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Old 12-20-2009, 12:37 AM   #1
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Tank Journal - 135 FOWLR

I've started several threads on this and other forums with questions related to how to turn a customer's tank in a restaurant from an environment in which, IMHO, the fish are barely surviving, into one where they are happy and thriving.

So, I decided to merge these various threads...

Need to raise pH, how fast is safe? - Reef Sanctuary
Need to raise pH, how fast is safe? - Reef Central Online Community
Which protein skimmer to go with? - Reef Central Online Community
Need to raise pH, how fast is safe?

...into one thread for this system, which is a 135 glass with dual overflows and Oceanic 3 sump (30g) so with sump at max operating level it's got about 150g of system volume. It is inhabited by a Dog-faced Puffer, and 3 Sergeant Majors. There was a Yellow Tang but he died - I'll cover that one later.
I started maintenance on this tank on December 13, 2009. On November 29th, I took an initial set of pictures and did a full battery of test. These were the initial test results:

Ammonia 0
Nitrite 0
Nitrates, off the scale on both API and Salifert
pH 7.4-7.6
Alkalinity 3 to 4 dKH
Salinity 32 / SG 10.235

And this is what the tank looked like:

Full Tank shot



Cyano and waste attached to substrate, LR, and decor





And the sump? Gag me...



Salt creep like this all the way around



Left side at the outflow of the overflow inlet - you can't tell, but there are bio-balls in there



Sump, Right side



One of the biggest problems was that the water in the sump was flowing over the high barrier on the right. You can kind of see it in the first sump shot, there is supposed to be a sponge sandwiched between the low and high, and it looked like there was no sponge at all, just a bunch of sludge built up and it was completely blocked. Or at least, that's what it looked like. As I will show you in the next post, looks can be deceiving.
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Old 12-20-2009, 12:52 AM   #2
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First stage cleaning, 12/13/2009

I took on the first clean-up step on Sunday December 13th, 2009

Initially, the customer wanted me to clean up the display tank first. I convinced him that we needed to get the sump in proper operation before doing anything to the DT. And it's a darn good thing I said that, because I pulled 5 buckets like this



out of that sump after I shut it down. I also found these in the overflow intake tower



Which did not make me happy, however the bio-balls are probably the only reason he's got any decent level of nitrification. I was also surprised to find out that when I was trying to siphon between the low/high barriers, I found the sponge! However, it looked like this





Which then explained why the water wasn't flowing through it!! When I got all done cleaning up that mess, which took a couple of hours, here's what it looked like all put back together again:

Bio-ball tower



Sponge & Return chamber



Removed as much salt creep as possible



Unfortunately, there was some kind of overflow or something along the line, because the sump is not level, and the base of the stand is warped so the sump actually isn't supported along the ends. Also, the sump is locked in, there's no way to get it out. Solving this problem without a total tear-down is on my to-do list.

After all of that, I used 30 gallons of the 40 I came with, so I only had enough left over to clean up about 1/4 of the DT, I just sucked the waste and cyano off along with the top layer of substrate using a 3/4" ID hose. It went way too fast. So after this first cleaning, here's the DT

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Old 12-20-2009, 01:07 AM   #3
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Second stage cleaning - 12/16/2009

The second stage cleaning took place Wednesday, December 16th

I hooked up my old Marineland Magnum canister and shut down the sump.

I took all the rock and decor out one piece at a time and scrubbed it off in 10g of SW pulled from the tank in a 25g Rubbermaid tub. When I got done, it was a nasty purple soup that smelled horrible. Then I siphoned off the remaining gunk and top layer of substrate, siphoned most of the glass and overflows of cyano, filled it back up, used a magfloat on the glass, and let it clear up. Here's how it looked after all that



Also here's a shot of the overflows after cleaning #1, they were so clogged with cyano that the water had to be 1/2"+ higher than it is in this pic just to get water flowing through it. Plus you can see how bad the cyano is on the overflows and the inside of the glass on the left (next to the window)




Total of about 38 gallons changed out. I put in the diatom cartridge and have been letting that run for a few days. It didn't pull much out in the first 8 hours, so I have just let it run for the last 2 days.

The next step will take place tomorrow: cleaning all remaining cyano, vacuum substrate, clean the overflow and U-tubes, clean all filter pads, and a 40 gallon change. Plus I'm going to cut his tank water with fresh SW 25% to 75% to get a handle on his Nitrates, since anything over 80 pretty much looks the same no matter what kit you use.
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Old 12-20-2009, 01:26 AM   #4
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Great job! Nice to see a tank come back to life!
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Old 12-20-2009, 02:34 AM   #5
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Im definately excited to see what else you do with this, well, whats the word im looking for??? Mess? Anyways, looks like you have made some AWESOME progress so far. Great job
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Old 12-20-2009, 02:57 AM   #6
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I love how you have been helping your locals with their gunked up, *ahem* inhabitable tanks!
Great work!!!
We'll all keep taggin along...
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Old 12-20-2009, 07:33 AM   #7
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How can anyone let a tank go to that kind of stage?!? Good to see it's being cleaned! BTW what did you do with the fish that was in there that we saw in the above picture?
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Old 12-20-2009, 10:44 AM   #8
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The puffer and Sergeant Majors stayed in the tank the whole time. I did leave out one part - on 12/12/2009, the day before I did the sump cleaning, I added 3-4 fl oz of a stock solution for Brightwell Alkalin8.3-P (powdered type, made the stock solution from that) to attempt to bring both the pH and Alkalinity up a bit so I wouldn't shock the system. The next day when I got there, the owner told me that the Yellow Tang died a few hours after I added the Brightwell solution.

So I don't know if it was just his time or what, but I told him that I was surprised that any of his fish were still alive - and I still am. Hopefully today I will be able to get a read on his Nitrates.
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Old 12-20-2009, 07:34 PM   #9
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I'm shocked fish can live in such terrible conditions. When was the last time he did anything on that tank?
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Old 12-20-2009, 07:56 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mitchell0605 View Post
I'm shocked fish can live in such terrible conditions. When was the last time he did anything on that tank?
Never. 3 years running, one employee told me that he had NEVER seen anyone do any kind of substantial cleaning.

I did a 50 gallon change & cleaning today and boy was that a mess. I thought the hard part was over. Will post details later, gotta go to a basketball tournament finals. Our 5th grader's team is in the finals - gotta love it when a 4th ranked team beats the #1 team.
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