Ok. I'm new to the hobby but I'm in it for the long haul so I understand that setbacks happen. But I'm feeling very discouraged as of late so I need some advice. I did my best to get the information I think you guys need to help me but if I forgot some stuff please be gentle as I am a baby to the saltwater aquarium hobby.
I have a 55 gallon tank. I have a Sea Clone 100 Protein skimmer, an Emperor 400 Biowheel filter, live sand at about a 1 1/2 inch depth, and about 30lbs. of live rock. I realize not that I probably need more live rock but as it can be expensive I was hoping to add it as I went. Bad idea?
As of this morning my water quality is as follows:
Ph - 8.1
Ammonia - 0ppm
Nitrite - .25 ppm
Nitrate - 10ppm
These results were obtained using a Saltwater Master Liquid test kit. This kit was recommended to me by the local aquarium store as the easiest to use. The only test I have trouble with is the ammonia one because the colors are a bit ambiguous in the lower levels. But I'm 95% sure that the level is 0.
The inhabitants of my tank right now are as follows:
1 Yellow Tang - seems very healthy
1 Percula clownfish - seems healthy
1 Firefish goby - seems healthy
1 cleaner shrimp - doesn't seem to be eating
15ish - astreaa snails
10 - blue legged hermit crabs
2 - sea hares
In the last 2 weeks I have lost:
3 Banngai Cardinal fish
10ish - astreaa snails
1 - sea hare
2 - cleaner shrimp
Now that we have the info I'll elaborate. I started my tank in early July. It was my understanding that it would need to cycle for about 4-8 weeks according to what I had read. The guy at the aquarium store told me I could put some damsels in to speed the process along so I put 4 small bicolor damsels in and began the wait. After about 3 weeks I saw a small spike in my ammonia and nitrite. The same guy at the aquarium store told me that since I had both live rock and live sand that my tank might cycle faster than usual so as soon as I saw my levels go down I was good to go. So I waited another week and saw the levels go down and thought I was safe. I got rid of the damsels and added my first fish. The percula clown. About a week later I added the tang. Another week and I added the snails, shrimp and crabs. Things were going beautifully so I waited a week and went back to the fish store. I added my firefish and then my cardinals.
Things were going beautifully and then one morning I woke up to a brown aquarium. There was this horrible brown algae stuff everywhere. I cleaned the tank and did about a 20% water change. I usually do a 5% weekly. I then went to the fish store and asked about it and they said I should get some sea hares. So they sold me three. I went home, added them to the tank, and went on about my merry way. Shortly afterwards my tank turned brown again, started smelling very bad, and things started dieing. I cleaned it again and in the process, sucked the dead body of one of my sea hares out from a cave in the live rock. Did another large water change and well here I am today.
Now for my questions.
Do I need more live rock?
Did my tank have long enough to cycle or was that guy misinformed?
Are sea hares a bad idea?
What is that horrible brown algae and what will make it go away?
Am I the only one who has ever felt like "Oh my what have I gotten myself into...."?
Please help me. Any assistance you can give will be much appreciated. If you need any additional info...ask and ye shall receive.
Thanks in advance.