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Old 12-28-2009, 07:46 PM   #1
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Starting a tank... driving me insane...

After 10 years in freshwater, I figured I'd finally dive into salt... (Way different ballgame apparently...)So, about a month ago, I decided with space being limited, I'd start with a 10 gallon nano (yes, I'm aware the smaller, the harder it is... I figured I have the time and dedication for now, and I'm also setting up my 55 soon).

I put in almost 20 lbs. of live rock and about 5 lbs. of base rock on top of fine white reef sand using (what to me appeared to be ok at the time) Petco's salt mix with dechlorinized tap... Was this mistake #1? (Haven't bought RO/DI unit yet...)

The live rock was from an established tank and my ammonia spiked within a few days, along with a bit of nitrites. I ran out of nitrate tests so I haven't tested at all, and have been low on $$ cuz of the holidays but am planning to buy more this week... A friend told me that with that much live rock, my tank should cycle very quickly...

So two weeks in, I test only ammonia and nitrites, and both are 0. Again, friend suggests hardy corals would be ok to add... I tell him I've read online that you really shouldn't add coral for a while but he says "can't believe everything you read online" so that in a sense being true, I thought I'd give it a shot since he was giving me free frags...

OK... here comes the problem... so I put in two zoa frags and two green striped mushrooms... Zoas are doing well the first few days but most close up a few days in, and mushrooms aren't quite opening all the way... I was suggested using a very small amount of H2O phyto cubes to help coral growth, so I put in 1/4 cube twice that first week... Within another week (last week) I get a massive diatom bloom. I'm thinking ok... this is normal... A few days later, brown hair algae... again, I hear normal for a new tank. Then this last weekend, cyano (I think)! WTF?

After the brown algae bloom, I figured since I was testing no ammonia, I'd give starting with my CUC a shot to battle the algae problem and bought 2 blue legged hermits and 2 astreas... Acclimated by floating for an hour, then slowly pouring in tank water (VERY little at a time) for about 3 hours... (ran out of tubing, couldn't do a drip...) Little guys crawled around a bit... but next morning... dead.

Assuming I have a phosphate/excess nutrient problem, I read up and according to most people online, PWCs are the way to go... So I do two 20% PWCs within 3 days of each other. This was this last week. The algae is now starting to get on the two zoas. My friend would rather I not place them back in his tank as he doesn't want the algae transferring to his... So after the PWCs, I decided to try a CUC again... Two more blue leggeds and two more astraes... Same acclimation. Next morning, dead. (I'm ready to kill someone...)

So, I go to the LFS on Saturday and again, I hear the whole "you can't trust information online" lecture from him. Holy Christ. He informs me that water changes are actually going to make it worse, not better. He says that since I'm using tap, the more PWCs I do, the more nutrients I'm introducing INTO the tank, instead of taking it OUT... But that's not what I read online...?? Am I reading wrong? In the past two days, I've recently lowered my lighting from 12 hours a day to 8... I'll start using RO/DI, and have stopped feeding, as the LFS guy said it's not necessary. Those are the three majors I've heard causes algae blooms...

Question is, what's with the contradiction with the whole water change thing? Do I do it? Do I not? I'm confused. Info online says PWC with help export phosphate and extra nutrients, but the LFS guy says I'm adding more by doing it. And the algae... No dead animals, no waste... so the nutrients are coming from where? Is it the water? If so, water changes or no? More info... I have a Aquatech 170 GPH powerhead and a 100GPH filter running for only water flow, no carbon... Can excess nutrients get trapped in the filter? And a heater set to 78. I have two 15 watt lights, a 50/50 and one actinic...

I've killed 8 creatures so far, but the corals are still alive. Not opening all the way, but alive nonetheless... I have no source for copper as it's a brand new tank... So really, this is a multi part question... What's causing the algae bloom AND the invert deaths? Is it the water? Is the tank most likely just not finished cycling? I've had plenty of freshwater tanks... up to 200+ gallons and I'm having more trouble with this 10 gallon saltie...

Sorry for the fifty page essay. I just thought I'd give all the info at once... Which I'm sure I'm missing a lot of anyway.
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Old 12-28-2009, 08:31 PM   #2
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I would say it's your dechlorinized tap water, happened to me when I first started. Definitely need RO/DI water. What are your water parameters far as salinity. I would stop with the phyto cubes as well.
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Old 12-28-2009, 08:35 PM   #3
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Thanks... The salinity is about 1.024/5ish... so I'm sure it's not the salinity. I figured it's the tap water... But I hear that lots are able to pull it off without a RO/DI so I thought I'd give it a shot... I am planning to purchase a unit ASAP but for now I'll go ahead and buy some and slowly transition it with PWCs... I have stopped feeding the phyto cubes as well last week. OK, well thanks. Hopefully it is the water... At least I'll have an answer... lol.
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Old 12-28-2009, 08:46 PM   #4
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I started a 12 gallon nano cube and added live sand and live rock and the next day added coral and never had a problem. Are your lights brand new and some people might say that you might not have enough light I think you are pushing it as far as lighting goes. But maybe I'm wrong. That seems like an awful lot of current for such a small tank.
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Old 12-28-2009, 10:08 PM   #5
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I agree, it is probably your water, although I'm not sure about your CUC dying. Personally, I had been using tap water and I went through a similar cycle to what you described - diatoms, brown hair, cyano, and even some sort of bubble algae that sprung up recently. PWCs did not help, like you said, so I started buying RO water since I cannot really get a RO/DI filter.
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Old 12-29-2009, 01:22 AM   #6
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Welcome to AquariumAdvice, and no need for the apology for the 50 page essay. Personally, I'd rather have too much info about your problem then not enough.

Soo.... where to start...

The whole water change issue - your LFS is kinda right, but with that normal disclaimer of "... it all depends." Water changes definitely DO reduce nutrients in your tank assuming that the water you're putting in is cleaner than the water you're taking out. If the tap water you're putting in is filled with nitrates and phosphates, then yes... you are just adding fuel to the fire and giving the algae more food. But it all depends on how much nitrates/phosphates your tap water has in it compared to your tank. That's easy enough to figure out by testing your freshly made saltwater for nitrates and phosphates. So yeah... your LFS *could* be right... but they aren't really giving you the whole story.

Regarding the phyto cubes... STOP! There are very few corals that directly use phytoplankton. At this stage, all it's doing it fouling up your water. What type of lighting is that 2x 15W? If your mushrooms are kinda shriveled up, then I'd think there's not enough lighting. Mushrooms are pretty indestructable given the right lighting and low flow conditions, and "food" never seems to be an issue. Zoanthids - even though they're said to be "beginner" corals - in my opinion are not beginner corals. They need the right lighting and flow, which can vary from type to type. And then theres some tanks they just won't survive in, no matter what.

I'm not sure about the Petco brand salt, but there was another question here on the forum about the stuff recently. In researching that brand salt, I didn't find many nice things said about it. Not sure if that's contributing to the algae issues, but if you run out of things to try, you might switch to a name brand salt like Instant Ocean, Reef Crystals, Oceanic, etc.

Your LFS is correct - you can't blindly trust all the information you get online. But that also doesn't mean you shouldn't read forums, ask questions, and judge for yourself the answers you're getting. If you read enough, you'll see general trends of habits of folks that have successful tanks and those that don't. I researched here for months before buying my first piece of equipment to figure out my own game plan, which I then supplemented with information from my LFSs. You'll find everyone has their own opinions, and there's usually a grain of truth in all the opinions. You just have to filter out that grain.

You got it right in your opening paragraph - a 10g reef is a tough thing to manage. It's definitely not the way you'd want to introduce yourself to saltwater.

Oh... the cleanup crew deaths - a drip acclimation is the best option, but even with that I'd say a 3-hour acclimation is a little on the long side. I'm thinking you might be seeing quite a large temperature drop over that 3 hours, and unless you're temperature acclimating them again at the end of that 3 hours, they might be dieing from the sudden temperature change? Just thinking out loud...
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Old 12-29-2009, 12:26 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fshfrk58 View Post
I started a 12 gallon nano cube and added live sand and live rock and the next day added coral and never had a problem. Are your lights brand new and some people might say that you might not have enough light I think you are pushing it as far as lighting goes. But maybe I'm wrong. That seems like an awful lot of current for such a small tank.
Well, the actinic is brand new, the 50/50 is from an old freshwater plant tank I had but was only used for a couple months, so in a sense, still new... right? As for the current, the more the better, as long as you're not pushing sand around. Also, I don't seem to be seeing much current from the filter since the filter inside is slowing the water flow a lot...
Quote:
Originally Posted by atte View Post
I agree, it is probably your water, although I'm not sure about your CUC dying. Personally, I had been using tap water and I went through a similar cycle to what you described - diatoms, brown hair, cyano, and even some sort of bubble algae that sprung up recently. PWCs did not help, like you said, so I started buying RO water since I cannot really get a RO/DI filter.
Thanks. Ya I'm planning on buying some RO water today... Out of curiosity, if I don't make it to the LFS, does grocery store water help? I hear it's at least better than tap water... right? How about those machines outside... I think it's distilled only isn't it? That won't really help much will it...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurt_Nelson View Post
The whole water change issue - your LFS is kinda right, but with that normal disclaimer of "... it all depends." Water changes definitely DO reduce nutrients in your tank assuming that the water you're putting in is cleaner than the water you're taking out. If the tap water you're putting in is filled with nitrates and phosphates, then yes... you are just adding fuel to the fire and giving the algae more food. But it all depends on how much nitrates/phosphates your tap water has in it compared to your tank. That's easy enough to figure out by testing your freshly made saltwater for nitrates and phosphates. So yeah... your LFS *could* be right... but they aren't really giving you the whole story..
Will do. I thought a lot about that and what you said is pretty much the conclusion I came up with. Another thing about nitrates... I mentioned to him that my problem might be nitrates and his exact words were "don't worry about nitrates, what you read is wrong... you can have nitrates through the roof and it won't matter... everything in your tank will just consume it in time..." OK, now THAT I've never heard of... Can someone enlighten me?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurt_Nelson View Post
Regarding the phyto cubes... STOP! There are very few corals that directly use phytoplankton. At this stage, all it's doing it fouling up your water. What type of lighting is that 2x 15W? If your mushrooms are kinda shriveled up, then I'd think there's not enough lighting. Mushrooms are pretty indestructable given the right lighting and low flow conditions, and "food" never seems to be an issue. Zoanthids - even though they're said to be "beginner" corals - in my opinion are not beginner corals. They need the right lighting and flow, which can vary from type to type. And then theres some tanks they just won't survive in, no matter what..
Yes... phyto stopped lol. As for the lighting... I'm in the process of deciding which hood to buy (hard with a 10 gallon, dimensions are a bit hard to work with...) so for the moment, I just have two separate 15 watt hoods from my freshwater tank on top. A Coral 101 actinic on one, and a Coralife 50/50 on the other. Would that be a problem?
As for the shrooms right now one is in full light on the bottom and the other is in full shade... both are shrivelled... What to do? With the zoas, one closed up after a few days and has stayed closed... The other is on and off... Out of about 15 heads, I've had between three to most of them open up in the past two weeks. I guess they have their good days and bad days. In the past few days though since the algae's taking over, it's been less and less... I just basted the algae off this morning and cleaned them all up. I'm waiting to get home from work to see if that helped any...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurt_Nelson View Post
I'm not sure about the Petco brand salt, but there was another question here on the forum about the stuff recently. In researching that brand salt, I didn't find many nice things said about it. Not sure if that's contributing to the algae issues, but if you run out of things to try, you might switch to a name brand salt like Instant Ocean, Reef Crystals, Oceanic, etc..
I'm definitely buying Instant Ocean next time. I thought I'd try the Petco brand to save a little money (figure if they sell it... it's not that horrible... apparently not true...) I used Instant Ocean for a brackish tank before and never had a problem so definitely going with that from now on.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurt_Nelson View Post
Your LFS is correct - you can't blindly trust all the information you get online. But that also doesn't mean you shouldn't read forums, ask questions, and judge for yourself the answers you're getting. If you read enough, you'll see general trends of habits of folks that have successful tanks and those that don't. I researched here for months before buying my first piece of equipment to figure out my own game plan, which I then supplemented with information from my LFSs. You'll find everyone has their own opinions, and there's usually a grain of truth in all the opinions. You just have to filter out that grain..
Of course, that's why I'm here. I've owned a few forums myself so I'm definitely a forum person... I'm definitely cherry picking all the good info I can find... I just hate when there's a million answers to one question and ya gotta find the right one! lol.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurt_Nelson View Post
You got it right in your opening paragraph - a 10g reef is a tough thing to manage. It's definitely not the way you'd want to introduce yourself to saltwater..
Ya... I definitely knew that before starting it. One of my reasons for the 10 was because a 10 fits perfectly next to my bed and I wanted to be able to enjoy it at night... I'm not doing much enjoying right now am I? lol. I'm in the process of setting up my 55 on the foot of my bed... Hopefully I have enough experience with the 10 by then to have better luck with that one!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurt_Nelson View Post
Oh... the cleanup crew deaths - a drip acclimation is the best option, but even with that I'd say a 3-hour acclimation is a little on the long side. I'm thinking you might be seeing quite a large temperature drop over that 3 hours, and unless you're temperature acclimating them again at the end of that 3 hours, they might be dieing from the sudden temperature change? Just thinking out loud...
Well... while acclimating them, they're IN their bags floating... so there's no temp change. What I do is float them for about a half hour or so to even out the temps, then open up the bag while still in the water and start slowly adding water for a couple hours... So there's actually no temp change. Can it be anything else? I'm just REALLY going crazy with the invert deaths... I don't wanna keep putting em in and having em die on me...
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Old 12-29-2009, 01:36 PM   #8
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You can get RO water at walmart.
As far as lights go if you are on a budget check out T5-HO Light or Current USA Nova Extreme T5HO X2 - Saltwater Light Fixtures


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Old 12-29-2009, 02:08 PM   #9
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You can get RO water at walmart.
As far as lights go if you are on a budget check out T5-HO Light or Current USA Nova Extreme T5HO X2 - Saltwater Light Fixtures

Thanks, I'll be heading to Walmart today then... And yes, that Nova is actually what I was planning to purchase next week...
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Old 12-29-2009, 06:50 PM   #10
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Kurt covered it all. One thing I would add is when checking things out online pat particular attention to people`s experiences. Alot of people have already been where you are now and can tell you what to do and what to advoid. Welcome to AA BTW.
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