Cycling a Salt Water Tank

Jan Cavalieri

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Long time since I've posted, not for all good reasons - a rash of deaths in the family - ALL my aunts and uncles on my mother's side have now passed away, of course before this round of deaths I lost both my parents and my husband and my dog all pretty close together - but this last round of aunt/uncle - oh and one of my favorite cousins all came so close together - mostly due to dementia or cancer. It's just been a sad time. I'm also in arguments (polite ones) with my stepmother who I suspect is, now that my father is dead, writing me out of the will. They have about 1 1/2-2 million dollars. In the old trust which I was executor of - it all went first to the surviving spouse, then when she died it was to be split equally among the three children (she had 2, my dad had 1). I kind of thought it should be split in two with me getting 1/2 the estate - he contributed most of the money and it's not his fault he only had 1 child and she had 2 plus her daughter just inherited a 1 million dollar house from her dad (the same dad left her brother 10K - that's it, so cruel). I was also supposed to get the townhouse I'm living in now along with the other side - it's recorded on a Quit claim deed in their safety deposit box. My step mother pretends she never heard or saw any quit claim deed so she sold this right out from under me. The guy that bought it was a dear friend of my fathers and has no idea this happened but he is given me about a $200 per month discount on rent which is sweet). I should have fought harder when my dad died but I just didn't have it in me - plus what's to fight? There are no witnesses that I know of. But I'm just shocked at how people can be about money. I have a very long-term illness and would like to have some extra money for assisted living when I need it just like my dad did. Nothing fancy. She did, however take wonderful care of my father when he was having open heart surgery and hip replacements etc - I cannot fault her for that. She's 85 and I'm 61 - but her family tends to live a long time so she might outlive me - still it would be something to leave to my daughter and her family. OK enough drama, I need to get over it and move on with my life which is what I'm trying to do with my fish tanks.

I have a 32-gallon Biocube Reef/Saltwater tank. I bought this way back last April, had it cycled once so my first purchase were two Clown Fish and one beautiful anemone which seemed to change locations every time, I would look at the tank like it couldn't find just the right place. I started worrying there wasn't a BEST place and he would forever be a nomad but he settled down. The clown fish ignored it even, After two months I added (or tried to add) 4 more very small coral frags on sale for $9.99 each, Two got dropped and lost in the depth below. Number 3 found a shelf on the inside of the reef where it could attach to. The 4th frag was a leather - very firmly attached to it's frag so I just attached it to what appeared to be a good spot, based on it's requirements for medium flow and medium lighting. It looked very healthy. Then a month or so later I go in the fish room look at the tank and everything is dead, I can't even locate the fish - months later their skeletons appeared at the bottom of the tank, I wasn't actively measuring anything because things were going so well. Feeding was flake food (fishes preference) as well as some frozen (melted brine and shrimp). I kind of squirted these over the corals and anemone - no idea if they ate the food or not. This is far more difficult to do - it difficult enough to read up on all of this (with books contradicting each other) but I'm finding it more difficult to put into practice)

Here are my questions:
1. Should I replace all the water or just re-adjust it? I know the salinity is too high right now because I made the mistake (after everything was dead) of adding salt water when it was just evaporation and I should have used the RO/DI water that I made. I have to use a Hydrometer rather than the fancy ones that are so nice a professional looking because even with glasses and a magnifying glass and lots of light I still can't read the tiny numbers. My assistant can but he's on here on Tuesdays only. I probably have close to enough salt water on hand to almost replace the water but it would probably take one more day to have plenty on hand, Is it likely that everything died because of something in the water? Can we even guess what killed them all (my cat is not strong enough to lift the lid )

2. I've only done a water change (30% per one book) once. when animals were in it. No problems occurred. Salinity was perfect in the tank at that time and what I was putting in was perfect too.

3. How and when will the protein skimmer take off? This is the only model that fits the Biocube and I fight problems like the lid constantly coming off and the protein skimmer sinking clear underneath the water line. I had it resting on about 6 thick squares of sponges so the top would be out of the water but not so far I couldn't close the lids. Lost a lid deep in the reef - tried to purchase a replacement - they sent me an entire cup and lid for free.

4. I have two "fans" - but they don't seem to blow very hard. i could try to add a 3rd one perhaps with a wavemaker but I'm out of outlets so I'll have to do some playiing around until they have proper outlets. I'm so short on power that I have to dry my hair on the opposite side of the house. If I do it on the same side as the fish room (in the bathroom) I pop a breaker that turns off all my power on the fish side of the house. Also my oxygen concentrator is on the power out side so I'd have to wear a tank and go down some narrow basement stairs to the breaker and turn it back on. Some of the drugs I take mess with my balance so I usually send somebody to the basement to do whatever I need. It is very well organized so stuff is easy to find. It was sprayed for bugs and spiders last year and swept out well so other than the stairs it's very safe.

5. Any ideas for the sudden death phenomenon. I did water readings right after it happened and everything in the kit to measure was within range as was ammonia and nitrites. This was about a $400 loss so I'll be buying much cheaper corals - the fish were reasonably priced for clown fish and super healthy looking,

6. Finally and this is a HARD freshwater fish question: Why did my biggest Dojo bite the head off the smallest Dojo but not eat any of him - he's never shown any aggression before, but his old friends all died due to "new assistant inexperience" so I bought him some new friends - they've all been snuggling and playing, and I thought he was happier. And wouldn't it take TEETH to bite the head off an 8" DoJo (I'm not handfeeding these guys again LOL)

Any general words of wisdom before I embark on this adventure a second time? (I admit, after the loss of the first stuff my enthusiasm is waning. I keep thinking maybe I should just sell it all at a loss and move on with my life. Not to be the drama queen here but I likely have about 5-7 yrs left to live (I've been in deep disussions with my Palliative care team because I need to know how to manage my money - I had been thinking of moving into a Senior Living place just because I get so lonely - but while I could pay $2100 per month, I don't want to pay that much - and they don't even provide any medical care at all they just call 911, for some assisted living it's about $4600 a month and could only do that for about 2 yrs and I'd be stuck on medicaid and treated like crap.)
 

Colin_T

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Hi Jan, sorry to hear about your family members dying. It's not nice losing people we like :(


Here are my questions:
1. Should I replace all the water or just re-adjust it?

Gravel clean and drain the tank completely. Lift rocks out and clean under them to remove all the gunk. Then refill with clean sea water. Make the salt water up 24 hours before you use it and get the salinity correct before adding it to the tank.

The life forms in it possibly died from ammonia poisoning. If something rots in a marine tank, the high pH (8.5) will cause any ammonia to become very toxic and kill everything in the tank within hours. If a fish or coral dies and is not removed immediately, the ammonia and high pH can kill everything else in the tank literally overnight.

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2. I've only done a water change (30% per one book) once. when animals were in it. No problems occurred. Salinity was perfect in the tank at that time and what I was putting in was perfect too.

Some people that keep coral tanks don't do water changes at all. They simply top the tank up with reverse osmosis or distilled water, and add minerals like calcium. However, in small tanks it is harder to keep things good and I usually recommend doing a huge water change at least once a month. This helps to dilute anything bad that might be building up, and replaces minerals that might be lacking due to coral growth.

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3. How and when will the protein skimmer take off?

Protein skimmers should start to produce foam within a couple of hours of being turned on. If the water level isn't correct or there is no protein in the water, they won't produce any. However, if you put lots of food in the tank or something dies in the tank, the skimmer should produce heaps of foam and black/ brown gunk in the collection cup.

If there is no gunk in the collection cup, the skimmer might be too high above the water level.
If there is lots of clear or semi clear liquid in the skimmer's collection cup, the skimmer is too low in the water.

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4. I have two "fans" - but they don't seem to blow very hard. i could try to add a 3rd one perhaps with a wavemaker but I'm out of outlets so I'll have to do some playiing around until they have proper outlets.

Maybe put the powerheads (fans?) on timers and have one on for an hour, then it goes off while the other comes on for an hour. You can overlap times and even have them both off for an hour or so to simulate the calm period when the tide is neither coming in or going out. Or get a wave maker and use that instead of the 2 powerheads.

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5. Any ideas for the sudden death phenomenon.

Without seeing the fish and corals, or smelling the tank water, it is hard to say. It could be uneaten food under rocks, a dead organism, or something else. But usually when everything dies overnight (or within 24 hours), it is a water quality problem. Maybe the salt level did get too high and that caused something to die and a chain reaction occured.

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6. Finally and this is a HARD freshwater fish question: Why did my biggest Dojo bite the head off the smallest Dojo but not eat any of him - he's never shown any aggression before, but his old friends all died due to "new assistant inexperience" so I bought him some new friends - they've all been snuggling and playing, and I thought he was happier. And wouldn't it take TEETH to bite the head off an 8" DoJo (I'm not handfeeding these guys again LOL)

Are you sure the big dojo loach did it?
Unless you actually saw the dojo do it, I would think something else in the tank might have done it.

Was there a body or just the head?
The smaller loach might have died and got eaten by the others. The head was too big to swallow so was left alone.

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Any general words of wisdom before I embark on this adventure a second time?

Get a few cheap corals and keep feeding down to a minimum. See how they go over a few months and then add a few more if everything is good.

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Not to be the drama queen here but I likely have about 5-7 yrs left to live (I've been in deep disussions with my Palliative care team because I need to know how to manage my money - I had been thinking of moving into a Senior Living place just because I get so lonely - but while I could pay $2100 per month, I don't want to pay that much - and they don't even provide any medical care at all they just call 911, for some assisted living it's about $4600 a month and could only do that for about 2 yrs and I'd be stuck on medicaid and treated like crap.)

Covid is making life difficult and if it wasn't here, I would suggest trying to get out more or get more people to visit you. However, due to covid and your health issues, it's not going to happen. Possibly join a few more forums and try to talk to more people online. Then after covid, hopefully you will be able to get out a little more and get some more human contact.
 
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Jan Cavalieri

Jan Cavalieri

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awe thank you - I've missed it here and missed researching out the answers myself but I desperately want to get this reef tank off the ground - I feel like I've wasted so much time and money and this is THE place to go for answers or at least get pointed in the right direction!
 
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Jan Cavalieri

Jan Cavalieri

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Good reply Colin - but do you know how long it took me to make enough water the first time I hate the thought of draining it - but you're probably right. I was just testing it so I'll stop for now until I grow the new RO/DI water and turn it to salt water. That was a pretty easy thing to do the last time, it just took about a week because the only faucet i can connect this thing to (it's portable, because this is a rental house and I wasn't going to mess with their plumbing - and sometimes I need the kitchen sink for cooking, etc. I'm making more RO/DI water now and should have enough in a couple of days. I keep it in a brute trash barrel on rollers because Brute plastic is food safe - nothing leeches out of the plastic. I do the same with the salt water - mix it in another brute barrel. i have a 1 gallon measuring cup (it's big) and I put 1/2 cup of aquarium salt in there and stir for what seems like an hour to get it dissolved - for me that's the tedious part mixing up all that water. Then testing it as I go along. My eyesight is too bad to use the cool refractometer??? so I'm using the far less accurate plastic hydrometer???? (haven't learned all the terminology yet)

My assistant didn't witness the dojo decapitation, but my 15" loach is the only fish in that tank that could have fit the other Dojo mouth - and he's the biggest fish I have. He didn't eat either piece. I didn't think DoJo were agressive - I feed this guy by hand all the time. I sure didn't think they have teeth and the other DoJo was a bit of a runt - about 6" long and circumference the size of a dime. I do think he was another male and the other two "Friends" so far, appear to be females. It's hard to tell until they are adults (the front fins are significantly bigger in males) So all evidence points to the Dojo - the other fish were fatlipped gourmi and a single glo-tetra (red) and two other Dojo similar in size to the dead one.

You know the sad thing is that once I drain the biocube I may think strongly about selling it - I just wanted to be successful at one more thing in my life but so far this has been nothing but a source of frustration and huge loss of money. I still have issues with my 90 gallon freshwater - fluval filter cost about $220 Amazon - and it has never worked without leaking a huge amount of water. These things have a 3 yr warranty on them so I've sent the pictures to the company and it shows clearly where it leaks - then they send me a pile of parts - a new o-ring (nothing wrong with the old one but you have to regrease them each time you open the lid - major design issues and then they sent me the connectors for the hoses that sits on top of the filter. I keep showing and telling them that the leak is in the BOTTOM part of the filter - my guess is that there is a small crack there - it only leaks when it's running but boy does it leak! If we hadn't noticed quickly enough or I had gone to bed there would have been 90 gallons of water all over my hard wood floors. I just want a new one - or have them fix it instead of me. So stuff like that seems to be happening constantly. The Dojos release too much ammonia so every few days I'm using some seachem product to bring the amonia levels down to a safe range ie., zero. Major pain in the neck - my 50 gsllon tank keep producing more babies. I usually manage to save about 10 but the last time we only saved 3 and I'm thinking about letting them eat them all the next time because that tank can't handle any more fish and I don't even LIKE these fish. So why start more trouble than i have energy for with a Reef tank - I'm usually hospitalized 2-8 times a year and somebody has to take care of my feral cat and my indoor cat and all my fish. No big deal to take care of a freshwater tank but to care for a Reef would likely be more than most people could handle without a lot of help. So we'll see - I may change my mind, - Take care and thanks again - Jan
 

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