Help!!! Trying To Save A 120 Gallon Tank And New Build

Discussion in 'Saltwater Beginners' started by salt&cich4l, Oct 25, 2018.

  1. salt&cich4l

    salt&cich4lNew MemberMember

    Hi All,
    I am getting back into the hobby. Make a long story short, I moved my old nano (10 gallon) to a 120 gallon tank in a school lab since my fish outgrew my tank and I thought students would enjoy it about 6 months ago. Unfortunately, the 120 gallon tank is failing. The walls of the tank are covered in red algae (cyanobacteria?) The beautiful colorful algae on my rock is gone...There is brown algae on the live rock. The reef lighting was moved to a freshwater tank!!!! (I am hoping this is moved back tomorrow). The live rock (there is a ton of it in there) looks gross. My goal is to clean that tank and get it up and running well again. THen eventually restart my nano down the hallway in my old ten gallon tank. I hope to at least save my remaining corals.
    The 120 has a 20 gallon sump, protein skimmer, and I think a bag of carbon. The tank has two large wavemakers in it. I do not know if that is enough flow. I have not really had a chance yet to examine the entire system in detail.

    My first question is how do I clean it? I am thinking about scraping red algae/slime off all of the glass and then do a 50% water change. (I am setting up a 50 gallon trash can with distilled water and sat next to the tank so that the people in charge of it can easily do water changes every week and fill a 20 gallon tank with distilled water and hook up the ATO to the sump.) The tank is in an ideal spot a few feet from a distilled water system and several drains. The person who set it up invested in high-quality stuff. I do not think RO/Di is an option especially with investment in the distilled water system.

    I have only worked on my 10 gallon nano for 2 years, but I have never dealt with this kind of bacteria/algae or protien skimmer.
    I will try to post pictures tomorrow.
    thank you!
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2018
  2. OP

    salt&cich4lNew MemberMember

  3. stella1979

    stella1979ModeratorModerator Member

    Very cool!:cool:

    Okay, so for the 120g, it does sound like you're dealing with cyanobacteria, (red slimy stuff) and diatoms, (brown algae on rocks). Not to be rude, but it hardly matters how it got here, only where the tank goes from here. :) As for how to clean it, I would probably say a RIP cleaning would be the best way to give you a clean slate. A RIP cleaning is major cleaning of everything in the system, using saltwater so as to maintain the cycle and keep wanted life alive, (think coralline, the lovely purple stuff that used to coat your rocks.) One of our members just did a great write up on it. :)
    How To Rip Clean The Correct Way Without Recycle

    You must get that reef light back!:p

    As for determining flow rate, you'll want to look at all pumps that move water. This will include both wavemakers and the return pump down in the sump. You may need to Google the exact pumps that you have to find the specs, then look for a GPH (gallons per hour) rating. Consider the goals for the tank, i.e. softies and a maybe few LPS (low flow) or a mixed reef with a few softies, mostly LPS, and a few SPS, (med-high flow), or SPS dominant, (high flow). You'll want total flow, from all pumps, to move somewhere between 15-40x your total system water volume. For example, I have a 20g mixed reef with 2 wavemakers and an HOB. Rocks and sand bring my volume down to about 17g, and my total flow rate from all pumps is about 600GPH.

    I have no idea how to maintain a water distiller, but as long as it's in good order and producing water with a very low TDS, you're good to go with water. The 50g can for water changes needs to contain saltwater.;) If it's distilled water in there and a caretaker doesn't know it, there's a high risk of crashing the tank. I'd highly suggest that a refractometer is purchased for this tank, and anyone that is permitted to change water is taught to use it. New water's salinity should always be checked before beginning a water change. There is a horror story here of a beautiful tank lovingly built by an experienced aquarist. Being a small tank, he purchased saltwater from a trusted LFS, and didn't know that they had mistakenly given him RODI water one day. He didn't check, did the water change, and watched as everything died.:( Be careful with any fresh water around a salty tank. Glad to hear you'll be using an ATO for topping off.:)

    Sorry, I've never dealt with a skimmer myself. I'd think it's like anything else, just take it apart and clean it. The trouble may come when getting it running on the tank again. Skimmers need to be 'tuned' to work effectively and this has something to do with the water level... wish I could tell you more. I'd suggest you look at the brand name on the skimmer and watch some videos on maintenance and setup. :)

    Welcome back to the salty side!:D:D Can't wait to see your tanks!
  4. Waterloo

    WaterlooValued MemberMember

    Eek another thread! Pretty inexperienced myself and just starting the research phase myself with starting my first SW tank so I'll be hiding in the shadows leeching off of Stella's posts and the others. Excited to see how your tank progresses! :smug::D
  5. OP

    salt&cich4lNew MemberMember

    fyi-I cleaned the equipment and did a water changes (34 gallons)..My plan for 50% didn't happen...filling, mixing and dumping 34 gallons took a long time, more time than I had. The tank's major issue was the red algae on the glass. I scraped it off and siphoned or used netting to get it out. Otherwise, the tank looks like it is in pretty good shape and there are snails and an urchin living in it.

    The reef lighting was returned, and I didn't have a chance to clean the rocks yet; however, most look good except for a few brown/black spots. However, I found my two bumblebee snails from about a year ago and my polyp corals. They seem to actually be growing! The colony moved (I thought they were all dead!).I do not think I will bother cleaning all of them..The tank looks better now but the main issue is nitrates. I am at 80ppm (the test solution is bright red!). Ammonia looks like it is zero and the nitrites are zero....I plan to do a 34 gallon saltwater every 3 days to get these nitrates back to normal...(after 5 water changes, I should have replaced all of the saltwater in the tank.).do you think this will do the trick? Also, someone suggested that I use chemipure blue to help get them down. What do you think?
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2018
  6. OP

    salt&cich4lNew MemberMember

    Thank you for the advice.. I ripped cleaned all of the live rock. After about 2 weeks, the tank looks good as new. Nitrates are at 0. We added fish a few days ago
  7. stella1979

    stella1979ModeratorModerator Member

    I'm so sorry that I missed your last reply! Sometimes alert notifications get a little wonky around here and we miss some of them. If you ever feel like you're left hanging on a question, please feel free to tag me and I will help if I can. :) It feels way too late but, lol, here goes.

    I'm so glad to hear that you got the lighting back, and congrats on finding lost critters! :) I've lost mushroom corals once or twice, and sometimes many weeks later, I find it again. It's always exciting

    ChemiPure Blue has ion-exchanging resin in it, much like is in the DI stage of a RODI filtration unit. This stuff can remove dissolved organics, so works like a skimmer. These organics are what break down into nitrates and phosphates..;) How effective the resin is in a tank's filter is unknown to me, and it may depend on the flow rate through the media. However, I'd think the company would tell you about that.;) Also, I know of a few people that swear by the stuff for keeping phosphates low... I just haven't heard much talk about nitrate removal.

    I'm so happy to hear that the rip cleaning was successful. It's a lot of work so congrats on a job well done!:D Might we get some pics soon?
  8. OP

    salt&cich4lNew MemberMember

    I have to figure out how to upload them from my phone!
  9. OP

    salt&cich4lNew MemberMember

    here are some pics....unfortunately, I did not take a photo before rip cleaning. But imagine that all of the glass in the tank is covered in cyanobacteria and the live rock is laying in the sand covered in it as well..the first pic is a few days after the cleaning..there are 2 tomato clowns, niger trigger, bubble anemone, and a foxface in there now.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Nov 12, 2018
  10. OP

    salt&cich4lNew MemberMember

    The plan is to add a juvenile snowflake, lionfish, and a yellow tang. i am thinking about a dogface puffer.
  11. Crazycoryfishlady

    CrazycoryfishladyWell Known MemberMember

    You have to put an @ before the name.
  12. stella1979

    stella1979ModeratorModerator Member

    Hi :) Wow, I didn't know you had the most rad looking fish in the hobby in that tank! I love a Foxface!! Being a nano keeper, I may never have one, but man, those guys are beautiful.:D

    Hrmm, again, I'm a nano keeper, so my strengths do not lie in stocking large fish in large tanks. :) You do certainly have the water volume for more fish I think, but how well your planned stocking might get along is unknown to me. Allow me to call on some friends though.;)
    @ryanr @Jesterrace

    Indeed, as @Crazycoryfishlady has said, to tag any member on the forum, simply put an @ directly before the name. :)
  13. ryanr

    ryanrModeratorModerator Member

    Hi, sounds like a great setup.

    Puffers aren't considered reef safe, they love inverts (anything with a shell) and the odd coral. They have an eternal growing tooth that they grind down by eating hard shells.

    Triggers and rabbitfish can be aggressive, and are generally not considered reef safe either, but should be ok with larger tank-mates. I've never kept them, just what I've read.

    Yellow tangs are an awesome fish, and generally a great community member. I loved mine! Great personality too; needs plenty of algae to graze on, but they also readily consume nori seaweed (the unflavoured kind from a supermarket)

    Lionfish should be ok with larger tank mates, but they are predators, and can (and often do) devour smaller fish. Plus, you want to be careful with their venomous spines.

    Snowflake ?? I assume you mean a snowflake clown, not the eel? I'd be wary stocking multiple clown species in one tank, they are known to be territorial/aggressive with their cousins. In a 120, you might get away with it, but some clowns will take an entire 120G setup as their territory.

    If you're not planning on having inverts, then I don't see any real problems with your plan (other than the usual risks) - For the most part they should all leave corals alone (except maybe the puffer)

    You could also consider some of the larger wrasse species (Tuskfish), or the Marine Betta could work too.

    Basically, any of the larger omnivorous species will pick shrimp off the reef in a heart-beat.... Their mentality "If it fits in the mouth, then in the mouth it shall go" :emoji_laughing:
  14. OP

    salt&cich4lNew MemberMember

    I plan on a snowflake eel...I set up 3 inch pvc pipe behind the live rock to accommodate him.
  15. OP

    salt&cich4lNew MemberMember

    given that the inverts will die (I have a small clean up crew in there now), what do you use for a clean up crew in a predator tank?
  16. stella1979

    stella1979ModeratorModerator Member

    I really have no idea, but auto-assumed that all clean up is up to the aquarist when keeping a predator tank.