View Full Version : corals won't stay alive!

01/05/2009, 10:54 AM
A friend of mine has a 30g that has been setup for around 5 months. She has about 20-30 lbs of live rock, skimmer, two power heads, and hob filter. She does regular water changes and keeps water parameters in check:
calcium around 400
alk around 3
ammonia 0
nitrite 0
nitrate 0
phos 0
She runs T-5s for around 8 hrs a day and changes her hob filter regular. Her ph stays on the lower end at 8.1 maybe due to excess co2 in the home. We have come to that conclusion because her ph stays higher when she doesn't use the gas fireplace and opens the windows.
Fish do fine. She has a lawnmower blenny, 2 clowns, and 2 small damsels. Everything from pepperrmint shrimp to snails have died. That includes her corals after a few weeks start to die and eventually do. She has had a frog spawn the longest (a few months) and it to now in dieing. Her emerald crabs die within a week. she feeds every other dayand keeps the temp around 78. We are just at a loss as to why she can't keep corals or inverts alive. opinions?


01/05/2009, 11:00 AM
What is the salinity?

Has cooper ever been used with that tank? (( Or any of the live rock for that matter ))

01/05/2009, 11:03 AM
no on the copper and the salinity is about 1.024 sg

01/05/2009, 11:29 AM
alk seems low.

sure sounds like copper or some other metal. was the tank purchased as used?

01/05/2009, 11:32 AM
Sounds like copper to me as well. If purchased used, check silicon for staining. Look into some of the medias that remove metals. Filter with Carbon also. If all snails and shrimp are dying, IMO, that's almost a sure sign of copper or buying inverts from a bad source, or not acclimating properly.

01/05/2009, 11:46 AM
How long does it take for inverts to die?
Did she acclimate them?

If all params are good, maybe it's time to question equipments she uses. Check expiration date on test kits. What equipment does she use for salinity test?

01/05/2009, 11:53 AM

01/05/2009, 12:00 PM
If it's copper and the silicone is stained, from my experience, you'll never get it out. If it is in the tank, that means your LR and sand will be contaminated also. Better off to start over with a new tank.

01/05/2009, 12:31 PM
Are you absolutely sure there is no copper in the plumbing anywhere? Any pennies in the tank or copper fittings in the check valves or ball valves? Any metal fittings at all in the plumbing?

What is your water source for topoff and mixing salt? Any filtration used?

Salinity at 1.024 is low if your trying to keep Corals. How are you testing for Salinity?

Ph at 8.1 is considered normal, I would not consider 8.1 on the low end. I would be curious about the ph swing and how your testing for PH?

What's been dosed into the tank?

Have any medications been used in the tank?

What is the daily temp swing?

She needs to also be considering possible points of contamination.

01/05/2009, 12:45 PM
it can't be ph or salinity, cuss I have salinity at 1.026, but my ph is a constant swing between 7.9-8.1.
it's probably some kind of contamination like everyone said, test for copper.

01/05/2009, 05:53 PM
lot of questions so i'll try to answer all. The tank was bought used. The previous owner had it setup for fresh water. Not sure how long they owned it but it was packed away for a while before my friend got it. The silicone (if i remember correctly)loooked dark in colormaybe black. The people who had the tank before would't have added any extra silicone. No copper fittings present.

Her peppermint shrimp lived a few months. She had a cleaner shrimp that lived a month or two. All corals start to go down hill after a month. She acclimates everything as directed (couple of hours).

She doesn't use any filter media other than carbon. She has used phos. remover a few times. She was trying to rely on her live rock for filtration. She uses purple up every now and then and a calcium additive, a liquid diluted form. She does have a hard time keeping her alk and ph at those levels. The ph was staying around 8 or even lower so she was using a buffer to raise it and the alk. She hasn't checked the ph at night so not sure on the swing. She uses instant ocean hydrometer. She is sure to remove all bubblles so it will read as accurate as possible. Her other test kits are up to date and read the same as mine.

I personally have my alk at 3. It just simply won't go any higher?? I thought anything between 2..5 and 4 was fine? I keep my salinity at her level and all is thriving.

she gets ro water from the local pet shops for the water changes and top off.

01/05/2009, 05:56 PM
<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=14086193#post14086193 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by rtaylors3

I personally have my alk at 3. It just simply won't go any higher?? I thought anything between 2..5 and 4 was fine? I keep my salinity at her level and all is thriving.

she gets ro water from the local pet shops for the water changes and top off.

If the units of measure for you Alk is Meq/L then that is fine.

If possible, test the TDS of that RO/DI water from the LFS, it isn't uncommon for them to be lax in maintaining the membranes/filters.

01/05/2009, 05:58 PM
it is meq/l. I thought about that....

01/05/2009, 06:25 PM
She is sure to remove all bubblles so it will read as accurate as possible. Her other test kits are up to date and read the same as mine.
I agree that it's most likely contamination of some sort. I think she should get a copper test kit or maybe take a water sample and test for copper. Also have the Salinity and ph verified along with the rest of the water parameters. Hydrometers are not a very good way to keep track of Salinity in a Reef tank. If the hydrometer is giving bogus information then that could be your problem. 3 is fine for the Alk reading as long as it's accurate. It would be interesting to see what the Ph is before the lights come on and after they go off to get an idea of the daily ph swing.

01/05/2009, 06:59 PM
<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=14086361#post14086361 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by Playa-1
Hydrometers are not a very good way to keep track of Salinity in a Reef tank.

That's because hydrometers measure specific gravity ;)

I would also test the tank for copper. It could take low concentrations a while to kill off inverts.

01/06/2009, 08:53 AM
Can large PH swings kill inverts?

She has taken her water in several times and our kits read the same as the LFS.

saltee dood
01/06/2009, 03:09 PM
Freshwater keepers sometimes will dose copper in their main tanks instead of using a hospital tank.

I wouldn't go any further troubleshooting till you can rule out copper as the cause.

01/06/2009, 07:32 PM
She is going to take her water in again friday and get a copper test.

01/06/2009, 08:58 PM
let us know how it goes? This is an interesting puzzle :D

01/06/2009, 10:03 PM
I have a water shop next to my place and I got my water tested there and then I compared the tests from my LFS to theirs and the results were not the same, we triple checked the results at the water store and always came back the same as the first 2 tests. This said if you know of a place where they sell or supply water for hospitals, Restaurants then maybe go see them for your test. They have all digital testers for everytype of water test you need, takes not more then 30 minutes to get the results.

My store also supplies me with RO/DI water at a very good price of 3$ for 30gallons :D

Good luck

01/06/2009, 10:06 PM
It sounds like copper. Even if it doesn't show up on the test kit, a low level of copper would kill all those animals. Copper is frequently a problem with used tanks.

01/07/2009, 08:56 AM
I got to thinking she does have a horseshoe crab and a feather duter that have been in there for several months. They are still alive!

Say someone did use copper in the tank. What, does the copper seep into the silicone?

01/07/2009, 10:57 AM
If the hydrometer has not been checked against a calibrated refractometer, I would do so. The Instant Ocean hydrometer I had since the 80's would read 1.025 when the salinity was actually 1.021.

01/07/2009, 11:39 AM
<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=14098490#post14098490 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by rtaylors3
Say someone did use copper in the tank. What, does the copper seep into the silicone?

The answer is "yes" it does permeate the silicone.

01/07/2009, 11:43 AM
hmmm I guess we will see once the copper test get done and once she uses some media for eliminating heavy metal.

The salinity read the same at the LFS as ours did

01/09/2009, 03:36 PM
so....we went to the lfs today and the copper test there read 0 or undetectable. I know that there could still be undetectable levels of copper present but the guy there said that he suspected she didn't ahve enough live rock. She has somewhere around 30-40 lbs of live rock and I know that all depends on the density of it all and hte actuall surface area. She did purchase a copper test that we will do tonight and compare. Does it really matter how much live rock you have and your coral survival oh and not to mention the death of inverts?

01/09/2009, 04:47 PM
The correct amount of live rock to have in a reef tank is between a minimum of 1 pound per gallon and a maximum of 1.75 pounds per gallon (per http://reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=1544492&perpage=25&pagenumber=2)
I personaaly have about 2lbs of rock per gal.

I would think that the fish store is trying to sell you more lr. The point of having lr is to aid in filtration. If your tests for amonia, nitrate and nitrites are within normal range I wouldn't worry about the lr as it is doing its job.

It sounds like a copper issue to me also. Because it affects only your corals and inverts...some inverts maybe able to stand higher amounts of copper than others.

01/09/2009, 04:53 PM
per http://www.reefsanctuary.com/forums/fish-diseases-treatments/31684-tank-cleanup-procedures.html
QT/Hospital Tank Clean Up With Copper
About the most frequently used medication that presents a cleaning problem to the aquarist is the use of copper to treat a disease. Copper will attach itself to plastics and glass. Even though the copper is so little that it can't be detected by a regular copper test kit, it is in high enough concentration to kill invertebrates that the aquarist may attempt to quarantine. Thus a quarantine tank turns into a hospital tank for copper treatments. The hospital tank can't be used for a QT for invertebrates, until it has been cleaned enough to remove the copper 'stuck' in the system.

If the copper treatment was successful and the fish is disease-free AND the tank will only be used to quarantine fish, then like the first case, there is no need to do any cleaning. The bio filter should be kept in the hospital tank or replaced, but NOT returned to the display tank.

If the hospital tank needs to be copper-free then there is a complex cleaning process to follow. However after experiments with snails, crabs, and Xenia, the following cleaning is good enough to put the copper in low enough concentration in the water to support these marine lifeforms. The bio filter must be thrown away. Toss away equipment including tubing, and anything that can't handle the cleaning process or is too difficult to make sure is properly cleaned.

1. A few hot tap water rinses (as hot as can be stood by the tank/equipment, and aquarist!)
2. Let tank/equipment cool off
3. Wash with Vinegar; 1:10 dilution of household/salad vinegar
4. Several tap water rinses
5. Wash with a mild liquid soap solution
6. Several tap water rinses
7. Wash with bleach; 1:10 dilution of household bleach
8. Several tap water rinses
9. Several RO/DI or distilled water rinses
10. Let go bone dry for a few days before use

may help if you have a tank to hold everything while you "clean" your system. You may have issues with the old LR becasue it has copper on it now and cleaning it will completely kill it and anything on it.

01/11/2009, 08:25 AM
Thanks all. he did test the PH before the lights came on and it read 7.8-7.9. I haven't spoke to her in a couple of day so not ure if he tested the copper with the new test yet.

She did have the guy test for a few other things and he found she had a small amt of nitrate (expected) but not enough to cause any problems(can't remember the amt). About the live rock... some of the larger base rocks are very dense and heavy but not very large. When you look at it (i will have to get a pic) she seems to have enough to do the job and like you said her parameters say that a well.

There was something else he said that bothered me. He said that NO salt mix will supply the proper amt of trace element to support corals and that you need to supplement??? I have read diff! Any thoughts?

01/11/2009, 09:37 AM
does sound like copper you could try one of these javascript:popupWin1('/product/detailed_image.cfm?pCatId=10421&large=/images/Categoryimages/larger/lg_157346_32320P.jpg',%2050,%2050,%20596,%20531)

01/11/2009, 10:08 AM
Since you have a hang on filter, get an 8$ bag of seachem cuprisorb and drop it in there. If you have copper or other heavy metals it will turn color as it absorbs it. Keep renewing until you have no color changes for a month.

http://www.marinedepot.com/ps_ViewItem.aspx?category=Seachem_CupriSorb_Saltwater_Aquarium_Supplies_Filter_Media_Chemical_Copper _Removers&vendor=Seachem&SearchStr=cuprisorb&action=view&idProduct=SC3271&idCategory=FIFMCHCR

01/11/2009, 11:58 AM
A polyfilter is also a good idea:


Good Luck!

Everyones Hero
01/11/2009, 01:26 PM
<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=14129254#post14129254 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by rtaylors3
There was something else he said that bothered me. He said that NO salt mix will supply the proper amt of trace element to support corals and that you need to supplement??? I have read diff! Any thoughts?

He's just trying to sell you more stuff. One of the points of water changes is to replace the trace elements that get used up. Otherwise we'd all just be dosing Ca/Alk, Mg, & trace element supplements.

Your friend sounds a little like my co-worker. She comes in one week telling you about the new thing she bought, then she's in there the next week telling you that it died.

01/11/2009, 02:35 PM
from reading in other places, all signs point to copper!

reading throught the thread, your watersource kept popping into my head too!

good luck!

01/14/2009, 10:05 AM
Here is a pic of the tank in question. It is a bad pic because I took it from my phone.