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  1. #1
    yeah, thats right-purple ROPE branflake12's Avatar
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    Bought a house...came with a tank.

    Hey guys, my wife and I bought a house, and in the basement is a built in 55 gallon salt tank. I know basically zero about salt tanks. I have had fresh tanks for well over a decade successfully, and currently have a nice established african cichlid tank (going on 3 years with most of the same members).

    The previous owner didnt know much about it from what i gathered. By the looks of the salt creep it wasnt maintainted very well. The filter is a emporer (i think) 30-60 HOB type, and i think i have ID'd the item on the left as a protien skimmer ( i have no idea what this does) and maybe a "backpak2". The lights are Coralife, and on a timer. Blue is on from about 8 am to 9pm and white is on from about 5 to 8pm. No moonlight (have one for the african tank...i like it-can i have one?)

    Two clownfish, A little yellow fish with no/little dorsal and ventral fins and a brittle star (i think).

    I had the water tested at the LFS, and the owners said it was fine and just needed regular water changes. The old owner bucket drained (do you "sand vaccum" like i do for the fresh tanks?) and bought his water from the LFS at $1/gallon. I have a python but no faucets capable of using it in the new house (yet).

    I have lots of "aiptasia" and bought "joes juice" to stick them with. I may consider an emerald crab to eat the shiney green grape looking things which i am told is also a pest. My wife wants "pretty coral" in this tank at some point as well.

    I hope the pictures help, but here is a summary of my random blather:
    -How often and how much % do i water change?
    -If that is a skimmer, what kind is it, how and how often do i clean it?
    -I think a canister filter would cut down the ugly salt creep. Am i correct? Reccommendations?
    - I have no idea how warm the tank is yet. suggested temp?
    -Do I vaccum the gravel when i empty water?
    -Are the lights on for how long they should be?
    -What else could I add to this as a cleaning crew? My wife wants a shrimp (there was a red one in there when we looked at the house the first time, it appears to be dead and gone)
    -Will touching this big brittle star thing hurt as much as it looks like it will?
    -How can i mix my own water at home (if its even practical to to so...i dont want to buy water unless i have to)

    Ill have more later I am sure.

    Thanks!
    Brandon
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    54 Corner: Malawai cichlids
    55: FOWLR
    29: ?





  2. #2
    Moderator greech's Avatar
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    The first thing I would do is buy your own test kits for ammonia, nitrite, nitrates, phosphate and pH if you don't have them already. At the very least ask your LFS for the results rather that "the water is fine". It would be best to get a meter capable of reading low range phosphate but a test kit would help for now. You really need to know where the tank stands before you can gauge what needs to be done next. Difficult to tell but it looks like you have some cyano bacteria on the sand.

    In the mean time I would get a gallon of white vinegar to clean the skimmer, HOB filter and pumps. Soaking these things for a hour or two in a vinegar/water solution and then scrubbing them down will do a world of good. You should run the pumps in the solution. Clean out any impellers, etc and then rinse everything good and run the pumps in fresh water for a little while longer. The fish will be fine for a couple hours without flow or just clean one thing at a time. If you have ana extra powerhead you can throw in while you clean everything even better. Probably want to wipe down the fixture too if it's covered in salt creep.

    I hope the pictures help, but here is a summary of my random blather:
    -How often and how much % do i water change?

    Depends on what your parameters are. If everything is non-detect then I would say a 20% WC every 2 weeks should be fine. You don't have a lot of fish so the bioload is low and you have no corals to be concerned about. Keep in mind that even though the test results for things like nitrates and phospahtes are non-detect that doesn't mean they aren't there. Alage growth and what on your sand consume these nutrients causing the non-detects.

    -If that is a skimmer, what kind is it, how and how often do i clean it?

    It does look like a backpack. Look for a CPR brand on the side. It could also be a Reef Octopus. Clean it with vinegar and water. The square box is the collection cup where the bubbles will be pushed up and pop leaving the skimmate behine. You will need to empty this cup as it fills.

    -I think a canister filter would cut down the ugly salt creep. Am i correct? Reccommendations?

    The salt creep is caused by evaporation and splashing (likely from the type of HOB filter being used and or the skimmer return pipe not being submerged. The canister would probably reduce spalshing but a good cleaning of the HOB and or ensuring the return section of the HOB is submerged should help as well.

    - I have no idea how warm the tank is yet. suggested temp?

    78 to 80 degrees seems to be fine for my tank. 76-82 should be fine but I would try and keep it at or below 80.

    -Do I vaccum the gravel when i empty water?

    I would not, at least not right away. If the tank has been poorly maintained chances are there are all sort of nasties bulit up in that sandbed. If you want to graze the top top of the bed with a siphon or some small diamter tubing to remove the debris on the surface you can but I would not vaccum the bed like you are doing with your FW tanks.

    -Are the lights on for how long they should be?

    For a FOWLR (fish only with live rock) the lighting doesn't really matter. Its more for you and the fish to see. What type of fixture is that BTW? PC or T5?

    -What else could I add to this as a cleaning crew? My wife wants a shrimp (there was a red one in there when we looked at the house the first time, it appears to be dead and gone)

    Could have been a fire shrimp which are quite reclusive. He is likely still there. Nassarius snails, cerith snails, bumble bee snails, florida fighting conchs are some good ones for your substrate. Turbo snails, astrea snails, cerith snails (again) and margarita snails are good for glass and rocks. Hermit carbs are also good for picking through rocks and sand but can take out snals for shells, etc. Don't overdue the CUC though as they can starve.

    -Will touching this big brittle star thing hurt as much as it looks like it will?

    It shouldn't hurt at all. Personally I would remove the star.

    -How can i mix my own water at home (if its even practical to to so...i dont want to buy water unless i have to)

    Yes you can and unless you can trust the water at your LFS you are better off. Get a good RO/DI filter to purify your tap water and the salt mix of your choice. Get a tub/bucket and a small pump and mix up the water the night before your WC. You need a hydrometer or a refractometer (better) to measure your specific gravity. Your SG and temp should all match your current tank water. If you need to adjust your SG up or down do so gradually depending on how much of an adjustment is needed.

    There are many, many things I didn't mention and probably should have so keep asking and someone will fill in the gaps.



  3. #3
    yeah, thats right-purple ROPE branflake12's Avatar
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    Thanks Greech. I have been reading through the forums and hoped you would reply to mine. I have known the LFS guy for years and while he might price way to high, i do trust his stuff, so at this point I will probably use his water until we get all unpacked and stable in the new house. I would like to mix my own, how much would a decent RO unti run and where can i find one?

    I will have to check on the skimmer and light fixture.

    As for the salt creep...can i knock the big chucks back into the water or is it best to throw them away?

    So, its alright to run a HOB filter like that? Ive thought about going canister on my cichlid tank as well, but if the benefits arent huge over what i already have, I probably will save the money.

    As for the sand, there is a red carpet like moss on some of the rocks and whats on the ground is rather red....how can i get rid of it if i need to?


    Thanks again. Tonight I am going to try and clean at least one filter/skimmer and maybe inject some aiptasia.
    54 Corner: Malawai cichlids
    55: FOWLR
    29: ?



  4. #4
    Moderator greech's Avatar
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    This is a very good reasonably priced filter:

    http://www.bulkreefsupply.com/store/...rd-system.html

    Don't knock the salt creep back in. When water evaporates salt is left behind. As the water evaporates, the specific gravity increases. If you knock all that back in you may get a SG swing which can cause stress to your livestock. Salt creep can also burn when it hits flesh. It's best to remove it, clean it and prevent it from occurring. Along these lines when you water level drops due to evaporation you want to top off with fresh RO/DI to maintain a relatively constant SG. This can be done manually with some sort of container or you can look into a number of auto top-off systems. You really need to invest in a hydrometer or refractometer. Your LFS should have them and be able to show you how to use them. Refractometers are more accurate but a bit more $.

    Ideally you would have some sort of overflow (since your tank isn't drilled you could use a HOB overflow). These overflow boxes transfer water from your tank via surface skimming (also a good thing) to a sump where the water usually runs through some sort of mechanical filtration, a skimmer and/or a refugium containing macro alage, a deep sand bed, etc before being returned to the tank via a return pump. In your case what you have will work just fine based on the livestock in the tank now as long as everything is working properly. You don;t even really need the skimmer IMO at this point but it's good to have.

    The red stuff is called cyanobacteria. Lightly vaccuum the red stuff off the sand (it will come back), remove it from the rock with your hand or siphoning, reduce the light cycle and get keep your water quality high and as stable as you can. My guess is there isn't much flow in the tank. Flow is critical to marine tanks to keep detritus suspended so it can be removed via filtration. Are there any powerheads in the tank? Any other flow than what's coming from the HOB filter and skimmer? If not, invest in some good powerheads if flow is low and that will go a long way in eliminating the cyano. The filter is likely clogged up with all sorts of gunk. All of that needs to be cleaned and kept clean limiting places where detritus can collect. You'll here the term "nitrate factories" and these are prime places for them. Any mechanical filtration you use should be able to be thoroughly cleaned and/or replaced frequently so if you decide to keep the HOB or go with a canister keep that in mind. What I use in my HOB filter is a product called Poly Filter and a bag of chemipure elite. Long term the Poly Filter probably would not be cost effective since you have a skimmer (I do not use one). However, it may prove beneficial to get things under control in your tank. I also use pillow stuffing from Wal-Marts fabric department as filter floss when I am not using the Poly Filter. It's about $4.00 for a huge bag and is the same thing as filter floss you pay a lot more for at you LFS (for a lot less).

    Joe's Juice is a good product but you have some large aptasia to deal with. You may need do hit the anemones multiple times to kill them. Peppermint shrimp are said to eat aptasia but most say they don't take out the big ones. Injections of lemon juice are another option people have had success with (I have not). I believe it's best that you use a needle to inject the lemon juice which should be fairly easy with the bigger ones. Also, do not go on a rampage and kill them all at once. If you kill them all you may get an ammonia spike that your bacteria cannot handle.

    Keep the questions coming. We'll get it straightened out.



  5. #5
    yeah, thats right-purple ROPE branflake12's Avatar
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    Here are some more pics with just the blue light one.
    I have no idea the difference between T5 and the other kind.

    The tank has 2 powerheads. Not sure of brand, but see the pics. Maybe they are not pointed where they should be? I noticed the area in the middle that has no cyano seems to be where they are pointed as it kind of moves on its own.

    -Where should i point them? Do i need more?

    -the skimmer return is not submerged, but by the looks of it even if the tank was full to the tip top it still wouldnt be. Thoughts?

    -Ideas for a light cycle reduction? at least at this point?

    -how do you use the pillow stuffing in the HOB? just press it up against the carbon cartridge? (i assume this one has one, my other emperor does)

    Bad shot of the clowns, but they appear healthy based on my care of rift lake cichlids. I found a saltwater master test kit last night but havent taken any readings yet. Also didnt get to the store for the vinegar-painted a bathroom instead.

    -I am planning to hit the big aiptaisa in one area at a time and give it a day or three to "digest" in the tank. Once they fall off, can i just grab them out?

    - I did the math on buying and RO unit like the one you sent me. it would pay off in about 1.5 years @ $5/gallon for RO saltwater at the LFS. Do they just hook to the cold water line? Do they need to be plumbed into a drain as well? (i noticed "waste water" when reading about them)

    -When i get all the pest growth out of here, is there something "pretty" i could put down instead? I have planted tanks, but coral isnt really a plant. Whats easy and takes a good foothold with proper care and a good "cleaning crew"?

    -Why get rid of the big star?

    -what are the long string like moss in the last pic? how can i get rid of it?

    whew.
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    54 Corner: Malawai cichlids
    55: FOWLR
    29: ?



  6. #6
    yeah, thats right-purple ROPE branflake12's Avatar
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    Also, the sump/overflow thing isnt feasible becuase there is only 4.5" of space between the back of the tank and the wall and nothing below it-the way the built in was done it basically sits on the concrete foundation with plywood between. Are those hang on refugium things useful for a similar capacity or just for raising things?
    54 Corner: Malawai cichlids
    55: FOWLR
    29: ?



  7. #7
    Moderator greech's Avatar
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    Here are some more pics with just the blue light one.
    I have no idea the difference between T5 and the other kind.

    If each bulb is bent in a "U" then it's a power compact.

    The tank has 2 powerheads. Not sure of brand, but see the pics. Maybe they are not pointed where they should be? I noticed the area in the middle that has no cyano seems to be where they are pointed as it kind of moves on its own.

    Those are maxijets. Hopefully 1200's but should be at least 900's on a 4' tank (it should say on the PH once you clean the algae off). Good pumps but fairly directional flow even with the deflectors on. You could probably stand to replace them with something like a couple of Koralia Evolution 1050s or Tunze 6025s or 6045s which provide a wider flow pattern. There are also Vortechs which are a fair bit more $ but if you are going to a reef flow is very important IMO. There is also an attachment for the maxijets you have (think it's called Sureflow or something) which is just a big impeller in a housing that attaches to the output. The attachments significantly increase your flow and would likely be your cheapest alternative to increase/improve flow. For your current situation, you want enough flow to to eliminate dead spots and move water through your LR to ensure good filtration. You may want to clean everything up first try repositioning the MJs first before you spend any more money. However I suspect you will need to upgrade your flow.

    -Where should i point them? Do i need more?

    See above but you also want surface agitation so at least one should be doing that. However your HOB filter and skimmer might be helping with that as well.

    -the skimmer return is not submerged, but by the looks of it even if the tank was full to the tip top it still wouldnt be. Thoughts? Might be by design. I think CPR has some videos on youtube you can see. Just do a search for CPR backpack skimmer.

    -Ideas for a light cycle reduction? at least at this point? With no corals (although I think I saw a few mushrooms) the light cycle can be about anything you want. However, reducing the cycle should help with the algae. Some go lights out for 3 or so days to kill of alage but if excess nutrients are your issue this won't help much.

    -how do you use the pillow stuffing in the HOB? just press it up against the carbon cartridge? (i assume this one has one, my other emperor does)

    Sorry, I have an Aquaclear HOB. Not familiar with the emperor design. Basically you want the floss to be somewhere where it will catch debris and can be removed/replaced often.

    Bad shot of the clowns, but they appear healthy based on my care of rift lake cichlids. I found a saltwater master test kit last night but havent taken any readings yet. Also didnt get to the store for the vinegar-painted a bathroom instead.

    Clowns are pretty hardy. I'm sure they are healthy. Eating well?

    -I am planning to hit the big aiptaisa in one area at a time and give it a day or three to "digest" in the tank. Once they fall off, can i just grab them out?

    They should just melt.

    - I did the math on buying and RO unit like the one you sent me. it would pay off in about 1.5 years @ $5/gallon for RO saltwater at the LFS. Do they just hook to the cold water line? Do they need to be plumbed into a drain as well? (i noticed "waste water" when reading about them)

    Some use wastewater for their washing machine. It does not need to be plumed to a drain. Yep just hooks up to your faucet.

    -When i get all the pest growth out of here, is there something "pretty" i could put down instead? I have planted tanks, but coral isnt really a plant. Whats easy and takes a good foothold with proper care and a good "cleaning crew"?

    Sure lots of things. If you like planted tanks you will love having a reef.

    -Why get rid of the big star?

    Probably shouldn't have siad that since it's personal preference mainly. However that looks like a green serpent star which can prey on all sort of things (including fish). They are quite quick an they eat whatever they can. I have read reports of them arching themselves in caves and dropping down on fish or whatever else enters the cave. I am not positive on this ID though so please research for yourself. Are there any snails or crabs in the tank? Empty shells? Could be a result of the star.

    -what are the long string like moss in the last pic? how can i get rid of it?

    That looks like grape caulerpa which is a type of macro algae. Is that the only place it is in your tank on that PH? I would be surprised if that were the case but if it is CAREFULLY remove it and try not to pop the spores/bubbles. This macro is used in sumps and fuges but it can really take over a display. Do some googling and make sure that is what it is (kind of hard to tell from the pic). It can be a real PITA.



  8. #8
    yeah, thats right-purple ROPE branflake12's Avatar
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    Looks like you and me in here Greech...i cant thank you enough. now i need some reassurance-i made a huge mess tonight cleaning just the HOB (well tried too, some of the stuff i think was welded to the plastic)

    Man this thing is going be a lot of work. How should i do water changes? I had to use a siphon hose and a pitcher tonight and it was a real mess. I miss my python already.

    I think, based on what i found on google, that the star is a brittle (lots of little spikes all the way down the arms)...which might explain where the cherry shrimp went.

    Cleaned out the HOB...there was a whole colony of aiptaisia in it. Gross. Ill try for the skimmer tomorrow. I must have vacummed out a pound of salt from behind the tank, which i dont think was good for my vaccum as it stated to smell. To top it off, when i emptied the drain bucket into our jacuzzi tub downstairs there were some rocks that scratched the bottom up. It was a rough night for sure.

    oh...the center brace on the tank is broken and a peice of wood has been epoxied inside to hold it together. it looks like it has been this way for some time, but it makes me a bit nervous.

    there are more of the grape looking algea elswhere in the tank, but none of the long stringy things except in one spot in the rock.

    One question...in all seriousness....once a tank has been a salt tank...can it ever go back to fresh water?
    54 Corner: Malawai cichlids
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    29: ?



  9. #9
    Moderator greech's Avatar
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    I'm sure others will chime in. Lots of experience out there with better ideas that mine Sure it can be a FW tank and back to salt again for that matter. Only concern I know of (based on what I have read) would be if the tank was ever medicated and if that medication adhered to the tank surfaces (silicon). Copper for example is lethal to inverts.

    If the center brace is cracked I would be concerned about the tanks integrity. Are you in a position where you can get a replacement tank? How about some replacement equipment? You may be better off replacing the HOB (however, if the skimmer is working properly you don't really need it). It would be nice to have something to run some carbon, chemipure, poly filter, phosban or other media through until the tank is on track again. These media aren't all that necessary for what you have now stock wise but they will help remedy the situation.

    I really suspect you have some nutrient issues with this tank so you really can't do too many WC's at this point. If you can get some test results this will help. some say more frequent, smaller WC's are better than larger ones. However, I think larger WC's on a weekly basis is best in your situation in order to get the tank under control. You can adjust once you get things under control. Assume you have a drain somewhere the hose can discharge to? If you get a rubbermaid tub and have a pump you can pour your new water in the tub, attach a piece of tubing to the pump and pump it right in.



  10. #10
    yeah, thats right-purple ROPE branflake12's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by greech View Post
    I'm sure others will chime in. Lots of experience out there with better ideas that mine Sure it can be a FW tank and back to salt again for that matter. Only concern I know of (based on what I have read) would be if the tank was ever medicated and if that medication adhered to the tank surfaces (silicon). Copper for example is lethal to inverts.
    Many snails appear to be doing well, so maybe not. Also, based on the level of care I am seeing here...no medication ever.


    If the center brace is cracked I would be concerned about the tanks integrity. Are you in a position where you can get a replacement tank? How about some replacement equipment? You may be better off replacing the HOB (however, if the skimmer is working properly you don't really need it). It would be nice to have something to run some carbon, chemipure, poly filter, phosban or other media through until the tank is on track again. These media aren't all that necessary for what you have now stock wise but they will help remedy the situation.
    I measured from a point about 3" in from either side and then at the exact center. The glass is bowing out just under 1/2". After reading around on these forums (and finding an old thread I started on the topic)I think his silicone/wood brace is holding. I highly doubt i can get the tank out of the wall with out dealing major damage to the woodwork (and then have no way to put it back). Its wedged in there with basically zero clearance on the sides, so i think replacing the top trim piece (that has the brace) would also be next to impossible.

    I need to get some baskets for the HOB filter, he was running 4 filter cartridges instead of 2 and 2 baskets of loose media like I prefer. I cleaned up the HOB and the flow is improved, but it needs new filter media a long time ago. I would be able to replace that when funds allow (new house=lots of things you never expected to spend money on)


    I really suspect you have some nutrient issues with this tank so you really can't do too many WC's at this point. If you can get some test results this will help. some say more frequent, smaller WC's are better than larger ones. However, I think larger WC's on a weekly basis is best in your situation in order to get the tank under control. You can adjust once you get things under control. Assume you have a drain somewhere the hose can discharge to? If you get a rubbermaid tub and have a pump you can pour your new water in the tub, attach a piece of tubing to the pump and pump it right in.
    I will do another WC this week, another 5 gallon as its all i can get in and out of my car from the LFS. I have some pics i will post tomorrow morning of some white vine-like growth taking place on the back wall that also looks like a pest. Between that, the aiptaisia and the cyanobacteria, and possibly needing to reinforce the tank laterally somehow, I had an idea.

    I have an empty 10G right now with a HOB filter and enough air pumps to fill up my car tires. Could I net the clowns, the yellow thing (if i ever find it) and pluck the snails and a few crabs i see into the 10G for a few days? there are a few peices of rock that appear to be in good shape that i would Joes Juice first to help with the bio load. I would drain down the main tank to half and remove the peices of rock that are infested and kill the aiptaisia/cyano somehow in another container and scrape the junk off the backside? I dont really care about that giant star thing and the more i see it the less i want it in my tank. With it halfway down could i gravel vac the junk off the top layer and not worry about stirring up nitrates with the fish removed and basically do a "break down clean"? (I know its extreme, but i was starting at it tonight and looking at all the work ahead of me and I contemplated taking the fish, snails, crabs and star out and just adding a "little" bleach to the system and start over with a new cycle)

    It kinda sucks inheiriting someone elses problems.
    54 Corner: Malawai cichlids
    55: FOWLR
    29: ?



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