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Old 10-01-2009, 04:27 PM   #1
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Getting into the aquarium maintenance business

I had to split this into 5 posts because of the 8 picture limit. Here's part 1

Ok, so here's the story. Bear with me here, this is a long thread opener, but I am hoping to get some sound advice, or confirmation of what I feel should be done

I have never kept a SW tank myself, but I've read several books on the subject. I have an Electrical Engineering degree and I've always been very detail oriented. I've learned a ton from just reading up on threads on this website over the past year, and recently purchased this tank
Possibly my first SW tank
from a guy locally who didn't have a place to put it. In conversations with him, he told me that he has a 120g reef in his office that is doing OK, but it doesn't have that 'pop' he really wants. This is a well-established tank, it has been in place for over a year (18 months I believe), some of the fish were transferred into it

The amazing thing is that he has had 2 local people who work at reputable non-box LFSs service his tank. The first one 'kept moving stuff around, re-arranging the tank, and I guess caused some damage to his office setting it up or something. The second (current) company/guy comes in twice a month, and the owner wasn't sure how much or how often he was doing PWCs, but he thought it was monthly. He mentioned to me that he really wanted to get some nice looking corals growing, that he had some at one time, but they're pretty much shrunk down to nothing, and it didn't seem like the other company cared a whole lot about it. All this, and they're charging him $200/month to basically do water changes, clean and test, if that. So here's a set of pictures of his current situation

Full tank shot, Acrylic 120g, several hundred pounds of LR and about 1cm of sand, so SSB


As for the light fixture, that's a temporary one, the ballast on his CF set went bad, so he's running a 4' T5 (ho?) 10000K and Actinic in a Coralife strip, which is melting the guard as you can see in these pics


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Old 10-01-2009, 04:29 PM   #2
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Part 2

So here's the fish currently inhabiting the tank:

Green Chromis (2 small, 2 med/small) & Pacific Rock Beauty Angelfish


Juvenile Unicorn Tang

Green Mandarinfish (cool)

2 Ocellaris Clownfish (Gotta have Nemo)

Blue Tang (gotta have a Dori too...)

Goby of some kind (please help ID - he's about 9 inches long, eel like)

Flame Fin Tang (I'm pretty sure)
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Old 10-01-2009, 04:30 PM   #3
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Part 3

Other inhabitants include a CUC including at least one crab and some snails, and some struggling corals:
Green Leg Reef Hermit Crab

Corals, most of which are REALLY small or dead, except the mushrooms



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Old 10-01-2009, 04:34 PM   #4
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Part 4

Now, on to the next part, the filter system. This looks to me like it's been grossly neglected, but then again, who the heck and I, I've never kept a SW reef tank (YET) but look at these pics and tell me what you think.

Sump




Clean side, return pump, temperature probe (batteries dead on probe!!). What is with the scum in there?




Protein skimmer - should it REALLY look this nasty?





Some filter foam floating around on top in the mid-section of the sump




What is this growing around the bottom of the wet/dry trickle filter?




Sump supply & return lines


And the return jets in the tank
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Old 10-01-2009, 04:38 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Floyd R Turbo View Post
...

I have never kept a SW tank myself, but I've read several books on the subject. ...


I know you're not done posting yet, but with an opening line like this, I don't think I'd recommend getting into a SW aquarium business. It's kind of like opening an auto repair shop after reading several Chilton's manuals, but never touching an engine...
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Old 10-01-2009, 04:38 PM   #6
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Part 5

And the drain


The only other things I found were some Phytoplankton


And some food



Ok, so now to the ANALYSIS part of this thread. Right now, this tank seems to be fine as a FOWLR, but it's a far cry from a thriving, much less surviving reef tank. And considering that the place that is servicing them maintains this reef tank and overflow frag tank in their store...

...is quite confusing. I took one look at this tank and within 1 minute I knew what was basically missing in this system.

1)Not enough light - need to add MH

2)Not enough circulation. At a minimum, it needs a couple of powerheads, if not a CLS. (see? Iím not a complete newbie!)

3)A Calcium reactor

This was an initial visit, so I didnít test the water, but Iím guessing that since it is an established system, the Ammonia and Nitrite should be 0 and there may be some Nitrates, and it may be depleted of some minor and trace minerals, which may explain the corals dying (he added some and they Ďkeep dyingí). There also may be something out of whack with a couple other parameters, because he said that within the last week, he lost 3 Green Chromis (he had 6, now has 3) and mentioned that he lost a few other fish before, one was a sand-sifter Goby, and he was told (by the current service guy) that he was surprised it was still alive, that there wasnít enough food for him in the tank and heís probably starving. He died 8 months after that.

So it seems that whoever is servicing his tank is either not listening to him, or is just in it for the money and doesnít really care if the customer is happy with the tank or not. And these are the good fish stores in town!! So I see a business opportunity here, because if I can turn this guyís tank around and make it Ďpopí, then I can use him as a great reference and get in the door at some other places, and in a few years I could have a sustainable income stream.

Iím guessing that Iíll run into a few issues by added more lighting, mainly being heat added to the system. The tank is set in a recessed section of his waiting room, and there are cabinet doors that lift upwards on a double-hinge for top access, and about 8-9 inches clearance above the top with a couple of shelves above that, so any lighting is going to have to be horizontal and close to the tank. This may necessitate a chiller, and thatís what I told him also. Also I would expect more algae growth and a bigger CUC could be called for, or more frequent cleaning.

As far as increasing circulation, this presents a problem, because short of draining the tank, I canít drill it to add a CLS. Iím very creative, so Iím sure I could figure some way of making it work with an pump above the tank (except the pump would have to pull instead of push, so Iím not sure that would be feasible), or I would just have to do with powerheads, and deal with the added heat in combination with the light heat with a chiller. Something definitely needs to be done though, because thereís minimal circulation in the tank, enough for FOWLR not for reef.

The Calcium reactor is easy enough, not really anything to be concerned with there, expect the added maintenance.

As far as the sump goes, is it just poorly maintained, or do marine sumps really get that nasty looking? Is that something that could be contributing to system instability, fish and coral deaths? What is that stringy stuff growing in the sump? What is the gunk on the return water pump side?

Also I am working on researching the fish themselves, the book I have has a great CD that summarizes a lot of information and compatibility issues. But if anyone sees anything of concern, I would like to know.


Please comment about anything you see!
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Old 10-01-2009, 06:08 PM   #7
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I would suggest learning and actually keeping a reef for a while before serving others as well. However i do feel the person who you plan to help is paying too much. Although I wouldnt be doing this a week after buying a saltwater tank, if you feel its right, go for it?
Im pretty sure the unknown fish is an engineering goby. No way in heck he will need a calcium reactor unless he gets many many stony corals. Vinegar soak the skimmer, as much as possible. A chiller probably wont be needed. A reefkeeper would be alot easier and cheaper.
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Old 10-01-2009, 06:58 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurt_Nelson View Post
I know you're not done posting yet, but with an opening line like this, I don't think I'd recommend getting into a SW aquarium business. It's kind of like opening an auto repair shop after reading several Chilton's manuals, but never touching an engine...
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I can definitely appreciate your advice, and it is a good analogy. I guess I could elaborate a bit on my background as far as aquariums, I have successfully kept many different species of freshwater fish over the years, but I would say that since I set up my current tank on 1/1/9 I have learned more than the previous 20 years combined - mainly because I didn't keep fish for about the last 6 years, and the information on aquatics exploded during that time frame.

So I would argue that, using your analogy, I know a lot about cars, but but have never worked on a big rig or a combine, etc.

Also, this potential customer seemed very open to the idea of letting me use his tank as a learning experience - assuming that I don't mess it up totally. I'm planning on going into it with the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' mentality, so I'm assessing his tank situation to see if there's anything of great concern, then I'll start slowly adjusting and watch and adjust accordingly.
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Old 10-01-2009, 08:40 PM   #9
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Helping a person out, who might happen to pay you, and "getting into the aquarium maintenance business" are totally different things in my mind. From what you describe, as long as you're up front with the guy it does sound like a good opportunity for both of you - as long as everyone has the same expectations.

I've never kept freshwater, so I can't directly compare the two. But from my experience and observations, the folks that get into the most trouble with SW are the ones who have kept FW and think that there is a transfer of knowledge between the two hobbies and try to apply their freshwater maintenance habits on saltwater. Not saying this is your situation, but just because someone has kept freshwater, well... it doesn't really mean you have a leg up on saltwater. That probably sounds a little elitist, or snobbish, but it's not meant to - I'm just saying don't think knowledge of freshwater helps you in saltwater.

As far as actual advice... I pretty much agree with AMDPhenom. No Ca reactor required. And I'd also say MH isn't necessarily required - it all depends on the corals they want to keep.

Quote:
At a minimum, it needs a couple of powerheads, if not a CLS. (see? Iím not a complete newbie!)


I guess I'M a complete newbie... what's a "CLS"?
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Old 10-02-2009, 06:10 AM   #10
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I agree with Kurt and AMD. I have both FW and SW and they are definitely 2 worlds apart.
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