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Old 10-11-2003, 10:19 AM   #1
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New hobbyist needs help with dying fish

Hello eveyone......I just bought a home where the owners had a 130 gallon saltwater tank. They were unable to take the tank with them and were speaking of "flushing" the fish so i decided to buy it from them. initially it was placed upstairs in the family room in direct sunlight. It was the greenest tank I think I'd ever seen. We moved it downstairs...built it into the wall in our living room and started on this new venture into the wonderful marine world. Only having knowledge of freshwater...I went online, read all that I could....talked to people at the aquaium stores and bought a few books on marine fish. Iit still wasn't enough and I am so upset that due to my inexperience....my fish are suffering.
We have well water here....and the previous owners tried live coral....naturally it all died. We have the remaining "live" rock ( I think that's what it is).....and it looked like little buds or growths were sprouting a few weeks after we had the tank up and running again. The original inhabitants were a yellow tang...maroon clownfish...and coral beauty. I have since added a heniochus butterfly, bar goby, porcupine puffer fish, and a few days ago I added what I thought would be my last fish,....a juvenile emperor angel. We've been through the trouble with ick.....treated the entire tank and did some freshwater dips (with the tang and the puffer) and all seemed well. Added the heniochus and can't catch the sucker for one......he has ick(a little some days...worse others). He also has been experiencing a condition which looks like "pop-eye" from what I have read. No other fish in the tank have had this trouble. He seems to be eating well, as do all the fish. The puffer is picky and only prefers the large fresh frozen krill(only eats when hand fed)...sometimes he'll pick at cut up squid or mussles but it's rare. The rest of the gang eats a variety(was told this was healthier)...they eat frozen brine shrimp, emerald entree, formula 2, angel formula, and recently spectrum thera+A pellets and they all seem to like them.
The pop-eye and ich on the heniochus look terrible(though he's still feeding)....and my most troubled fish is now my favorite new kid...the emperor angel is breathing heavily...laying on it's side. Been like this all morning...alive but not looking well at all. We've tried to reduce the nitrates with amquel+....were told that the fish should be ok even with the well water. We've done 3 water changes in 3 months (40% change) and PH is good.... We seem to be growing alot of algea on the rock so someone told us to turn the tank light off while we are gone at work all day. The system is probable old..we have a biological tank underneath the main tank with live rock and all the pumps are there. I try to keep the filters rung out and clean and rinse out the filter when it gets funky. But the water never seems clear....always cloudy and of course the fish just aren't thriving. If anyone sees any "red flags" from the information I've provided...please feel free to suggest, comment, or smack my hands and try to help me get these guys happy and healthy again. I am desperately trying to find someone with experience in marine fish who can come to the house...see the set up and help us. I live in Maryland...cecil county and will gladly pay for the right person to share their knowledge and get our tank running properly. Sorry for the lengthy post...so much more I want to ask but I'll leave it at this for now.

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Old 10-11-2003, 12:38 PM   #2
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We've been through the trouble with ick.....treated the entire tank
What did you treat the tank with?

We've tried to reduce the nitrates with amquel+....
I have not heard of this method of reducing nitrates. Usually I would suggest water changes and if you hve a substrate other than sand to use a gravel vac on the substrate.

Could you tell us about your water test? What do you test for. What are the readings for Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate PH, Temp, Salinity and Alkinity.

You might try a 'fish trap' to catch the butterfly.

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Old 10-12-2003, 06:27 AM   #3
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If things are that bad I would suggest stripping it all down and starting again with fresh saltwater, new pumps and letting the whole thing cycle for a month or so. Test for all the stuff that fishfreek said above and then put in a hardy fish like a wrasse to see how it goes.

Does the shop where you get your fish have an expert in saltwater aquariums? If you get friendly with them and say you'll be spending a lot of money they usually are only happy to help out.

Also with using well water I would suggest before doing a water change letting it sit for a day or so and then adding a water conditioner. This is probably why your live rock isn't doing so well. If you get the live rock to thrive then the rest of the tank should be ok.

In North Queensland with the heat in summer we generally have an outbreak of red algae growing on everything. The only way we can keep it under control is by trying to lower the temperature with air conditioning and turning the lights off. The algae tends to choke the live rock and produces high nitrates.
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Old 10-16-2003, 02:00 AM   #4
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First step is to *stop* medicating and get the tank under control. We know Nitrate is high, and PH in a healthy tank should be around 8.2 *without* having to induce it with a water change. Green/cloudy water syndrome is in my experience quite often caused by low PH and/or using shop lights on your tank with crap water supply. Better tank health, proper PH and breakdown of nitrates mean you have to do fewer water changes and hence dump less garbage into the tank to feed the nuisance algae, so the problem solves itself. Some people claim that doing aggresive water changes on marine tanks solves problems, but all I find is it either puts a bandaid on the real problem, or causes more issues.

I'm also noting you said LR was in the sump, but no indication it's in the main tank. My experience with LR is when it's placed in a sump it acts like nothing more than a big bioball with poor efficiency. I'm also curious how much circulation is going on in the main tank.

To sum this up, it looks like we have a big tank with insufficient or poorly placed LR and questionable circulation, so it turns in to a big algae swamp with poor oxygen, high nitrates, and erratic PH. That's why your angel is lying on it's side gasping for air because the water can't hold it. No mention of a skimmer either, which combined with some healthy live rock or sand and good circulation will put a lid on the nitrates.

My biggest suggestion is to find a pet shop shop in town with a tank about the same size, and in good health. Try to emulate what they've done to get it healthy, which usually means a hundred pounds or so of LR, skimmer, and strategically placed power-heads in the *main* tank. Note that dumping a bunch of LR in an established tank that size will likely cause instability for a few months as the rock cures and adjusts, and that means treating you current inhabitants as if they are going through a fresh tank cycle.
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dyi, dying, dying fish

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