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Old 02-01-2005, 05:04 PM   #1
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FOWLR vs. Fish Only

Hey all. I currently have a 90gal Salt Water tank that has been up and running with fish for about 8 months. I can't say there haven't been some trying times and some tough hurdles, but I think I almost have the hang of it now.

First a little info on what I have / what I'm doing:

Right now I'm fish only w/o live rock. I'm using some basic baserock and some artificial corals. I am not against using live rock, but i've heard some people say that if you go to live rock it really limits your ability to treat the tank with copper or other medicines.

About 7 months ago I suffered a massive ICH outbreak. Not sure what caused it, not sure how it happened, but it did. I a purple tang and a flame angel, it was very hard. At that time I treated the tank with copper medicine directly. I ran copper in the system for a good while until I had things under control. After several more weeks of sitting I began to run a new polyfilter every day or two to try and pull out all the copper I could. I still have some of the same artificial corals and rocks in the tank now as I did when I ran the copper. Currently via the copper test kit it appears to all be gone out of the system.

After cleaning the tank a few days after I run into some alge growth. It's brownish in color and it likes to turn my corals and my sand the same way. The tank only stays clean a few days after a change. I change 30-40% of the water every 2 weeks. I'm begining to suspect phosphates, but not 100% sure yet. All I know for sure is I want a pretty and nice clean tank like everyone else!

My current setup:
-90 Gallon Salt water Fish only w/ artificial corals. Drilled w/ overflow
-Trickle filter/Bio ball system (made for a 125gal tank)
-Protiene Skimmer
-Big UV filter (36 watts I believe)
-I'm using the MagDrives for powerheads, can't remember the size off hand but pleanty of movement
-Fish: Dogface Puffer, Regal Blue Tang, Foxface, Flame Angel, Luna Wrasse, Clownfish, Niger Trigger (all fish are very small still, 3" max).
-Plans in the future to move to a much bigger tank, most likely 250gal or so.
-Plans to purchase RO/DI system, currently using tap

So here are my questions:

1) Can I add live rock to the system now and remove the artificial coral? And if so will there be any problem with the fact I treated that tank earlier with copper?

2) What are the real advantages of doing Live Rock vs. using the artificial corals? Is this going to limit my ability to treat fish if sickness happens again?

3) How will this assist in my alge issue, or will it?

4) How many pounds of LR should I look at? Any suggestions?

5) Is there any place to buy live rock thats better than the other. On that same note, is there a specific area the live rock comes from that would be better than the other (ie florida vs Hawii live rock)? Cost isn't that much of an obsticle.

6) Can I just add X pounds of LR to my system without any issues directly or do I need to QT it? Curing? Etc ...

7) Any other comments you feel like adding ... including "Hey you, you ask too many questions!"

Thanks for the advice!!!

DaxMAN
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Old 02-01-2005, 05:14 PM   #2
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1) The copper might be an issue later on, even if you can not detect it now. A low ph condition may cause copper to leech out of the tank seals and substrate. Typically, people never use copper with anything that will end up on a reef tank. Some people have done it, all depends on risk/reward. I originally setup my marine tank in a tank that I previously used copper in about 6 months prior, never had a problem. I would not do it again though, just because I have read enough to scare me out of it.

2) Live rock is an incredibly good filter. It will limit your ability to treat sickness in the future, however that is what a QT tank is for.

3) It may help by converting nitrates to nitrogen. You need a lot of rock to rely on this though.

4) 130 to 200 pounds would be good.

5) There are many good places to buy live rock, and lots of different types of rocks to put in your tank. Do a search. Different rock has different types of life on it.

6) No, with fish in the tank, you will want to make 100% certain that the rock is cured or you could risk killing your fish with an ammonia spike from die-off on the rock. Even most "fully cured" rock can have an ammonia spike, especially when you will be deal with such a large ammount of new rock at one.
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Old 02-01-2005, 05:23 PM   #3
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Re: FOWLR vs. Fish Only

Before anything else there's one thing to clear up. The issue with copper in a SW tank is it's toxic effects on invertibrate life forms. Such as shrimps and crabs, etc. LR is simply a dense filter material that has the advantage of hosting beneficial life forms of many kinds. Some of those are inverts that would be harmed by copper, but the LR itself will still be beneficial even if there is still excess copper.


1) Can I add live rock to the system now and remove the artificial coral? And if so will there be any problem with the fact I treated that tank earlier with copper?
It'll be hard to tell. I would certainly remove as much of the artificial coral or rock that was in the tank when you treated. Note that the rock you're removing is likely acting as some of your natural filtration, so remove that slowly to give the system time to adjust.

2) What are the real advantages of doing Live Rock vs. using the artificial corals? Is this going to limit my ability to treat fish if sickness happens again?
Artificial corals are usually died/painted and aren't really as dense while still porus as natural LR. LR is like dense sponge. Water moves through it slowly allowing it to host massive amounts of bacteria and naturally remove ammonia and nitrites.

3) How will this assist in my algae issue, or will it?
LR/LS can help to combat high nitrate levels which is a partial factor of algae problems. You have other issues however that i'll touch on below.

4) How many pounds of LR should I look at? Any suggestions?
typically 1.5 to 2 times your water volume. In a 90 gallon tank I would put 175-200 pounds of LR.

5) Is there any place to buy live rock thats better than the other. On that same note, is there a specific area the live rock comes from that would be better than the other (ie florida vs Hawii live rock)? Cost isn't that much of an obsticle.
I've only purchased LR from a LFS but many members here order from liverocks.com (one of our sponsors) and they all swear up and down its the best their is. I'll let them comment more on it. As far as what local is better than the other, its mostly just asthetic. One advantage the liverocks.com has is that it is aquacultured rock. meaning it's rock dropped in the ocean manually, left to gather life for however long, then re-harvested. Helping to maintain our natural reefs by not taking from them.

6) Can I just add X pounds of LR to my system without any issues directly or do I need to QT it? Curing? Etc ...
It is NOT recomended you add new LR to a display tank. Especialy if the rock is shipped. There will likely be die-off and this can cause a serious ammonia spike (especially if you're adding 200 pounds at once!). Read our article, "Curing Live Rock? I didn't even know it was sick!!". that should give you some good info.


7) Any other comments you feel like adding ... including "Hey you, you ask too many questions!"
Yep.. ask more questions!

now I mentioned you had other issues. The wet/dry. The bio-balls here are a nitrate factory. The NNR process here stops at nitrates, leaving them in the water chemistry. Many reccomend once you have the LR in place, slowly remove the bio-balls. The LR will take over their job plus add the benefit of also removing the nitrate. You said you usually have no algae for a few days after you do a water change and clean, then it comes back. Are you using RO water for your new water? Tap water is usally the biggest contributor to algae. Invest in an RO filter, remove the bioballs when the LR is in place, and don't overfeed (puffer's a messy eater, isn't he?) and you'll be on your way to a "Nice Clean Tank like every one else"


HTH
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Old 02-01-2005, 05:30 PM   #4
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^5 Grimlock.

Good to see we agree on just about everything but the minimum amount of LR
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Old 02-02-2005, 12:47 AM   #5
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WOW!!!!! Darn Good Information....
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Old 02-02-2005, 09:24 AM   #6
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First --- Thanks for the information!

Second ---

I'm currently using tap water (unfortunately). However, I just purchased a 3 stage RO/DI system and it's due to be delivered Thursday just in time for a tank cleaning weekend!

Someone Mentioned to me that if I put LR in the tank I should turn off my UV sterilizer. Is that right? I've heard mention of it before, but i'm pretty sure I've heard people say they are using UV with LR.

And for the record my little puff-puff isn't a messy eater. His food likes to shread and spread around the tank by itself It's not him, honest

Any more suggestions?

Thanks!
DaxMAN
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Old 02-02-2005, 10:04 AM   #7
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I've never heard anyone say not to use UV with a LR system. The only thing i have heard suggested as opinion once in a while, is that you simply use a prefilter sponge on the UV intake to prevent macro life, such as copepods etc that live in the LR/LS from being sucked into and killed by the UV. However, IMO, if you have a case of ick or the like, that could also prevent the parasite from entering the UV, which you do want. So it's you're call. IMO, I'd leave the prefilter off and at the most would use an intake diffuser, such as you would see on a HOB whisper filter.

My only other comment is... start using that RO filter!! All of the "stuff" in tap water is like fertilizer for algae. If your system does will with it's nitrates and you have a reasonable cleanup crew to tidy up after your puffer... or your puffer's food your nitrates should start to decrease and you should see less and less neusance algae.
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Old 02-02-2005, 10:34 AM   #8
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Thanks for more info!

Question on the clean up crew. Alot of people talk about it, but with the fish I have in the tank I was under the distinct impression that they would make short work of any crab/starfish/snail/shrimp in the tank.

Puffy likes shellfish and so does the Niger trigger & Luna Wrasse.

I had a couple cleaner shrimp and a fire shrimp in the tank originally but when we decided to add those fish I removed them to avoid the pain. Which on that note ... Fire shrimps don't really do anything, but look pretty all day long.

Thoughts?

~DaxMAN
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Old 02-02-2005, 11:02 AM   #9
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You can use Urchins for some clean up if your fish would eat normal snails and crabs:

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-8x Blue Leg Hermit Crabs // 1x Banded Serpent Star // 1x Cleaner Shrimp
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Old 02-02-2005, 12:31 PM   #10
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I concur that your tap water is probably a large part of your algea problem. Using the RO with regular pwc should help reduce this even is you do not switch to LR right away. I went through this same frustration early on until I redid my tank and used RO form the outset. Pwc can pretty(10-20%) can keep the nitrates in check. ALso how often do you clean your filtration system. If you have a large amount of bio balls or other media I would look into rinsing 1/2 of it periodically. this would also help knock down the nitrates without killing off your colony. (use SW to do this)

As for LR, I do not think you need to purchase all LR to get the benefits of filtration. If you have had your tank up for 8 months with base rock I would argue that a good portion of you rock currently is transforming into LR altough it may not look as nice as some of the stuff you get direct depending on you lighting. Since you have been patient I would consider the idea of purchasing a smaller amount of LR form a reputable LFS or online and seed what you already have. This is the rout I took and it is much more cost effective. I had a good amount of tufa, lace, and coral and then added LR to it. Just a thought.

Also, urchins are a great source of algea control. Be careful as some of them can strip your LR so it almost looks bleached. I added a few to my system and they do a great job.

Good luck,
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