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Old 07-19-2007, 08:54 PM   #1
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New to saltwater tanks, have lots of questions.

Well....Been reading through various posts here on this forum, and I can tell we've jumped the gun in a big way with our tank! :| So first and foremost, I would like to apologize for however noobish this may all sound, and the sheer size.

Anyway...A little background.


55 gallon, bought new from the local pet shop.
Emporer 400 Filter (with bio wheels...err whatever they are called)
Our heater is a 250, or 300 watt.
60 Pounds of "live sand"
Roughly 6 pounds of Live rock (not sure of the type.)


1x Flame Angel
1x Banggai Cardinal (got two on the same day, but one didn't make it, explained below)
1x Yellow Angle fish (the one that looks like a yellow Tang)
1x Pink Anthias
3x Green Chromis

Also have 1 red legged crab, and 1 blue legged crab (originally had 6 crabs total, also explained below).

Now...I know we've added fish WAY too soon, but we weren't very well informed. So hopefully you guys can spare any shouting...and help us get our tank back in order. Now, we added the three Green Chromis within the first week and a half. We'd been checking the levels daily (PH, Nitrite, Nitrate, Ammonia, and Salt) for the first 3.5 - 4 weeks. The first three fish went in with no problems...and after a week..we decided to add a couple more. At this point we added the Yellow Angle fish, and 1 crab. Again...We continued to check the levels daily, and all seemed fine. After another week we added the Pink Anthias, and a couple more crabs. Up to this point everything seemed great, levels were all in check, and the fish seemed very happy.

This about covers our first three weeks as SW Aquarium owners, after those first three weeks, things have been a little rough. At about the 4.5 week mark, we decided to add some more fish. We took a trip to a different shop about an 1.5 hours away. At this point we picked up two Banggai Cardinals, the Flame Angel, and our ~6 pounds of love rock. Up to this point we'd been feeding the fish just some flake foods (Omega One Marine Flakes, and Omega One Super Veggie). The guy at this new shop said he didn't feed his fish anything but mysis shrimp...so we've started feeding our fish the mysis, and I still toss in a few flakes as the Green Chromis seem to like the flakes (when doing the mysis, I break a piece off and put it in a cup with a small amount of tank water, then I just dump the water with the mysis in tank slowly, so a few pieces come out at a time). When we got home and put the live rock in and added our new fish. The next morning we woke up to a very white Banggai Cardinal...that was just kind of resting on the bottum of the tank. We called the guy from the shop immediatley, and he said it sounded like stress. We gave the fish some time, but it didn't make it.

The next week we noticed it was time to give the tank a good cleaning (although after reading through this site a bit...seems as though we should be doing some small cleanings weekly). We noticed a large amount of brown algae built up on the glass, and on top of our sand. We took out about 10-15 gallons of water, cleaned up all the glass, vacuumed the sand and added our water back in. The following morning, everything seemed great, and the tank was spotless. Two days later...we lost three crabs overnight. I've been feeding them some pellets every other day. two of the crabs had acctually come out of their shell, and were just laying on the sand (one of them, the body was missing all that was left was the legs, I assume one of the fish ate it?)

After the third day we can see there is a large amount of brown algae starting to creep back up. So this is where I'm sure we have a problem. We are using some Phoslock to balance the phosphate levels, and I'd been feeding the fish twice a day (seems like most of you feed your fish every other day). The guy at our local shop told us to use double the amount of phoslock, as the phosphate levels in town are high (we don't have the proper meter to test this, but a friend of ours is coming over with one tomorow).

I'm sorry for this book of a post, but I figure the more information you gys have, the better response we're going to get. At this point, I'm wondering if this brown algae is from the phoslock? I'm also wondering why our tank is getting so nasty, so quick. How much/how often should we be feeding our fish? Why did our crabs die? Am I feeding the fish properly (the mix of flakes, and the mysis shrimp?) Currently, our water temp is about 81 degrees...is this too high, or is this a good temp?

Any help would be great! We've sunk A LOT of money into this setup in a very short amount of time, which we now realize was a big mistake. Hopefully with some suggestions from you guys, it won't be a total loss!

Thanks in advance.

EDIT: We've kept a "journal" of all our levels since day one. The first three weeks were daily...then we just started checking them a couple times a week. If any information on our levels since day one would be helpful, I can post the log.

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Old 07-20-2007, 12:35 AM   #2
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One thing missing in your post is your water parameters right now. They were all zero in the beginning, but what are they now? Specifically, ammonia/nitrites/nitrates.

Sounds like you didn't cycle your tank properly, and you're in the middle of a cycle. You shouldn't have any detectable ammonia or nitrites. I'm guessing you do. Ammonia and nitrites are both toxic to fish and really toxic to inverts. That would explain the crabs dieing off. (Never heard of them crawling out of their shell. Wow.) The brown algae sounds like diatoms, which normally come during or just after the tank cycles.

Test your water. If you've got ammonia and nitrites then I'd do daily water changes on the order of 20% or so to keep the levels as low as possible. I'd also run a couple bags of Purigen to also try and lower the levels.

If you're not using RO/DI or filtered water, and your phosphate levels in your tap water are high, I'd seriously start planning for a RO/DI unit. In the long run, that will be far more economical.

I really don't think you've got a phosphate problem - I think you've got an ammonia problem from either not cycling the tank properly or adding too many fish, too fast.

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Old 07-20-2007, 12:35 AM   #3
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I'm just going to point out things that you should do

~about 100 more pounds of Live rock would be great

~Feed once a day or every other day (i do every other day)

~that brown algae isnt algae but diatoms (snails and hermits likes to eat those)

~i think that your overstocked with fish since you don't have enough bacteria to clear all that out so dont think of adding any for awhile

~I would recommend of getting Bio Spira Marine for good bacterias to grow and multiply faster since you didnt do the 6 weeks cycle.

~75-78 F of temperature would be the best for most tropical fish

the people here clean their tank less because they did not rush the whole process so there was no stress for the fish and enough nitrifying bacterias to keep it healthy. I'm sure I didn't cover all your problem but hope this helps
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Old 07-20-2007, 12:58 AM   #4
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I agree as it doesn't seem like your tank cycled before you started adding fish. Need to know what your test readings were during the time of the die off. Diatoms will disappear after a couple of weeks or so. You don't mention the type of filtration you are using. 6 pounds of LR will not do it. You need much more if you do not have any other filtration. If there is no other filtration then I suggest a skimmer (not totally needed) and at least 55 - 110 pounds of LR. Make sure you tank has cycled prior to adding any livestock.
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Old 07-20-2007, 08:49 AM   #5
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Ok, I'm going to try and respond the best I can. Thanks for the responses btw!

Kurt Nelson-

Here are our levels right now (worse then I thought... )
Salt: 1.024
Ammonia: 0
pH: 7.8
Nitrite: between .25-.50
Nitrate: 20

I've read about some stuff... proper pH? They are little tabs that will set the pH to 8.2. Do these work, and should I even bother? Our pH had stayed at a perfect 8.2 for weeks without issue. All of a sudden it dropped. Not sure why, maybe you can elaborate? What is RO/DI? Now as far as these diatoms, what should we do? Should we be getting them out of the tank, and wiping it off the glass? Or will they just fade on their own?

Chase 33 mentions the crabs and snails like to eat diatoms. Our crabs seem very inactive, and don't appear to eat much of anything aside from the pellets we give them. They just hide in their shells, and stay put most of the time. One of them is more active then the other, but for the most part...they don't do much. Is that normal?

Lastly, I'm not feeding our fish very much (at least in my opinion). But it seems like they eat so little of the mysis shrimp, and it all just ends up on the bottum of the tank. The largest fish we have at the moment is about 3 inches (the pink Anthias). It seems like the food might be too large for them to eat? Does that make sence, and what can we do about it? When they try to eat it, they kinda suck it up, and nibble on it...then just spit it out. Close to 85% of the food goes uneaten, and just floats to the bottum. The fish eat for about 1 minute. I've read that I should only feed them what they can eat in 3-5 minutes. Is that accurate?

Thanks again,


Our levels on the day we lost the three crabs were as follows.
Salt: 1.024
Ammonia: 0
pH: 7.8
nitrite: .25
nitrate: 20
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Old 07-20-2007, 11:44 AM   #6
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Most important thing you can do right now is get *cured* live rock. about 75-100lbs of it. 1.5lbs per gallon is a good rule of thumb, 2/gallon if you want to be safe. This is the reason your experiecing a lot of the trouble.... you have a relatively large bioload, and only 6 lbs of live rock to turn all that bioload into nitrate (fish-->ammonia-->nitrite-->nitrate) And its likely the poor activity yours seeing out of the inverts are due to the presence of nitrite. Like the others mentioned, nitrIte, with an I, is highly toxic and is only broken down by the bacteria growing on live rock.

Be sure to get CURED live rock from a local store, uncured rock will have dieoff and cause more problems with ammonia and nitrite spikes before they are solved.

RO/DI means reverse osmosis/deionized water. Basically these units take all the crud out of your water and leave you with as close to pure H20 as you can get.

As far as feeding, if you see they dont eat all of it, just next time feed them what they appear to eat all of. Dont keep putting in too much, because what they dont eat needs to break down and turn into ammonia/nitrite as as mentioned above your tank isnt equipped to handle that efficiently yet.

I dunno what proper pH does really but you probably want to pick up some Seachem Marine Buffer, it raises the pH to 8.3 and also raises the alkalinity (which will keep the ph stable, not just raise it and then let it drop)

But 1st and fore most... cured live rock.
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Old 07-20-2007, 01:02 PM   #7
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Proper PH will raise your PH to 8.2, providing you add the correct amount. Be careful as you can over do it. Also, you need to do a water change as soon as possible. You nitrite are way too high to even think about adding anything else. I would suggest (like everyone else has) buying some live rock. You need something to provide more filtration as the emperor will only become a factory for developing bad levels. Like Agnate said, Make sure you buy cured rock so you can get it into your tank as soon as possible. Also, make sure your temps range from 76-82 degrees. I didnt notice a thermometer on your stock list. Make sure you pick one up. Purigen is a must! Pick up a couple back and toss it into your emperor. It will bring down your nitrate and nitrite levels considerably.
If it doesn't work, use a Hammer.

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Old 07-20-2007, 02:35 PM   #8
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Personally, I wouldn't worry about your pH at this point. Yeah... your pH is a little low, but during a cycle (which you're still in) the pH will NOT be stable not matter what you do. Low pH is not the thing you should be mostly worried about at this point - the nitrItes are. Doing partial water changes will eventually bring your pH back up to where it should be... after your cycle is complete.

Personally, I'd do several things:

1. Add more biological filtration (live rock) - while the biowheels you have, in theory, are sized appropriately for a 55g tank, I think you're going to be happier down the road going with more live rock. I've got a small biowheel on my 10g quarantine tank, but it usually only has one fish in it at a time. With larger bioloads, I think live rock is the way to go. At least 50 lbs, preferably 75 lbs. And as noted earlier, at this point it should be "cured". Cured live rock will not have a bunch of stuff on it that will die off and drive you back into your cycle again.

2. 20% (10g) water changes daily to keep your nitrites in check. Make sure the water is aged for about a day, and has the same salinity/pH/temperature as the water in the main.

3. Add some Purigen to your HOB filter. It's not the silver bullet and won't eliminate the bad stuff totally, but as artoledo mentioned, it will bring the levels down some.

Oh... also, you don't need to "feed" the crabs. They're scavengers and will find all sorts of junk to eat. They're inactive because of the nitrites in your water. And I agree with agnate... just feed your fish what they'll eat. I spoon a little shrimp in, watch them gobble it up, spoon a little more in, watch them gobble it up, and pretty much repeat until they swim off or start spitting it back out again. I feed daily, but know of others that feed every other day.
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Old 07-20-2007, 04:07 PM   #9
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I also agree that the PH should not even be worried about now. Once you get your parameters straight then check it out. As mentioned above your nitrites are at a lethal range esp. for your inverts. Have plenty of fresh made SW available as you are going to need it. Also you need much more LR to keep up with the bioload that your tank has. I hope everything turns out OK.
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Old 07-20-2007, 08:11 PM   #10
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Ok, we just completed a water change. We took out 10 gallons of water and put fresh water in. We are planning to do daily water changes from this point on. Hopefully we can get this under control, with out loosing any of our fish.

A friend of ours showed up, and she has been doing SW tanks for about 6 years now. She took a look at our tank...and thinks it's really not that bad, and that we are just at the end of our cycle.

Anyway...I will stay in touch over the coming days. Now, should the brown Diatoms pop up over the next few days (on the glass, and on the sand), should we be taking all that stuff out? Also...we haven't changed our filters since we set the tank up. Is that an issue? Should we be rinsing them out?


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