The Girlfriend's Mixed Tank

Discussion in 'Saltwater Aquarium Builds' started by PoorBigBlue, Nov 6, 2018.

  1. PoorBigBlueValued MemberMember

    So, I spent my evening tearing down my 3 gallon reef to accommodate a new 5.5 gallon on my desk.

    My girlfriend is a chemistry major (biochemistry, specifically) and has really taken to my saltwater tanks in the past. Now, it seems she wants one where she can pick out stuff she likes, and I can't blame her. It's a lot of fun!

    She doesn't have room for a tank in her dorm, so I offered to set one up here if she got the tank itself. After buying two cracked tanks, we finally ended up with a water-tight 5.5! I just moved the equipment from the 3 gallon over, as it should be enough to keep things going. If not, I've got a HOB I can add.

    Equipment List:

    Top Fin Internal Filter (80 GPH, loaded with carbon)
    Tetra 50W Preset Heater (runs the tank at 76F)
    ABI 23W PAR 38 (socketed into a desk lamp)
    5.5 gallon Aqueon aquarium

    Stocking List:



    15 Dwarf Ceriths
    1 Florida Ceriths
    1 Scarlet Hermit Crab



    Dragon's Breath
    Caulerpa Prolifera

    While I'm sad I tore down the 3 gallon, all of that stuff moved to this tank, and now I have the option of fish. Plus, I get to share my hobby with someone who's genuinely interested in it, and that's not something I've been able to do in a long time.

    For stocking, I'm taking her to the LFS tomorrow to pick a fish and maybe a frag out. I've got a good idea of what'll be okay in this tank and what won't, and I'll do a quick Google search to make sure we don't end up with something massive. The tank is already cycled since my rock is 100% cured. I may be adding a bit more rock in the near future, but I've got it "cooking", so it may be a few days.

    I'd upload a pic tonight, but it's still a bit too cloudy for it to show much. I'll upload a pic tomorrow of the tank, the frag, and the fish in QT.

    Thanks for the read!
  2. CaptainAquaticsWell Known MemberMember

    Sounds cool. exited to see it
  3. PoorBigBlueValued MemberMember

    We ended up getting a juvenile false percula clown! She'll eventually outgrow this tank, but I'm prepared to upgrade for her when the time comes. She's locally bred, too, which greatly decreases chance of disease IME. I'll give her my usual new arrival treatment, drop her into QT for a few days, and if she's healthy, I'll move her into the DT.

    My new arrival routine looks like this:

    1) Prepare 2 gallons of freshwater in a bucket, and buffer the PH to around 8.0.
    2) Temp acclimate the fish to the freshwater.
    3) Do a dip in the FW, to check for flukes and other uglies.
    4) Drop the fish into clean saltwater, temp and PH matched with the bucket.
    5) Acclimate into the tank.

    Usually gives me a good idea on the condition of the fish, and also seems to make the fish more comfortable without the threat of flukes (until the eggs hatch, anyway). Weaker fish don't get this treatment, since it's a bit harsh, but hardy clowns and damsels take it like champs. This clown actually didn't even seem phased by the freshwater - she just kept wiggling her pretty self around the bucket. Didn't even lay down like most damsels do. I'm pretty confident that this girl is disease-free, due to the quality of the breeder and the fact that these clowns were kept separate from the rest of the fish. But, better safe than sorry.

    I went ahead and added another chunk of rock that I had into the tank. I've still got a bit more I may add, but this gets me much closer to 5 lbs than I was. Keep in mind that I'm not a scaper at all. I'm more interested in easy, practical scapes rather than unique, complicated ones. That said, if any of you have suggestions, lay them on me! I'm not afraid to switch stuff around in here.

    We didn't pick up any frags today, since the LFS was oddly low on soft corals and polyps. It was mostly LPS, and while I'm sure LPS would do good under this lighting, I want to try something hardier before I start dropping stony corals in here.

    Without further ado, pics!


    Clown acclimating:

    They're really blown out and discolored, but the tank looks pretty clean. Other than the front glass, of course!
  4. stella1979ModeratorModerator Member

    I think the 'scape' looks perfect. :) There's room on the low rock for shrooms, polyps, and whatever, and room up high on the other one for some LPS. I too think LPS would thrive under your light, and it's been my experience that some LPS are hardier than softies in a new tank. Now, this is just my experience, but I kid you not that I despaired over softies in the beginning and nearly gave up on them because the LPS corals were doing great.

    So,:D I know you're not a newb, but my newby coral recommendation is nearly always a Duncan and boy, one would look really great grown out right on top of the shorter peak on your tallest rock. Know where I mean by that? This would leave room for a shorter, encrusting type LPS on the taller peak... I'm thinking maybe a chalice or something from the faviidae family.:) Don't forget about blastos, acans, and dare I say it, perhaps a birdsnest. They're somewhat hardy, but you could also get that branchy look with a gorgonian.:D Just make sure to stay away from non-photosynthetic types. Anyhow, I love seeing new tanks and imagining them filled with corals. I can't wait to see what you guys do with it.:D

    I like your new arrival routine... though I gotta say, fish aren't allowed entry to my reef unless they've cleared at least 30 days of QT. I'll never medicate my reef tank, and though QT isn't fun, fish must survive the gauntlet because I hope to never infect the reef tank. 76 days fallow because of ich is definitely no fun.:bored:
  5. PoorBigBlueValued MemberMember

    Thanks! I've always found LPS to be quite... volatile. Some do great, others not so much. Some thrive for a month and then die in a week. Maybe that's just the way it goes, but I'll definitely be getting some LPS soon!

    I think I get where you're talking about with the duncan, and it sounds fantastic! I can see it being rather happy there... maybe that'll be what I pick out first! Blastos, Zoas, and maybe some sort of torch coral are all on the list. I definitely want variety. As far as SPS, maybe! I definitely want to find out what my water parameters are going to look like, but I think that the tank should stay clean enough for hardier SPS. I'm excited! Never been much into gorgonians, but I've never seen any in person, either.

    As for the QT thing... I've never been burned before. I know that should make me want to stay away from it, but I've had fantastic luck with this particular store and this particular breeder in the past. He breeds clowns, damsels, and some of more common dwarf angels. Always puts out a fantastic, healthy product. That said, I'm also going to be sure to be careful. I didn't see any flukes in the FW dip, and all the fish in the tank were active and eating. No ich in the store, in any of the tanks. Only one fish looked to be struggling, and it was a tang. They seem to be the easiest to bring down. I'm definitely weary, but I've got a good feeling! I'll be going ahead with a round of PraziPro and feeding with Metro to kinda get a wide spectrum of stuff treated for.

    Thanks for all the tips!
  6. stella1979ModeratorModerator Member

    Speaking of water parameters.;) How are you providing saltwater? It's pretty common with nano's to purchase water, and that's fine, but I always have words of cautions for that. So... you can have the best LFS and still, mistakes are sometimes made. There is a thread here where a reefer highly trusted his LFS, so much so that he never checked their water. One day, they mistakenly gave him freshwater... and the water change killed everything. More recently, a local Fishlorean friend, who uses the same LFS as I do, got saltwater from them that was full of nitrates and phosphates. He'd been getting their water all along, so this was quite a surprise, and uncoincidentally, he was soon dealing with a terrible outbreak of cyano. Both these tanks came back from mistakes, better than ever, but still, there's a lesson to be learned there. If you want to have a good handle on water parameters, you are best off buying RODI or distilled, making sure its TDS is zero, and mixing it with the marine salt of your choice. Starting with pure water is the only way to have a real handle on your water and everything that's in it. Sorry for the rant, I will admit to being a little nutty about knowing exactly what's going in my tank.:p

    With a good handle on quality water and sufficient light, I'd wonder why any of the LPS we've discussed should be volatile. Hmm, with the smaller water volume, you may have experienced variances or drops in the big 3 (calcium, alkalinity, and magnesium) and that certainly makes corals angry. My own tank recently experienced a drop and some corals handled it like pros, but many didn't, and it didn't make a whole lot of sense with some of the corals. For example, out of 4 euphyllia corals, only two were mad, and out of 6 acans, only one was mad. The branching SPS was the maddest, and two of them are still looking a little iffy several weeks later. However, the encrusting SPS, (4 montis), were all just happy as clams. The point of this story is how a drop in calc & alk over the course of a few days caused a lot of stress and it would have been very confusing if it weren't suddenly obvious what happened. The doser was mistakenly unplugged by a kiddo when I asked him to plug in something else while my hands were wet. Totally my fault, especially that I didn't even know until 3 days later when the corals showed me something was wrong.:banghead: So, yeah, it all starts with good water, and more than anything, corals appreciate stable parameters.;)

    Every new fish I get is hit with Prazi too.;)
  7. PoorBigBlueValued MemberMember

    Well, that clown didn't last long.

    I walked into the room around 11 to see how he was doing, and he was laying on the sand taking his last breaths. He had turned a pale orange, with his gills being a dark red. No ammonia or nitrite in the tank, and no nitrate either. PH was at 7.9, and temp was at 77F. No flukes fell off in the freshwater bath, he got acclimated for about 45 minutes, and was swimming around fine right before I left the room. Breathing a bit hard maybe, but I thought he was just stressed.

    As far as water source, I use distilled and reef crystals.

    I have no clue what just happened to this guy. He (and all of his other tankmates) were great in the store, and he was great in QT before I left. I'll tear down his QT and try again, I guess.

    It wasn't Brooklynella, at least it doesn't look like it. It wasn't ich. I don't think it could have been flukes, unless they made it through a FW dip. He had a decent belly on him, so I don't think he would have had parasites bad enough to kill him that quickly. He seems to have just gotten pale and died. Maybe he just couldn't handle the stress.

    Or, maybe it was velvet. I've always thought that it manifested much like ich, just a bit more "dusty" in appearance. But, apparently it can attack the gills and kill pretty quickly. He was breathing heavily, but again, what fish doesn't when they're first added into a strange tank? There's no exterior velvet on the clown, though. Talk about frustrating!
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 5, 2018
  8. stella1979ModeratorModerator Member

    :( Sorry to hear. :(

    It'll be hard to say what got him. I suppose it could be velvet, but I don't really think that's the case, having read your experience with the store and the breeder. Seems more likely that the stress of transfer was just too much for him. So... I'm thinking about that freshwater dip. I know this is a common practice and can be very helpful to 'sick' fish. However, if you're going to put a new fish in QT and medicate prophylactically, I don't see a reason for a fw dip. I'd imagine you didn't have time to medicate him yet, so that's not something to consider in searching for reasons for the clown's demise.

    Prazi will deal will flukes for us, and however we do it, transferring to a new home is stressful. My goal is to reduce stress and give them a strong immune system via lots of good food. So, here's my new fish routine.

    The qt is set up with PVC hides for comfort, and the back and two sides are painted black, also for the fish's comfort as in my mind, this limits the fish seeing the big bad humans and all that goes on outside of the tank.

    New fish are slowly drip acclimated to the QT's water, which is identical to the display's water, then netted into the qt tank. Lights are left off, and I do not even approach that tank for a few days. On day 3, still keeping my distance, or at least staying mostly out of sight, the light is turned on and the fish is offered food. If they'll eat, they are fed a high-quality diet including a fishy vitamin, (Selcon or VitaChem Marine), 2-3 times a day. If things are going well, the fish is eating and seems comfortable, then on the morning of day 6 is when I start treatment with Prazi, which will be two rounds. This is also when I start heavier observation and start to manually feed instead of staying out of sight and broadcasting food.

    So, the fish is given nearly a week of the highest comfort I can offer before introducing anything 'scary'... meaning meds and my big old face at the front glass. Two rounds of Prazi are done in about 10 days and during that time I'm highly observing the fish for any signs of parasites. If evidence of gut parasites is seen, then the fish is fed with Metro laced food for at least 10 days. If evidence persists for 10 days, they may be fed Metro for up to 21 days. If there was never any evidence of gut parasites, they are not fed Metro at all... then, there's also the possibility of seeing external parasites like ich or velvet.

    Scenario 1 - A fish is treated with Prazi and otherwise appears very healthy, so they stay in QT unmedicated for 20 days after Prazi treatment, and if all goes well, they are granted entry to the reef.

    Scenario 2 - The fish has been treated with Prazi and evidence of gut parasites, (white stringy waste), is apparent. They are fed Metro for 10 - 21 days and observed closely. Post Metro treatment... they must present normal looking waste only for at least 10 days and then they are put in the reef tank.

    Scenario 3 - The fish presents with an external parasite like ich or velvet. Whelp, this changes things quite a lot because in that case, they are treated with copper for 30 days, then observed for 10 - 14 to make sure the parasite stays gone after treatment is over.

    As much as I try, fish are uncomfortable in QT, and I know it's long and harsh. Full honesty... I have lost 3 fish in QT, including a clown who had lymphocystis, and only 2 have survived to make it to my tank. I worry and am highly stressed when fish are in QT and feel quite bad for them... but when it's over, I feel as certain as possible that they are not going to infect the reef tank with anything.

    I'm not saying that this method would have saved your clown, and we'll probably never know what got him. However, since new fish are usually juvies, and being bagged and moved is stressful enough, I feel that treating right away, (be it with a fw bath, a med bath, or dosing the tank), is just too much to put on a young already stressed fish. Everybody will have their own methods, and I wouldn't say that mine is better than another but thought it worth sharing and giving you a little food for thought.

    I'm truly sorry that the first fish for a new build didn't make it. I could feel your excitement with the news and know this loss is frustrating and sad. I've been there, so I can sympathize... and can only say, don't give up! It took me forever to stock my reef tank but it was worth it in the end. :)
  9. PoorBigBlueValued MemberMember

    Thanks. I'm definitely not giving up, it's just discouraging.

    You're probably correct about the FW dip. It's just strange, considering the more sensitive fish I've done the same thing to with great results. In the future, I'll be more cautious and only treat when I have reason to suspect an issue.

    I've spoken with my LFS, and have something on order. They couldn't give me a refund, but he gave me a discount on this next order that's coming in. Nice guy! I definitely don't think it was velvet after reading a bit more. Probably just stress, as you mentioned. As far as the new order, I'm excited - I'm getting my first fish all over again! It'll definitely be getting QT'd, though.

    In other news, I think I accidentally vinegar-dosed my DT. I use a strong vinegar in order to rid my old rock of any organics - it works fine. That's what I did with that new chunk of rock. I gave it 3 days with 100% WCs everyday in a bucket of water to get rid of the vinegar. I'm not sure it worked. This morning, I've got a bacterial bloom going on. Nothing's changed or been added to the tank. Maybe I accidentally OD'd the tank with vinegar, which caused a bacterial bloom. Thoughts?
  10. stella1979ModeratorModerator Member

    Hmm, no experience with vinegar dosing, but in a nutshell, the method is used to increase the bacterial population and thus, decrease nitrates. This method should be done with systems running a skimmer, as the extra bacteria 'eats' nitrates, and those nitrates are then only removed via skimming... which removes the nitrate-laden bacteria. If you want all the info on what vinegar does to a tank, check out this article.;)


    Particularly, this part seems highly relevant here...

    "What is the theory for nitrate & phosphate reduction using vinegar?

    Bacterial growth and reproduction in a reef aquarium seem to be limited by the amount of available carbon. Simply put, vinegar adds more carbon which allows larger bacterial populations to develop when dosed. These bacteria may be wholly invisible to you when they grow hidden on rocks in refugia or on GAC, but they may also show up as blooms in the water colun or as a visible mat in the aquarium. They have to grow somewhere, so making a good place for them to grow out of sight (and possibly just upstream from a skimmer) may be a good way to prevent unsightly appearance of bacteria. When and how you dose may also impact where they grow. For example, dosing very slowly with a dosing pump just upstream from a large rock filled refugium may encourage growth there, where slow dosing the the display, or once daily bolus dosing anywhere might deliver the vinegar through the whole system and encourage visible growth in the display.

    The added vinegar is encouraging bacterial growth. Therefore a good skimmer will help remove more of the free floating bacteria into the aquarium. Skimmers will not, however, remove the benthic growth of bacteria. If bacterial blooms occur it may be necessary to increase filtration with other methods such as using a diatom filter and/or filter bags."

    Sooo, it does make sense to me that vinegar caused the bacterial bloom. Hmmm, DON'T DO THIS WITHOUT RESEARCH... but yeah, I'm not wondering what would happen if baking soda were added to counter effects from vinegar. Even if research proved it safe, I wouldn't do it. Simply put, I'm not one to put 'stuff' in my tank, so would approach this bloom you're experiencing in a gentler way. If it's bugging you, water changes twice a week won't hurt anything.;) Otherwise, stick to a good maintenance schedule, and this too shall pass. :)
  11. PoorBigBlueValued MemberMember

    Thanks for the info!

    I definitely wouldn't want to do anything with this without a bunch of research. It's just good to know what (probably) caused the bloom, and how to fix it.

    So, probably take out the rock, soak it for longer out of the tank, and do a couple of WCs in the DT?
  12. stella1979ModeratorModerator Member

    If you think it's possible that the rock is still leaching vinegar, I'd feel okay about soaking just it in a baking soda bath for a short time, then rinse well and a couple soaks in clean water. That, plus water changes and good husbandry will take care of the bloom. However, don't take that as me saying it'll be gone tomorrow or even a week from now. Slow and steady is my approach, but keep in mind that my concern is for an established reef with lots of little lives in it. I do nothing fast because stability is key with a stocked reef tank, but yeah, if you're up for it and because there are not sensitive fish and corals in your tank, daily or every other day wc's may/probably will get the bloom gone faster.

    Edit: Oh! There are micron rated filter pads available. I have a big one that I can cut to size to fit my HOB's, and it is 50 micron I believe. Picked it up cheap on Amazon. This would benefit tanks with blooms and like our's, do not run a skimmer. I rarely use the stuff myself as it clogs easy and slows flow, but that's not really a biggie in the short term... nor on a betta tank, where I can tell you the water is crystal clear.;)
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2018
  13. PoorBigBlueValued MemberMember

    When I get home tonight I'll get the rock into a bath, along with the rest of the stuff I soaked in vinegar. I know that it's likely to take a while to clear. I'm just hoping that I've found the source of the issue. If not, then it's a whole nother problem.

    I'll probably do daily 1-2 gallon WCs, and see if that begins to diminish the bloom. I'd imagine that without a good food source (no fish, no coral, just a CUC) the bloom should probably start dying off relatively quickly, unless there's another underlying issue.

    I'll definitely pick up some of that filter media too! I've got a list of stuff like that that I need to pick up once Christmas rolls around, so I'll add that to the list.

    I think we're going to try another clown. She really fell in love with the little guy, and it IS her tank. Ill check around the store and see if any of the fish are showing even the slightest signs of issues in that tank before I buy, just in case there is something going on with that particular group of fish.

    After some reading on vinegar dosing, it seems as if the rock leeched even .75 mL of the vinegar I used, it could have caused this bloom. In the future, I'll have to be more careful. Not that bacterial blooms are inherently harmful, they're just ugly.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2018
  14. PoorBigBlueValued MemberMember

    Alright, so the tank is a bit clearer, even before a WC. It's definitely a light bloom, just a slight haziness to the water. I'm going to change out 3 gallons here, since I'm already mixing a whole new batch of SW for my QT.

    I went back to the LFS and checked out all of their fish. No abnormal breathing, no velvet, no ich, nothing that I can see. There's definitely disease there, but it's not actively attacking anything right now. So, I picked out the alpha female of the false percs (or the fish that would have become the alpha), and took her home. So far, she's been great, but so was the poor guy from yesterday. I went ahead and added an airline to her tank to keep the tank a bit more oxygenated, since the only symptom yesterday was a pale body and fast breathing. She's a good 1/2" bigger than the first clown, so maybe I'll have better luck. No FW dip this time, either.

    I went ahead and started her on Prazi, since it's basically harmless to fish. I may start Metro, if I see any stringy poop.

    I took out the rock that I soaked in vinegar and will leave it in some freshwater overnight. I'll probably change out water every few hours until I go to bed.

    Just a positive note, the dragon's breath seems much more red than it has been. Maybe it's enjoying the stronger, indirect flow and high light? I don't know, just something that caught my eye :)
  15. PoorBigBlueValued MemberMember

    Very happy to say that after 2 hours in QT, the new clown is all over the place! No heavy breathing, and she's even being bold and exploring things a bit. She seems particularly perplexed by the airline - she keeps coming back to it and pecking at the bubbles. I forget how clownfish earned their name, sometimes :)

    Here she is. I messed with the white balance a bit to show her colors as much as I could. Makes the sand a bit green, but hey, you can't have everything, right?

  16. stella1979ModeratorModerator Member

    She's lovely! :D Hoping the poor first fish was just terrible luck and things will go much more smoothly this time.
  17. PoorBigBlueValued MemberMember

    Thanks, Stella!

    Now I definitely have an inspiration for coral stocking:

    All that movement is just incredible.
  18. stella1979ModeratorModerator Member

    Wow, that is a very nice tank. It's mostly euphyllia giving all that movement, but I must say, the large feather duster up high and the pale toadstools down low really caught my eye. Just... WOW. Lol, I need a feather duster and toadstools in my life.:D
  19. PoorBigBlueValued MemberMember

    I recorded all the corals the video poster listed, and am scanning the tank trying to find ones I'm particularly fond of. So far, the Torch, Xenia, Ricordea, Feather Duster, and huge mushrooms up in front are what keep on catching my attention. Might make for a nice first coral order - minus the feather duster. I don't know much about them, but I think they're pretty difficult to keep in picos, aren't they?

    I think we hit the nail on the head with the rock leeching vinegar. After removing the rock, doing a 75% WC, and letting the tank sit, it's clear as can be again. In the future, I'll either use a different method or soak the rock in vinegar, then in baking soda, and then leave it in freshwater for a week or two. Either way, no harm done.

    I thawed out some mysis for my betta today and decided to see if the clown was interested. She seemed afraid of the first bit I dropped in (probably because I was standing over her), so I dropped another chunk behind the filter and stepped away to let the current carry it to her. She accepted it! She's looking pretty fantastic. We're trying to think of names for her - if anyone's got suggestions, leave a post!

    Oh, I also noticed some diatoms starting to grow in the DT. Which was expected, since I've had a full lighting cycle going on for the macros. Gives the snails something to eat, anyway. I dropped in a pellet for the hermit, just because I'm not sure he's had anything to eat in a long while. He grabbed it, and scurried off to his little burrow. Funny little thing! This is why I love reefing. There's just so much more going on in these tanks.
  20. stella1979ModeratorModerator Member

    Sorry:sorry: Hate to say it, but beware the xenia. I'm pretty sure it's isolated in the tank above, meaning, it's on it's own rock with sand between it and the main scape. This certainly helps. I did that, but as the xenia grew, polyps could touch the main scape. Before I knew it, xenia was popping up in a few places, including on the other side of the tank! Xenia is certainly capable of taking over, and I'll admit that I finally attacked mine with fire! Lol, really, it was forceps and I ripped and tore the coral off of my scape and got rid of the little isolated rock of it too. The danger really is higher in nano tanks, because there's only so far we can get it away from other corals. So, just an FYI.;)

    When you say huge mushrooms, I think you're talking about the coral in the center bottom with the reddish skirt and greenish center, yes? That's a blasto.;) There are mushrooms down there too, but they're smaller and at the bottom right below the feather duster and torch. Blastos can certainly look shroomy when they're happy and spread wide open.:p

    That's great news that the clown is eating!!:D Errmm, the first thing that came to mind for the clown... was Dory! Bahahaha... I know that's the tang's name and is more than likely way overused, but hey, you keep saying she, and I can't help the first thought.:p I think if I were naming a female clown these days, I might go with Penny, short for Pennywise, the evil clown from the movie IT. Yep, I'm a scary movie fan.:vamp:

    Indeed, reefing is never boring.:D