I'm new to this site... I came across is while doing several google searches on my dying fish. Google kept sending me back to the same site over and over so I started to get the hint that this is the place to be
First of all, let me point out that hopefully I'm not the average person trying to start a saltwater aquarium without reading a single thing on the subject first. I've spent the past couple months researching everything before ever even starting. I'd like to think I've avoided all the typical newbie mistakes, but here I am asking why my fish are dying, so perhaps I'm not quite as well informed as I think I am!
Let me give you a brief history to start with. The aquarium is 55 gallons. There is a 1500gph overflow box that I put on from glass-holes going into a 10 gallon sump. I custom plumbed everything and this is one of the areas where I may have possibly gone wrong. I used black PVC
pipe to plumb everything and I used PVC
cement on all of the joints. In my research, I came across a LOT of other people who did the same thing so I assumed it was safe, but now I'm starting to wonder if the PVC
cement may be a contributing factor to the deaths? Anyways, back to the history... The sump has mesh filters, carbon filters, and bioballs in the first compartment. The second compartment is just mineral mud and a heater for now, but I plan to add algae once I can get things a little more stable. The third compartment is nothing but an 800 gph
return pump that shoots the water up to a spraybar. On both sides of the tank I have a MaxiJet 1200 that are both aimed at each other and making a decent amount of flow. I have a dual tube Coralife Aqualight that has 50/50 and actinic lights as well as the blue led
moon lights. I've been turning the actinic light on from 7am-9pm and the 50/50 from 8am-8pm. The moon lights turn on when the 50/50 is off. These are on a timer so the on/off times are always exact.
Inside the tank, I have about 60 pounds of Fiji live rock and about 10 pounds of other rock (lava rock, marshall, etc.). When I started the tank, I put the live rock straight into the tank since I had no fish and let it sit in there for a week. For water, I used tap water (de-chloramined) mixed with Instant Ocean salt to 1.022 specific gravity. The tap water is another thing I'm assuming may be the culprit... I checked out water supplies annual report and the tap water isn't incredibly bad here. It had some extra heavy metals than I would have liked, but nowhere near the lethal levels I had read about elsewhere. I had a Reverse Osmosis system ordered and shipping, but I didn't want to wait and I didn't think the tap water would hurt the live rock. After a week, I got the reefkeeper reverse osmosis from air, water, ice and got it all setup. The clean water is feeding into a brand new 44 gallon rubbermaid (brute) trash can. I hosed it out when I brought it home (even though it wasn't dirty) and didn't use soap or anything. Not sure the the plastic they use for the trash can may be harmful to fish? After a week, I brushed the dying stuff off the surface of the rock and sucked it out of the tank. I then performed a 50% water change for three days straight, replacing the tap/salt water with pure/salt water each day.
After the third day I took a mollie from a freshwater tank I own (which I just put straight tap water into) and slowly acclimated him to the salt water, then put him in the new tank. I watched him for a day and everything seemed fine... So I went down to my LFS
and picked up 2 blue damsels, 1 domino, 1 three stripe, and a green chromi, got them home, acclimated them, and put them in the tank that night. The next morning I woke up and the chromi had already died. I took him out immediately. A few days later the domino died and a few days after that, both blue damsels had died leaving me with the three stipe damsel and the black mollie.
I was checking levels the entire time... Specific gravity was at 1.023, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate were all undetectable. Calcium was up around 480ppm which I understand is a little high, but I couldn't find anything that said this level was harmful to anything in the aquarium. Carbonate Hardness was 13dkh, ph was 8.4 on the money, and phosphates were somewhere between 0 and 0.5. I couldn't figure out what was wrong for the life of me. I ended up leaving the two remaining fish in there for another week and they seemed to be doing ok. Well the black mollie seemed perfectly fine... the three striped damsel seemed to be breathing a bit fast to me, but he seemed that way when I got him from my LFS
store so I started thinking it was natural.
After that week I started growing some brown stuff on the live rocks (I believe it's diatoms) so I went back to my LFS
and got a cleaner pack that consisted of 2 shrimp, 8 snails, and 10 crabs and put all of those guys in the tank. They've been in there for about a week now and all of them are perfectly fine and seem to be eating fairly healthy and they're always quite active.
So yesterday, after another week and a couple more water changes went by, I started thinking that maybe I had just gotten a bad batch of damsel fish from the LFS
I went to. I went to Petco this time (ya I know... definitely a step down from any LFS
but the fish are a lot cheaper there and when I lost that many at a time, I didn't want to spend too much too fast). Last night I got 2 yellow tail blue damsels, 1 blue damsel, 1 green chromis, and another three striped damsel. I acclimated them and put them in the tank and gave them some formula 1 marine pellet food. They all seemed perfectly healthy last night and I thought I had gotten over the hump. This morning I woke up and all fish were accounted for... everything seemed to be going well. I came home from work around 5 and the new green chromis and the new three stripe zebra were both dead!
Nobody was picking at them so I don't think underfeeding is an issue here. With 800gph trickling down my pipes and hitting the water in the sump, I don't think lack of oxygen is a problem here either. I got a TDS
meter and the water coming out of the RO
is 0ppm so I don't think water quality is an issue either. All of my levels seem perfect, except for calcium and carbonate hardness which are both slightly high, but I don't think that the issue either.
At this point, the only things I can think of are the PVC
cement I used on the plumbing, the trash can the RO
water is stored in, the sea salt mix i'm using (it was instant ocean but now I switched to ocean pure), or possibly too much circulation and the fish are swimming themself to death, even though there are some slower spots inside the rock for them to take a rest.
I honestly don't know what to do here... I thought I had researched all I could and avoided all the newbie mistakes, but it would seem I feel right into the same problems others have. I would greatly appreciate any help... even if you need to flame me for a stupid mistake I may have made in the process