View Full Version : Chemestry trouble

11/07/2013, 08:38 PM
My daughter's 30G biocube is frustrating all of us! We have a 120 G family tank that is fish / reef combo. My daughter has started a 30G biocube about 10 months ago. She has not had terrific luck with this tank, got frustrated over the summer, and kind of "let things go". Her few corals wilted and she was very lax on her water changes, until 2 months ago... we began to start over, being dilligent about 7-10 day water changes, changing about 7 gallons each time... she uses RO water. We have checked / rechecked levels, slowly added fish and corals. At first things were looking up, however, over the last 2 weeks 4 fish have died (purple fire fish, red fire fish, and 2 cardinals). She has 2 sets of zoos that wont open, she has 2 leathers that are doing ok, but not soaring by any means...
Sorry, long story, but here are my questions...
1. What are we missing???? Levels look good. Right now calcium a little low at 410, alk 9.9, mag 1190. Nitrates are zilch. Temp is 77. Salt use is reef crystals. I am not sure that its relevent, however we did have a short stint using instant ocean salt (I ordered the wrong box from Dr. Fosters).
2. We have power compact lights. Just changed white and blues last week.
3. Do we need to add a protein skimmer?
I would appreciate any advise!

11/07/2013, 08:44 PM
Just a couple of questions first, since it's mostly that you're losing fish and healthy fish should be pretty hardy to most parameter changes except maybe a big pH swing - did you just get these at a fish store or were they re-homed from another tank and been in a system for a while?

The fact that zoas are not opening and leathers are in a holding pattern do not necessarily indicate a probe. Though for the heck of it, what is the phosphate level?

11/07/2013, 09:06 PM
The fish come from our trusted local reef store. Generally we have good luck with them.
Hmmm. Phosphorus I have not checked. Will have to get a test kit!
A portion of my post didn't post, we also have a small portion of acans, and a small frog spawn, and a set of blue shrooms that all seem to be doing ok?

11/07/2013, 09:46 PM
I don't think phosphate would be devastating to the fish though it could quiet down the corals. I think the first thing to rule out is whether you picked up fish that were going downhill. The transfer of the fish from reef all the way to LFS and stops in between, diminished oxygen and fluctuating pH can put them on a downward spiral that isn't realized for a few weeks. They weaken and eventually go. I'd try picking up a fish from a local reefer who's had it in the system for a while, and see how it fairs.

That's where I'd start. Nothing you've mentioned points to any system problem.

11/07/2013, 10:02 PM
If the fish died w/ in a day of addition, the problem could be too fast of a change in SG.
Do you have a refractometer? And if it was fishless, she might have started a cycle causing a short spike in NH3 after feeding.

11/07/2013, 10:12 PM
A skimmer will help in cutting off nitrates from being produced. If you do water changes and nitrates are low <5 or 10 consistently than you can do w/o one probably, considering you have very few and very small fish.

11/09/2013, 08:58 PM
Thanks everyone for your feedback... I do appreciate your feedback. Checked levels again tonight. Added magnesium yesterday, so that is at 1350. Calcium is 440, alk 9.6. No nitrates today. Yet to get phosphate test kit, will get that tomorrow.
I would believe that this could be a bad batch of fish so to speak if we didn't bring them into the tank at different times. We did, however, pick them up from the store within a day after delivery, both weeks we bought fish. But then why arent the Zoas opening? And the blue mushrooms are shriveling. Are the power compacts not strong enough? Even though we replaced them 2 weeks ago? What about LED lighting?
Thanks everyone!

11/16/2013, 10:24 PM
Well, we added some new fish to this tank after the others died last week... added a cleaner wrass and a red fire fish to go with the two surviving green cromis... they all ate this evening before we went out for a few hours. Just returned home and 3 of the 4 fish are DEAD! very frustrating for my 15 year old who is sinking her money right in with us.
levels yesterday were great. Mag was a touch low at 1150, dosed. Temp 77. Water changed with RO / reef crystals. Calcium 450. Working on getting alk down still but down to 9.3 (from 11)...
We added a small protein skimmer a few days ago thinking that was part of the problem..
Also put in a small bag of charcoal...
Added a chunk of polyfilter (just incase).

11/16/2013, 10:31 PM
cal, mag and alk are not the problem for dead fish. all the stated parameters are right in acceptable range.
my first feeling is ammonia, tank may have lost its biological filter (bacteria) over time just letting it go. second best guess would be parasites. but either way i wouldnt buy any more live stock and start with real basics to see where we stand.

mag of 1150 is not too bad specially if you dosed it to go up already, 1200 and up should be just fine. alk at 9.3 (if dkh) is also pretty good but trying to keep it stable at that would be the task. cal at 450 is fine as well.

can you test for ammonia? please post results, also the buying and transporting then acclimating and introduction procedures as well. Also without QT ur playing with fire.

Edit: list all the equipment as well in detail of your tank along with everything that is in the tank and attached to tank. (rocks,sand, filters, lights etc)

11/16/2013, 10:52 PM
I will get an amonia kit in the a.m. - have never had this issue or tested for it in our 120. Biocube is 29 G live rock / sand / 2 green cromis (1 dead/ 1 dying), 1 red firefish (dead) , 1 cleaner wrass. Snails. 1 small emerald crab. 1 coral banded small shrimp.
Corals include 2 sets of zoas (currently not open x 2-3 weeks), shriveling blue striped shrooms, frogspawn (looks good), acans (also good), 2 leathers (ok).
Nano skimmer added a few days ago / removed bioballs with lots of slime all over them.
Use R/O water. Reef crystals. Water changes usually 7-10 days, more recent in the last few weeks due to high alk.
Light are new power compacts in the last month.
She has green hair algea in the tank currently (bought the emerald crab to help with it last week).
Fish are bought from LFS, generally reliable, have long relationship with them from our 120 G. acclimate them 30 minutes with half theirs / half ours water.
Appreciate the help!

11/16/2013, 11:02 PM
Hi Christy
can you tell me how was this tank cycled and when you say it was just let go off . what exactly happened in that let go time? was there water in tank? was it still running? was food put it in while in that time?
i still believe that cycle must have ended and tank may have to be cycled again.
also emerald crab vs hair algae not a remedy but just a band-aid.
take a water sample to LFS have them run basics on it. post back the results. i may be able to help you further then.

11/17/2013, 02:08 AM
It is totally possible that you have some type of fish disease/parasite in your tank. One fish can bring down an entire tank. You could have totally healthy fish, but you bring in one unhealthy fish and you can easily get down to no healthy fish or dead fish. I would stop buying fish until the problem is determined. If all fish end up dying then I would leave the tank fallow (fishless) for three months or so to kill off possible parasites like ich. Then I would set up a quarantine for future any fish purchases. Even a good fish store can let a sick fish get through occasionally. It's better to be safe then sorry.

I do agree that you should also check the ammonia levels in the tank. It is possible that with not having any fish in the tank for a period of time that the biological filtration couldn't handle a large influx of fish so ammonia was being produced. With smaller aquariums, it is best to only add one (maybe two) small fish at a time and then wait a few weeks before adding more fish. You should give the aquarium a chance to build up extra biological filtration after adding a fish before adding another or you run the risk of overwhelming the biological filtration resulting in ammonia production.

11/17/2013, 05:27 AM
You are adding fish that do not alway have great success. Whoever suggested you get a cleaner wrasse gave poor advice, that is a very difficult fish to keep in captivity. And Chromis are collected in very large numbers and can often be very week and can be aggressive to the point to kill each other. I suggest you get more hardy fish. Please do a bit of research before selecting your next one and go with the easiest to keep.

11/17/2013, 10:37 AM
Given your inverts are all doing reasonably well, I don't think the problem is with water chemistry.

My guess is disease, or fish that were poorly handled during capture/transport. Damage from cyanide capture can take weeks to kill a fish.

I'd suggest leaving the tank without fish for at least a month, make sure everything stays stable during that time, then perhaps order a single hardy fish from Diver's Den. Keep feeding the tank in the meantime to make sure the biofilter can handle the fish when they do enter the tank.

While DD usually has very healthy fish, and I've never heard of anyone receiving one with a nasty disease like ich, oodinium, or brook, it's still generally good practice to quarantine. With the fish I get from LA-DD, I usually just put them in a 15g observation QT with LR, a bubbler, a small ph, and a healthy biofilter for a month.

LFS fish on the other hand, I do prophylactic tank transfer to rule out ich, then give them two courses of prazi to make sure they don't have any parasites. If I see obvious signs of parasites, I'll do prazi first and tank transfer second.

11/17/2013, 10:56 AM
Reef doctor:

Thank you for all that info. When the tank was "let go" for a few months by my daughter, she went through a period of time that her room was getting really warm (82-85 tank temps) and everything in her tank started dying, so she would not keep up with water changes and we had to float frozen water bottles to get temp down every day. she changed water maybe every 2 weeks, and filters got dirty. Fish died early on, as did all corals that she had except 2 leathers that just really weakened and shed.

The tank was cycled with our established 120s live rock, sand and water. We then added her figi rock after tank was up and running and took our rock back.

Going to LFS to get amonia test kit when they open. Will bring water sample and post back results.

Renaisance Aquarist and Cloudburst: Thank you also for your input. My daughter did talk with LFS about fish choices before selection... they said green cromis were hardy in pairs... we have had good success with cleaner wrass in our 120, and thought that if this was a parasite issue that the cleaner would help with it... the fire fish she picked on her own (I had no input on that one). No more fish for a while regardless until we get to the bottom of this!

GGROKTHECUBE: what is prazi?

11/17/2013, 11:08 AM
Suggest you start with tank raised clownfish. Most LFS carry them. They are hardy. Ocellaris are not costly. Also a bubble tip anemone.

11/17/2013, 12:33 PM
Prazi is praziquantel. It is a drug that will kill worms, flatworms, etc. Useless against protists like ich, velvet, brook, but also mostly harmless for fish and biofilter.

11/17/2013, 12:45 PM
The tank was cycled with our established 120s live rock, sand and water. We then added her figi rock after tank was up and running and took our rock back.

You removed cycled rock and replaced it with non-cycled rock? For the most part its the rock (and sand) that you are cycling....

11/17/2013, 12:50 PM
You removed cycled rock and replaced it with non-cycled rock? For the most part its the rock (and sand) that you are cycling....

Good catch. Nitrates could be zero b/c it's not cycled and may have either an ammonia or nitrite spike. I presumed they did a normal cycle and might have made a rear-end of me and me.