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Old 06-19-2009, 11:36 AM   #1
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Aquarium newbie with monster tank

Hello all,

I am a Brit living in the Czech Republic. My wife and I have been diving for years and we decided a couple of years ago to get a salt water aquarium. We have a lot of hobbies already, so when selecting our 'expert' he needed to be local and prepared to do all the work setting up and maintenance etc over time. Basically he took our money, built us a tank, put some fish in it and ran away!

We had a long large tank with a Moray eel who lived in an amphora, some cleaner shrimp and a couple of starfish. I must say we trusted the guy completely from the start and the whole set up was absolutely wonderful.

Then we started having problems, at first we had a brown residue on everything, which he said would go away, then I had to clean the tank very regularly. The chamber which holds the filtration system and the pumps started overflowing and we had a couple of powercuts, which didn't help matters.

We got in another expert, of course he poured water (figuratively) all over his predecessors work and told us we would have to pay another 1/2x (x being the original cost of everything) to get things back. Then our moray died.

We lost hope and today I decided to take out all the water, sand, coral, stones and everything we had in there, it was filthy.

Now we are left with an empty (but remarkably clean!) tank with nothing in it. The tank is a large rectangular one, in one corner a piece of glass separates off a triangular smaller tank and water flows slightly over the glass into a chamber filled with porous rocky coral. There is a pipe in the middle, perhaps 6-8 inches high and the water flows over that and into a chamber below the tank, firstly into a separate section filled with more coral and then over the surface of the glass partition in there and into a chamber which contains a Wave Skimmer 1200P and an adequate 2000 litre per minute pump, which sends the (clean?) water back up to the triangular chamber and just over the glass partition back into the tank.

I hope some of this makes sense. I am on a steep learning curve, which is to say I know nothing and need to learn quite a lot to get this working.

I have been told the filtration system is totally inadequate by people who have a vested interest in selling me another one and I have totally lost faith in the honesty of the trade over here. I would live to get a nice salt water aquarium back up and running, with minimum maintenance and would like to incorporate the existing equipment, if is up to the job.

I assume most aquaria are custom, but I would just like to point out that the main tank is 10mm toughened glass and the lower section which houses the pumps and skimmer is thin custom glass, fitted into the cupboard on which the tank sits. There were also some 'tights' filled with bits of carbon and lumps of blue foam of varying grades all around, in a poor state (I had been told this contained micro bacteria which cleaned my tank) and I removed this also, as it seems ineffectual and at best is filthy, as everything else.

If anyone is minded to give me a hand with this, I would be extremely grateful. I moderate on a DVD burning website, so know how difficult it is to get started for some people in a new topic and find forums can be very helpful places. I also am a vintage RC expert, so if you need advice on either DVD or RC I can trade that for advice here

Sometimes it is easy to say, do a search on the forums, but I don't even really know what to search for! Any advice would be extremely gratefully received, even if it is just to tell me where to go, so to speak!

Keep well,

Paul.

PS : Just remembered a link to show you what it used to look like! In the door underneath on the right is the chamber with the pumps and 'filtration'

YouTube - Mohammed Eel Fayed
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Old 06-19-2009, 11:44 AM   #2
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Beautiful tank! I am going to move this to the SW getting started section, I think you'll get great feedback there!
Hang in there and we will be more than happy to help!
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Old 06-19-2009, 01:32 PM   #3
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Iam gonna leave it to the experts but to help with your reading in the meantime that tank mentioned below is what called a sump. This is actually a great filtration system if you have enough live rock

The guys/girls are going to ask you have much live rock you have

Water water parameters are

size of the tank

etc

put as much info as you can and they will better be able to help you.
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Old 06-19-2009, 01:36 PM   #4
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I have loads of 'rock' coral, or whatever it is. Little pencils, they were lying in the bottom of the tank, in the overflow bit on the side and in a big compartment in the bottom sump (thanks for the new word!) I have dredged them out, as they were filthy and have put them aside. I was thinking of soaking them in bleach and water, then standing them in fresh water for a few days, changing it once or twice to get the bleach out.

I have also just noticed that the top of the skimmer (the cup which is clear plastic) has had the top cut off it to fit inside the cupboard. It is perhaps 3/4 its original size.
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Old 06-19-2009, 01:47 PM   #5
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Without looking up all your equipment, it sure looks like you have a nice setup. You have a reef ready tank (holes drilled in it to support a sump) along with a sump that includes more live rock (though I'm not sure that's really what it is, live rock), a skimmer and a return pump to get the water back. Very nice for filtration.

The brown residue was most probably diatoms that would have eventually gone away on their own. They are pretty much a guarantee for a new setup. Id' venture to guess we all had them and at times they reappear and disappear again to some degree. So there were probably no worries there.

Some of the obvious questions that will help:

Did you (or your service) cycle your tank?
Did you test your water parameters? ammonia/nitrite/nitrate/ph etc?
Did you have any powerheads in the tank? The powerheads help getting oxygen into the tank and also keep debris suspended so that your overflow can route it to your sump/skimmer

Your substrate sounds and looks like big ole hunks of crushed coral or some man made concoction ('little pencils"). If it is it would have needed to have been gravel vacuumed on a regular basis to get all the debris out. Sand would have been much better.

It's probably going to take a bit of back and forth to sort it all out. I guess the big question is are you trying to see what went wrong (history lesson) or just advice on how to get it setup .... ummmm... better I guess is the word?
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Old 06-19-2009, 01:57 PM   #6
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Do not put them in bleech

again until the experts chime in

The rock will grow bacteria that bacteria is what cleans your tank

My guess is your probably gonna have to recure it and start over again again the experts will probably explain curing better then I can..

Rule of thumb is apx 1 lbs to 1.5 lbs of rock per gallon of water.

your explanation of pencils means you probably don't have enough. Live rock is usually small bolder sized (bigger)
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Old 06-19-2009, 01:59 PM   #7
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Yea I can see what you mean from Pencils from the video that is your substrate or bed like captain said that's probably crushed coral and not live rock.
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Old 06-19-2009, 02:03 PM   #8
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If you've tore the whole thing down, bleaching them won't be a problem. Just buy a good quality dechlor (Prime if it's available) to soak them in afterward, then air dry and smell. If they still smell like bleach. dechlor again... and repeat.

You don't need 'live rock', you just need some where porous for your bacteria to colonize and do their duty. Most trend toward live rock because it's porus and has lots of area for the colonization AND it's ascetically pleasing and looks like the ocean floor. However you can buy fake stuff, you can buy 'things' (the words escape me) that are very porus that come w/ canister filters amongst other things.

In the end it all depends on what you want it to look like and how you want it to run. All those decisions have a bearing on how hard the upkeep is going to be. Some run HOB filters only (hang on back), some skimmers and LR (or equivalent) only, some canisters, or any combination. Each has their ups and downs and unique maintance routines.
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Old 06-19-2009, 02:04 PM   #9
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Hi and thanks for your response

The brown residue started at the beginning and I never got rid of it, until today. The chap did actually come back a few times, each time with some preparation to rid me of the diatoms and each time they remained. After our Moray sadly died, the tank wasn't actually particularly dirty and we were told (again, I reckon a lot of BS, as we are total novices) that the Moray died because it is a dirty fish with a lot of waste. Why he gave it to us then I will never know, we feel really bad, guilty and responsible, even though the advice was all wrong.

In answer to your questions, we have never personally cycled our tank, I am not even sure what you mean by cycling, exactly, when he came a few times he spent a long time cleaning, but I don't know exactly what he did.

We have never tested the water, no need to we were told.

I don't know what a powerhead is!

I think the rock is natural coral, as it is random in size. It is filthy now, should I bleach it all, then clean it with fresh water and put everything back together? I have removed every single part and cleaned it.

I would love to know what went wrong to avoid it happening again and to know how to set up from scratch. To be honest, we were so upset, we have considered scrapping the saltie tank altogether and making it into a terrarium or freshie instead. We are sticking to the salt plan for now though, so long as what we have is adequate and I can get my knowledge level up. Trouble is the other company said the installation doesn't filter anything, but I don't believe them either, as they took one look at our house (it is kinda big and kinda nice) and I saw the look of Kaching in their eyes.

Gravel vacuuming? OK, what is that then? I had better do a search on the forums for that!

Please bear in mind - nice tank, nice set up - owner newbie moron with majot dorkage in this area. The 'idea' was for this to be a thing of beauty for us and he would look after it for us every couple of weeks.....we are still waiting....

P.
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Old 06-19-2009, 02:07 PM   #10
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I need to run but you can bet someone here will post a couple of links:

1) how to cycle a tank
2) basic equipment for a SW tank.

Hang tight. Knowledge is power with these kind of people. Challenge them with facts and you may find a different attitude or yo may find you don't need them at all!
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