040 canister because I have it, used for flow, filled with ceramic bio pieces, no mechanical trap in place.
Tunze Nanostream 6025
I bought 2 but once has Xenia blowing over and mushroom lifting up.
My original plan was to only use the middle 4 foot upper portion of the 150. Not the best tank depth and also wanted to keep costs down. It was to include a tank of mushroom, soft corals and a handful 4-5 reef safe fish.
Well, I blew that. I have added large colony of pipe coral, star polyps, Montipora, small toadstools, many red and blue mushrooms, Xenia everywhere, tree coral and a piece of what I think is torch coral because of long sweeper tentacles. I sent a few pictures. I was given 90% of these pieces from people I hardly knew. Nice story really but for another time.
<<redrodact.jpg>> <<right half tank.jpg>> <<left tank.jpg>> Questions?
Do I have enough flow?
I can add another nano but it will be blowing pretty hard on star polyps and colliding with flow from other nano on other side creating very high flow in middle of tank. I'm shock by how much water these little Nano's move, I'm glad I went with small ones.
Left to right I have nano- skimmer output-Eheim 1040 spray bar -Aquaclear output.
I'm using the Montipora as a "fence" between some corals. I see some damage however it is growing and fits the "vision" I have. Is that cruel or stupid to set it that way?
<Neither... and this colony will suit itself in time/space at any length (or orientation)>
Xenia is really growing fast. Will this be an issue for the leathers or mushrooms? Can it be toxic or aggressive to them?
<Can be on both counts... do keep it (the Xeniids) trimmed back, away... sell extra, give away...>
Is my photoperiod sound?
The mushrooms haven't opened as large as they were in previous tank.
Mystery? Too much flow, little, lighting? Do you recommend feeding?
<Perhaps, likely, a bit of allelopathy... Read here:
and the linked file above re Corallimorph Compatibility>
I cannot get my Calcium up. I'm throwing in 70ml of B-Ionic per day.
Even picked up some Blackwell CaCl. I'm stunned that the tank absorbs this much Calcium per day. Is it due to tank being new?
<This and the metabolism of the Cnidarians, other biomineralizing life present>
Coralline algae is plating on original live rock. Purple everywhere, Montipora looks like its growing quickly already? I am shopping for ca reactor. Think I'll get Korallin 1502. Suggestions?
<I am a bigger fan of other makes, models... particularly re their operation/maintenance... Please see WWM re...:
and the linked files above>
Fish to be added 4-5 of these: Small angel, flame or lemon peel; Coris wrasse, royal gramma or Pseudochromis, yellow tang, chevron tang, Hippo, or pair clown fish. Suggestions?
<Reading on WWM>
All in all I'm pretty happy other than snails knocking things down, and Calcium which I think will stabilize with Reactor.
<Ah, yes>
Also need more patience than I thought I would.
<A useful expedient and lesson w/ this/our hobby interest for sure>
Be well
<And you Mike. Bob Fenner>

Transitioning tanks: 20 Gallon to 90 Gallon... reef op. f' 4/27/2009
Dear WWM crew,
<Hello Tim>
First of all, huge thanks for sharing your knowledge across the web, and making your lights available to the aquarist masses. My question is already partially answered in your columns, but thank you in advance for looking into the question again and addressing the specifics of my situation.
<Thank you for the kind words, and it is my pleasure.>
I want to transition my current 30g nano set-up to a 125g full size system and would like to walk through the various steps to minimize risk to the livestock with you.
Current set-up:
20 US gallon with 20kg live rock, 10 US gallon weir (miracle mud, 5 mangroves, Caulerpa, liverock rubble, lots of critters), AquaMedic Turboflotor 1000 skimmer with ozone injection, 1 litre of Siporax (splintered glass tubes) and a sponge in a dark filter compartment, activated carbon and RowaPhos, 550 gph water movement, 48W of 10,000k VHO and a few 7000k and actinic LEDs.
- 15kg of liverock;
- Various Montipora digitata, foliosa and orientalis, Seriatopora hystrix and guttatus, Merulina ampliata (sold to me as a Monti by my dear LFS, but is doing very well - even though he gets his feelers in broad
daylight to have a go at the neighbouring hystrix - result is some tissue blanching on the hystrix and filamentous algae - but this is very limited and the rest of the Hystrix is fine - I guess I will have to separate
these two further apart),
<Most definitely>
Euphyllia ancora , Zoanthids, Discosomas, Rhodactis, Clavularia, Xenia plus a green coral looking like Euphyllia jardinei, about 20 heads, all less than 1/2inch in diameter growing closely together with short grey tentacles (1/4inch long) around a green mouth (can it be - sorry, I failed to do my research on that one) all growing beautifully;
- 20 adult snails (mainly Turbo and Astrea, reproducing at steady rates);
- 2 Peppermint shrimps (do they have a real utility in a reef set-up? I might want to BBQ these);
<I would not put Peppermint shrimp in a reef tank>
- 3 Mithrax and 10 hermits (blue, red and Mexican);
<I would watch the Mithrax crabs very closely.>
- Couple of Perculas;
- Berghia colony that has obliterated existing Aiptasia problem;
Water parameters are all fine: pH: 8.3; Salinity: 35.5ppt; Nh4, NO2, NO4, P: all 0/ not detected (P is with D+D hi-res test - is it good to have P that low?); Ca: > 400ppm; Alk: 9dKH; ORP: 300 - 400mV;
<There is some phosphate in the tank, it is just being used up by what is in there. As long as everything is thriving, I would not be too concerned.>
New set-up will be:
90 US gallon with 35 US gallon sump. I plan to transition all of the livestock and want to start keeping Acroporas (previous system not large enough and insufficient light) and carry-over most of the equipment from one system to the next with a few exceptions:
Sump return pump: I plan 800gph - is it enough (keeping in mind that for circulation, there will be a Vortech PM40 -3200 gph max flow);
<Should be fine.>
Light: I plan 2 x 150W MH plus 48W T5 actinic - is it enough?
<This should be enough for a tank of this size>
Is it better to have 1 x 250W?
<No, two 150W is better>
What is the best bulb in your mind for PAR/efficiency, keeping in mind that the blue light will come from actinic;
<Aqualine bulbs in my opinion>
How much more liverock should I add
<Approximately 0.5kg\3.8l of water>
How should I set up the sump? I would like to set-up a DSB / liverock rubble refugium system to have a constant supply of plankton to the main tank. Is it best to leave the sump in the dark, or transfer the mangroves, light the sump and allow the critters to benefit from the root system.
<Lighted is best - you can light the refugium when the tank lights are off to minimize pH shift.>
As stated previously, my big question is how to minimize risks while transitioning all the livestock from 1 system to the other. First question is: can I just transfer all the liverock/livestock/water from the old system to the new, add some cured liverock, sand and complete water with fresh salted RODI water)? The dilution factor may be a bit too strong for the livestock? However, my actual plan is as follows, but as I have no
experience in this matter at all, please let me know.
1/ set up the new tank with RODI water, heat and then salt to 35.5ppt;
2/ check all parameters to see if they are compatible to the old tank;
3/ after one day, recheck parameters and if acceptable results, add new cured liverock to the main tank, DSB (with "new live sand" - is this really working or should I buy normal fine aragonite?) and liverock rubble (from LFS);
<I would give the new tank an additional day or two before adding any live rock (Let the water settle for two to three days) The quality of store bought live sand varies greatly I would add 30% store bought live sand, 70% fine aragonite.>
4/ next day, check and if all is ok, set up both old and new tank in series, so that water circulates between both tanks continuously at a slow rate (10-50gph);
<I would wait 1 - 2 days after adding new live rock to ensure that there will not be any die off\ammonia spikes before connecting the new tank to your old tank.>
5/ wait 2 days;
6/ transfer all old tank liverock (with all coral growth) and critters to new tank and add 1inch of new aragonite sand. Transfer content of old weir to new sump and transfer the skimmer from the old tank to the new sump;
<I would add all the new sand in the beginning, though you can start transferring the sand from your old system to the new at this point.>
7/ next day: check if parameters ok (even though it is of no real use, as both tanks will be operating as one system for 3 days). Transfer fish and dismantle old tank;
8/ Do I need to run RowaPhos in the new tank straight away, or should I wait for P to become measurable?
<I would wait until you get some measurable phosphate.>
Does this sound like a plan?
<Other than extending the time and allowing the new system to settle a few days more, and diligently testing for ammonia and nitrite, yes.>
Thank you and
Best regards,
<My Pleasure>

Caribbean Biotope, stocking, new tank media replacement and substrate for Jaw Fish 4/25/09
Hello all,
<Hello, sorry for the slow response here.>
Thanks in advance for answering my questions and for being (at least for me) one of the best online sources of information.
My question is this I read you FAQ on Caribbean Biotope and I wanted to start my own but with some slight differences. I was going to add LR to both sides and leave the center open or maybe just on one side and leave the rest an open area would the latter be better for everybody?
<Either can work fine, tis more of a personal aquascaping choice.>
I have 3 fish now a Royal Gramma, a Lawnmower Blenny, and a Yellow Clown Goby and 2 Peppermint Shrimp that I want to add to my new system.
My new system is a Red Sea Max 65 Gallon all in one and because it is a new system I will leave it fallow for 2-3 months or more so it can get established or my wife makes me.
<LOL! NO reason to wait so long unless you are curing new rock...even then you can accomplish the swap once it is "cured". See: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_2/cav2i3/Live_Rock/live_rock.htm>
For stocking I was going to add some more fish but I don't know what else to put in there and my wife want to put fish that are seen and not hidden and I don't want to push my bio load because I want to make a reef safe tank with some species of coral that will go with my lighting.
<Okay, again a very personal choice of taste. Research re suitability and compatibility will show you the way.>
My next question is should I replace my foam media with a different type of foam? Also should I replace my ceramic pieces for LR rubble?
<What, where? Do you have LR in the main system?>
My last question is the substrate for the Jaw Fish, I read your FAQ on Jaw Fish systems and I want to make sure that I have my 'ducks in a row' before I start. Can I add 30lbs of Aragonite Aragamax sugar sand, (1st layer) 40lbs of Ocean Direct Caribbean Live Sand (2nd layer) and 10lbs of Florida Crushed Coral sand (3rd layer) or would I have to add more to make my new Jaw Fish happy?
<This will put you at about the bare minimum IMO. I would include some more CC or even some larger shell type pieces.>
Thank You,
Ramon and Sons
<Welcome, Scott V.>
Re: Caribbean Biotope, stocking, new tank media replacement and substrate for Jaw Fish 4/26/09

Thank you for answering my question,
<My pleasure.>
The tank has been set-up for about a week and it has some base rock and a piece of LR, I will be transferring some of my LR from my 29 Gallon that is already running but I have BGA on the rocks and I'm in the process of trying to get rid of it via a 10 gallon tank with a skimmer and water changes.
<Ah, good, steady with the battle.>
The tank it self has a compartment in the back of the tank that has a foam block (black) that keep air bubbles from going into the pump and back into the tank, it also has and area that houses 1 bags of ceramic media( rings) and a platform that holds 2 bags of carbon.
I was thinking about changing the carbon for a bag Chem-Pure Elite and adding a bag of Purigen while removing the foam because of the build up it might cause but I wanted to know should I do it during the cycle process?
<You can leave it be, but be sure to rinse it frequently. The other medias are fine, but of little value over just carbon in most cases.>
My other half wanted the water changes to be at least once a month so I don't know what I should do to keep her happy and not put me in the outs with he as far as spending all the money.
<Well, no way around it, smaller more frequent water changes are just better.>
She also said that I can have a Refugium but no more DIY's.
<Dang! DIY is fun!>
I also will be adding another 20 lbs of substrate to the tank, it is by RedSea (Reef Base) would this be good to add or another type.
<Sure, sounds good, Scott V.>

Re: New Year, New Reef... now op. 1/10/09
Thanks a lot for your advice. You guys are truly appreciated.
<You're welcome.>
I started the tank and ran into two problems that were unusual for me.
The first is this. I set up my tank, put in live sand and base rock that I seeded with my friend's clean, healthy tank "grunge". I set everything up. It looked great and everything. But when I tested for the first time- I was pretty stunned by the relatively high calcium levels in my tank. The first time I tested, the test said my calcium levels were over 600 ppm which I attributed to a problem with the test kit. I got the water tested by my LFS, and they say it is 500. Given that I use RO water, that seems a little excessive, don't you think?
<Yes. If your live sand is crushed coral, that would elevate the calcium level some, but I wouldn't think by that much.>
Any advice on how I can lower the calcium? My water is at 8.2 and buffered at 10 dKH so that can't be the problem, can it? (My base rock is previously dead live rock from my old tank, not limestone or anything that might be leaching calcium into the water)
<Where I would start is to naturally let the dKH level fall to around 7-8dKH and keep it there. Test for magnesium, the level should be 1200-1300ppm. Maintaining the magnesium level at this range allows all the calcium to be available for calcium loving inverts. If this is allowed to fall, the available calcium will also fall even though you may read proper levels on the test. When this is maintained, you will see calcium levels gradually fall indicating the corals are absorbing the calcium.>
Visibly, it seems okay, my coralline algae took off like nobody's business. In two weeks almost all my previously barren rocks are showing crusting. But still 500 from R/O water? Weird, isn't it? (I will retest for calcium and test for magnesium as you advised, but my new test kit is still being shipped)
<Do read here and related articles/FAQ's. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/calcalkmar.htm>
The second thing I struggled with and this is the first time this has happened to me in fresh and salt water aquarium keeping and I have been keeping both for 10 years- I am not seeing an ammonia spike. A week after my tank was set up, I first tried fishless cycling (pure ammonia)- no spike. I tested morning and evening. But unless I tested IMMEDIATELY after I added ammonia- I could not detect any ammonia in the tank. I am not running any ammonia removing chemicals in tank or in filter. I don't add any chlorine removing products since my RO water does that (additional paraphernalia).
<I'm guessing your "seeded" sand is providing the necessary denitrifying bacteria.>
I then added fish food to see if that would help kick start anything- no spike.
My water tests daily at 0 ammonia, 0 nitrates AND 0 nitrites (I have a DSB in my main tank- 5-6 inches). I have nothing visibly alive in my tank as in no fish, no clean up crew- nothing. I change 10% every week, but even during that week I have no detectable parameters. Once I added an entire tsp of fish food after the ammonia and watched as the food decayed at the bottom of the tank (I siphoned it off after a week) and NO AMMONIA SPIKE. I have used two test kits, and I get the same results. (Both new test kits) And even my LFS' tests show the same results.
<Test kits don't lie.>
What is going on with my tank I wonder? Please tell me my tank is not a freak tank!!
<No, I'm thinking well seeded with denitrifying bacteria.>
Brief synopsis of the set up so that you don't have to go through the entire exchange- 29 gallon with 5-6 inch DSB- intended only for soft corals, zoanthids and shrimp. 30 pounds of live rock, 65X 2 PC lights (1 daylight, 1x 50:50). Kept at 79 degrees. Salt water mix- Oceanic Reef Crystals. Rena XP2 canister filter- run only with physical filtration media- no carbon. I have an Aqua C Remora skimmer but I have not attached it to the tank yet. Powerheads for circulation.
Salinity: 1.024, Ph- 8.2, Hardness- 10 dKH, calcium approx 500 (as my problem dictates)- nitrates, nitrites and ammonia = 0.
< I now see your inhabitants are not strong users of calcium so it may take some time for the calcium level to drop naturally, the coralline will absorb some. The 500ppm calcium level isn't dangerous but I would suggest using a standard non-reef salt mix such as Instant Ocean where calcium levels are much lower. You can then bring the calcium level down by way of dilution during water changes. Once the dKH, calcium, and magnesium levels are in equilibrium with each other, a high calcium level should not be present.>
James (Salty Dog)>

T5HO Lighting confusion... I really need some help. 10/19/08 Hey guys, <Ivan.> I have exhausted every search term I could think of trying to find the answer to T5 lighting. I've found a lot of information and I've learned a lot, but I've also in the process found a lot of conflicting information. It seems that no matter how many people you talk to or how many LFSs you go to everyone has something different to say based on their experiences. <As with every other aspect of aquariums'¦and life. > What I need help with is this. I have an 80gal 'reef' aquarium. (I put reef in quotes because I can't seem to get it to even resemble a reef in the slightest) I installed a Current USA Nova Extreme 48' T5 retro @ 54Watts x 4 using 1(6700K), 1(18000K), 1(420nm) and 1(460nm) Water param.s: Tank life = 1 year old Temp = 78 -- 79 PH = 8.4 Ammonia = 0 Nitrite = 0 Nitrate = 0 Specific Gravity = 1.026 I use Tropic Marin mix that I buy from my LFS for 10% weekly water changes, 30gal sump with 2 x Mag Drive 1200 pumping up to 4 returns and using a Hydor to create extra circulation in the tank. Also have a Coral-life Protein Skimmer in the sump. Livestock (1 blue tang, 1 Sailfin tang, 1 Tomini tang, 2 Percs, 1 Mono, 2 Cleaner shrimp, 1 coral banded shrimp, 1 Crocea Clam, 1 green BTA, 1 ribbon eel in the sump because he ate all my original Percs( a whole nother story) <This is severely overstocked, incompatible..> My problem is I can't keep any kind of coral alive. Pagoda (comes out more with less light), Xenia(never grows and melts after a few months), Zoas, Leathers(wilt), Colt coral(Wilt), frogspawn(dissolve), hammer(dissolve), star polyps(diminished on the top of their rock and started growing on the underside away from light). Now when I try talking to my LFSs, one said that my 6700K bulb is not a good spectrum and too bright for corals. <It is good, perhaps the best bar aesthetics.> But when I search online I find people saying that 6700K is ok. Others I find say it's better to have 6700K to 10000K versus the 18000K that I have because the 18K is too close to the blue spectrum and does not produce enough usable light along with the 2 actinics that I have. <True, the 6500 to 10000K is better from a coral heath POV.> Is there any validity to either of these theories? <Yes.> One of my LFSs says all my equipment is perfectly fine and that maybe I have traces of copper or something else toxic to corals. I never use copper for anything so I doubt that is the culprit. <Have you tested for this? Unless you have used copper, I doubt this. Some copper is always around, it takes an artificially raised level to cause issues. Buy a test kit or have one of them test for you.> He also said I could try turning off my skimmer as it may be removing a lot of the elements needed for coral growth. <Some corals appreciate 'dirty' water, but I do not think it is the case here.> I don't know what to do anymore. I've spent so much money and so much time and I really want to make this work, but I'm getting to the end of my rope. Any thoughts or advice or ANYTHING!!! J Please help. I hope I've given you enough information to at least give me something. Thank you in advance for any assistance. <You do not have enough light, these bulbs do need to be replaced with a lower K spectrum bulb to give your photosynthetic livestock what they need'¦.your Crocea and BTA will follow suit in time. Also, your corals have likely been affected by allelopathy with the mix listed. Research on the needs and compatibility of what you have and add in the future is strongly advised.> Ivan <Scott V.>

Re: Tunze reef excel salt mix 10/6/08
Mr. Fenner,
Thanks for your expert advice, I love your site and read it everyday. The reason I was asking about reef excel is that I am getting a little older
<Heeee! I'm getting a lot older!>
and do not like the ideal of having to clean the glass on a daily base due to the green film algae that I seem to always have with the Tropic Marin salt. I just want to set back and enjoy all my hard work that has gone into my reef set-ups. So if you or know of a good salt mix that compares to Tropic Marin but does not have the film algae issues please let me know.
<Don't think it/this is the salt here... likely "just" "recycled" nutrients from foods. I'd take other avenues... bioaccumulation, transport... maybe assiduous use of chemical filtrant/s>
I have used IO and s few other salt mixes but seem to always go back to Tropic Marin.
<Is a mighty fine, consistent product>
I currently have a 90 gallon soft and mushroom coral set up. My other set-up is a 125 gallon LPS/SPS with two Tridacna clams. The 90 gallon unit has two Sunlight Tek T5 (HO) light fixtures each with 4 x 54 watt Giesemann T5 (HO) lamps. The 125 gallon has two Giesemann Reflexx light fixtures, each with 4 x 54 watt lamps. I use Giesemann Powerchrome "Aquablue, midday and one pure actinic lamp in each set-up.
<Good fixtures>
With this set up I have had orange tube coral (Tubastrea aurea) reproduce into separate colonies in my LPS/SPS set up. I do a 25% water change every Sunday in both set-ups and do not add any additives to the tanks.
<Good for you>
In fact my corals grow so fast in both set-ups that I have to sell frags back to my LFS. There is so much stuff on the internet these days, some of it true and some of it so very untrue, that one really should seek the advice of a true expert like yourself or the WWM crew before they just decide one day that they want to have a marine set-up and go out and jump into the hobby. By the way in my 125 gallon set up which I have had up and running for five years now, I Have the following list of fish:
One (1) Copperband butterfly (I have had it for 3 years)
One (1) Blue and Yellow Hippo Tang (I have had it for 2 years)
One (1) Sailfin Tang Desjardini (I have had it for 3 years)
One (1) Yellowstripe Maroon Clownfish (I have had it for 4-1/2 years)
One (1) Court Jester Goby (I have had it for 2 years)
One (1) Green Mandarin (I have had it for 4 years)
One (1) Flameback (African) Angelfish (I have had it for 3-1/2 years)
One (1) Ruby Head Fairy Wrasse (I have had it for 4-1/2 years)
One (1) Scott's Fairy Wrasse (I have had for 1 year)
In the 90 gallon set-up I have the following fish:
One (1) Purple tank (I have it for 1 year)
One (1) Spotted Mandarin (I have had it for 1-1/2 years)
One (1) Clarkii Clownfish (I have had it for 1 year)
One (1) McCosker's Flasher Wrasse (I have had it for 2 years)
My feed all my fish the following:
H20 life frozen fish food, H20 life Aquarium Seaweed, New life Spectrum pellet fish food, Ocean Nutrition pellet fish food and Nutramar or reef nutrition live Copepods.
Thanks For all your hard work.
<Ahh, thank you for sharing input re your success. Bob Fenner>

Re: No Idea What Else To Try...Please Help! (Just how much rock can you stack in a 180g tank!?) -- 10/06/08
Thanks, Eric.
<<Quite welcome>>
I inherited this tank 4 years ago, and was told by the former owner that the total amount of rock was 400#-500#.
I have not purchased any rock since taking over the tank, and have never really weighed stuff out. I just assumed that the number he gave me was accurate, but it is not unlikely that the previous owner might have embellished (a very good possibility with his personality) or overestimated the amount of rock, as it is not overwhelming for the size of the tank.
<<Ah, I see'¦then maybe this issue is a bit simpler to resolve than originally thought>>
There is a substantial amount of swimming room for everyone, so I am guessing that it is an inaccurate number.
<<Very good'¦ How about water movement'¦strong vigorous flow?>>
I will switch back to the previous skimmer configuration for now, and see what happens. I will back water changes off a bit and go after the detritus a bit more aggressively and see what happens.
<<Sounds good'¦you should also consider some means of chemical filtration if not using such already (carbon and/or Poly-Filter)>>
Thanks for your input!
<<Happy to assist'¦if things don't begin to improve with these simple changes, feel free to come back and we can examine this further. EricR>>
R1: No Idea What Else To Try...Please Help! (Just how much rock can you stack in a 180g tank!?) -- 10/07/08

Hello again, Eric.
<<Hiya Susan!>>
Water movement in the tank is good....
<<Ah good>>
I have two power heads in the tank, each turns over 740-750 GPH. Turnover from the tank through the sump/fuge is 900-960 GPH. I have polyester filters over the sponges in the overflow boxes (changed every morning) and an 8"x4" poly filter in the sump that I change every 3-4 weeks.
No carbon at this point; took it out 2 years ago when I got rid of the wet/dry set up. Do you think I should throw a sack of carbon into the fuge?
<<Wouldn't hurt in my opinion, I always like to keep a bit of Poly-Filter and carbon going in my own system>>
Also, do you have any suggestions on a different brand of skimmer?
<<I do!>>
There are many out there, and it always helps to have recommendations when shopping.
<<Indeed'¦ My current fave is the offerings from Euro-Reef but AquaC also produces a very good product. Other choices would include H&S, Tunze, and Deltec skimmers. I would prefer to see you save up for one of these top-of-the-line skimmers, but if money is truly an issue, then perhaps a skimmer from ASM or Octopus will be a good choice. As for sizing the skimmer, you can go with manufacturer recommendations (especially with the Euro-Reef or AquaC lines), but I like to suggest getting 'the next larger size' when budget and space allows as I believe many of the manufacturers tend to overate their product (as is the case with your current skimmer)>>
Thanks again for the input!!
<<My pleasure to assist. Eric Russell>>
P.S. Going back to your reply to my first email....you mentioned the uncommon nature and typically high price of the Bariene Tang.....he happens to be the best bargain in my tank!
Occasionally I stop into the local Mom & Pop fish store here in Podunk (just to see what they have), but rarely buy anything, as I try to buy livestock from the same source.
<<A good practice, as this gives you opportunity to develop a relationship and get to know your provider and their supplier>>
I stopped about 3 years ago and found this fish, then about 4" long, priced at $27.
<<Wow! A $150.00 fish for $27.00'¦not bad'¦and perhaps some insight to the markup on this 'very common' uncommon find>>
It took only seconds to make the decision on that one!
Thanks again for your help and input!!!
<<You know where to find me. EricR>>

Microbubbles and no skimmate... Mmm, skimmer op. f' 10/1/08
Good Afternoon,
<Hi there>
First and foremost, I would like to thank you, Mr. Fenner, and the WWM Crew for taking the time to answer all of the questions and for building such an informative site. I will apologize for the length of this letter beforehand. I have a couple problems. First, my skimmer is producing nothing other than a green tea colored liquid;
<Mmm... either needs adjustment or is "just" not a very efficient make/model>
secondly, I have a large amount of microbubbles or microparticles that are making the tank cloudy.
<No fun>
I have a 125-gallon tank that I started in January of this year. I added 175 pounds of live rock and a ½-inch of fine aragonite sand. This is where I made the first of several mistakes. I knew the rock needed to cure and had planned to do so in the tank. I placed the rock in the tank with a CPR Bak-Pak 2 Skimmer, three powerheads and an Emperor 400 BIO-Wheel. I obviously did not understand the difference between curing and cycling.
<Yikes! What a mess>
I failed to do water changes and the ammonia level climbed off the charts. At the highest possible placement of the collection cup, the skimmer failed to produce anything other than the tea colored liquid. I am sure you can imagine what happened, no living creatures on the live rock from the ammonia. The live rock had a lot of coralline (which bleached), but I never experienced the foul odor during curing that I have read about here.
<You're fortunate t/here>
The tank completed its cycle in about three weeks. I had all the undesirable effects, such as the diatom bloom. I had initially used tap water to fill the tank, which I now realize was another mistake. I eventually developed the dreaded Cyanobacteria. I added an RO system, and it had little effect on the Cyanobacteria. I had my water tested by a water quality firm and found that the tap water contained 600 ppm of total dissolve solids.
<We actually have more here in most of San Diego... and call our source water "liquid rock">
The RO water contained 30 ppm
so I added a DI filter to the system and lowered the TDS to 0. The CPR skimmer has never made much skimmate and as earlier mentioned, it was nothing other than a tea color. I finally defeated the Cyanobacteria problem with a great deal of water changes.
<You must be getting the ahms of AhnoldS!>
I had also read that dripping Kalkwasser with an IV would precipitate the phosphates, which I believe that I have, but have always tested zero. I believed the skimmer was producing the microbubbles, so I upgraded to an AquaC Remora Pro with a bubble trap,
<Ah! Very good>
but I continue to have little skimmate production. I have even talked with Steve at AquaC; he suggested that maybe the bioload was too light.
<A possibility>
I have now had another outbreak with Cyanobacteria. I know there is a lot of organic matter in the water,
<But... "something" missing>
since the Emperor filter cartridges become extremely dirty in a short amount of time. I have also dripped Kalkwasser over several days to raise the pH to 8.6 to precipitate the phosphates. I have now added a poly filter along with Chemi-Pure.
<Worth trying>
The Cyanobacteria is still present and I siphon it out every few days. I will disappear within an hour of "lights-out" and come back vigorously within an hour of "lights on." I know this is not light dependant and is a result of high organics in the water. I also have a green algae that grows on the back glass (not sure if it is also related to the Cyanobacteria or not) but its texture appears to be more slime-like. The coralline grows well on the rocks but when it forms on the glass, it grows to the size of a dime, then develops a small hole in the middle, and completely disappears within a few days.
The microbubbles are not only very aesthetically displeasing but as you are quite aware can be dangerous to the livestock. I have tested the equipment that I have by have shutting everything off for 12 hours, but there continues to be microbubbles or microparticles in the water column, they never settle out or rise to the top. Sometimes it almost appears that they are coming from the substrate and appear to get worse the longer the lights are on.
<Yes... I know of the sort of thing you are experiencing... and a safe, easy "cure">
Again, I apologize for the length but I am out of things to try. I also placed a HOB magnum with a micro cartridge and ran this for a month to make sure it was not just particulate matter and it appeared that this made no difference either. Not sure if this matters or not but in the beginning I had to add massive amounts of calcium because it kept dropping into the 250 range, I was also adding Purple up.
After reading on your site, I stopped all the supplements other than Kent Super Buffer for my water. The calcium has remained steady in the 400 range with no additives for several months now. I am just wondering are these microbubbles the bi-product of the Cyanobacteria or some other type of bacterial infection. Up until about two weeks ago, my pH fluctuated to the extremes 8.1 to 8.6 it was as if the BGA was controlling this to its own satisfaction.
<Good guess>
Calcium and DKH remained at acceptable levels and pH would be 8.1 one day and 8.6 the next with no additives. I first thought it was the pH meter, which is a pinpoint, but after having it checked and calibrated there was no problem with the equipment.
125-gallon aquarium (not drilled)
pH 8.1 to 8.3
Ammonia 0
Nitrites 0
Nitrates 20
DKH 11
Calcium 400
Temperature 79 (very stable)
Phosphates 0 (tank and RO water)
Lights PC (4) 96 watt (on for 12 hrs)
(3) Powerheads
AquaC Skimmer (Rio 1400)
UV (used for 1 month with no results so I removed)
Emperor BIO-Wheel (change filters weekly)
I have added phosphate remover and ChemiPure in the last month
I use no additives other than Kent Superbuffer for make-up water
I have done 10-gallon water changes weekly. I also only feed Ocean Nutrition flakes and seaweed for the Tangs. I am positive I am not overfeeding.
(1) Yellow Hawaiian Tang
(1) Flame Hawkfish
(2) True Percula Clowns
(3) Green Chromis
(1) Watchman Goby
(1) Sailfin Blenny
(1) Foxface
(1) Kole Tang
(2) Brittle Stars
(3) Firefish Gobies
(2) Cleaner Shrimp
(1) Flame Scallop (came with cleaner crew)
Pulsating Xenia (grown to three separate large colonies)
(1) Frogspawn (3 heads)
Several mushrooms
Several button polyps
(1) White Pom Pom Xenia
Cleaner crew mixed snails and hermits
Thanks for all your assistance,
<Now... I am going to try my best at an effort of sleight of hand here... suggesting actions w/o much (or any really) explanation of causative mechanisms. IF you will try adding a bit (abundance of a lacking essential nutrient) of carbon here... in the form of ethanol (Vodka will do) or "simple" sugar (pentoses, hexoses), you will very likely find a "miraculous" turning about of your system... Either a half ounce of the C2H5OH... OR a couple grams of the sugar (dissolved in some water), every other day for three, four treatments... And please do write me back in a week or so and we'll chat re... Not to be or appear disingenuous, I don't want/intend to encourage others carte blanche to try this. Your situation however... is apropos. Bob Fenner>

Small Marine Aquariums
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