New 220 Gallon SW Tank - Need Immediate Advice

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Aquarium Advice Newbie
Sep 10, 2014

I have not had a tank set up for about 10 years, but before that I had multiple saltwater tanks that were successful. I recently acquired a 220 gallon setup so I got it running, adjusted all the levels and added 3 triggers and a grouper to cycle the tank (triggers and groupers were the suggestion of my aquarium shop for my size tank). A few days in (~3-4), I observed something that looked like Ick so I removed the carbon and added cupramine. Things got worse from there. I have observed various "illness" that manifested as large white blotches on fins, grouper excreting a long string-like substance and fin rot. At that point, I tried Prazipro and fresh water baths to try and fix the problem. At this point 3 of the 4 fish have died and the one left has severe fin rot. He also rubs himself against the tank which indicates to me that he has some kind of parasite. :banghead:

I am now at a loss for what to do. The tank was not cycling long enough for the ammonia levels to get high enough to affect all the fish. Could I have some kind of bacterial/viral or other parasite? My aquarium shop has suggested that I remove the saltwater and run freshwater for a few days through the system (kind of like a freshwater bath for the whole tank). Are there any other thoughts/suggestions on the situation?

I wish I could help you but I know nothing of the saltwater portion of the hobby. Just keep testing water and doing water changes.
It sounds like marine velvet to me, I had it twice and the fish seemed to peel their skin.

I lost half my big tank and the entire little tank, years apart but from the same thing. Its usually brought in on a fish.

Some thoughts for you. Are you planning one ever putting corals in the tank? Cause you are not supposed to put copper meds in a display tank, they will leech into the seals making keeping inverts and coral not possible. If you are sticking with fish only then you should be ok with that.
Now, what I did when I had the velvet was let the tank sit idle for like 2 months. The fish that survived the first time are for the most part still alive years later. I did not add anything or dose anything I just let nature take its course.

And on a final note, you dont have to cycle with fish anymore. :) You can just dose your tank with ammonia either via pure ammonia or with a dead supermarket shrimp to generate the ammonia you need to cycle.
I would SERIOUSLY look into this. Easier on the fish and easier on you. There are a boatload of cycling articles on this site, just do a quick search.
Did you have live rock in there as well?
What was your initial source of the needed beneficial bacteria?
Was the setup used and possibly contaminated?

Filling it with fresh water will also kill any beneficial bacteria that is present and really put you back to square one, but if it's only a week or so old, they may be a good/best option.

if I were to venture a guess it's a combo of a few things;
1) new setup not cycled yet
2) the fish were already ill/infected when purchased
3) stress from the move/new tank conditions/latent illness caused them to succumb to the parasites/infection.
4) treating with copper so early in the cycle may have interfered with the bacteria, further compounding water quality issues.

Regardless of the size tank, if doing a fish in cycle you should use damsels as they are time tested and are very hardy for cycling a tank, plus they are considerably less expensive than triggers and groupers.
Don't let them sell you expensive fish for cycling and get some live rock and/or some sand from their HEALTHY tank to seed yours with bacteria.
Or even used filter media, something to kick-start your tank.
don't bother with bagged "live sand" or bottled bacteria.

good luck

and Carey is probably right about the velvet.
Update - Since the tank was so new, I emptied the tank due to concerns of some unknown parasite. I ran freshwater through the tank for about a week and have now added salt, adjusted pH etc...I have added a few damsels (living happily for a week or so now) and will be adding live sand and some more fish in the coming days to get the cycle started!

Thanks for your advice Carey and PB_Smith!
Good luck this time around. And remember, slow is the way to go in saltwater. NOTHING ever ever happens quickly so pace yourself and you should have a happy healthy tank for many years. :)
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