Who thinks SW tanks are easy? A tale of how quickly things can go bad

ryanr

Hey everyone,
I debated where to post this, but I think Saltwater Beginners is a good spot, because I've just had an (unfortunate) experience with my reef tank today. I'm not seeking advice on how to fix it, but I want to demonstrate how quickly things can go pear-shaped in a SW/Reef tank.

This is your chance to poke fun at a moderator who dishes out 'expert' advice if you so desire, but more importantly, I hope you take it as the voice of experience as to why some of the advice given is so 'certain', or why myself and others try to help you avoid potential problems that seem 'insignificant'.

On to the story:
Keep in mind I'm referring to a 66G display with ~15G in sump, total 80+G. Weekly water changes of 10%, using RO/DI water and Seachem Salinity Salt mix. All the good gear (check my member spotlight). Tank has been setup for 13 months.

Yesterday: Tank temp 26 C (78-79F), parameters unchecked, but Salinity 33ppt (1.025 SG), As at last Sunday: Phosphate 0.07 ppm, nitrate <1ppm. Ammonia and Nitrite 0ppm. Didn't check alkalinity, magnesium, calcium.

Today: (24 hours later) Tank temp 29C (84.2+) - I now have a very sad looking Bubble Tip Anemone (retreated, lost some colour), and some of my mushrooms didn't come out today
Just to make sure, I ran a check of the majors: Salinity 33ppt, NH3/NO2 = 0 (API Liquid), NO3 0.75 (Red Sea), PO4 0.07 (Hanna Checker), Alkalinity 8dKH (API Liquid).
Now, PO4, NO3 are a little high, but nowhere near too high, and are about 'standard' for the setup. Alkalinity is a little low. I didn't test Ca/Mg (I assume Ca will be low, hence low alk - my tank does consume some Ca)

The only thing that has really changed............. Temperature, by 3C/7F!!!!!!!

We had 110F/41C today, and that was enough to raise the temperature to the point that an anemone and some corals started to suffer.

I read a book that described the effects of climate change on the reefs of the world, and the tolerances were much less (about 1C/2.5F) before animals started to suffer.

Suffice to say, I'm investigating a chiller, and I admit, I should have known better! But I hope those that wish to start a Saltwater (particularly a reef tank) appreciate the delicate nature of these environments. When we talk about stability in parameters, the above highlights how one simple change can potentially affect the whole tank.

Like I said at the beginning, I'm not seeking advice (temp reduction plan is in place), but I hope this highlights the "only bad things happen quickly in SW" phrase that I often quote. 24 hours could be enough to take out some of my tank (though I think it will be ok).

Cheers everyone!
 

AquariaUK

Wow. Good luck fixing it! I knew they were hard but not that bad.
 

ryanr

Thanks AquariaUK.
My only concern at the moment is for the animals. I got caught out, and I hope they don't suffer for it.

Fingers, toes, legs and arms are crossed tonight..........
 

TylerLovesFish

I always had the impression they were easier than fresh water once they got established. I plan on starting one in a year and a half/2 years with my dad, we will most likely have an expert set it up, anyways, good luck!
 

Tonia

So sorry to hear that your anemone and corals are suffering and hope that the chiller helps them recuperate. I'm sure with your care and interest in their well being, that they will do their best to get stronger for you again.

and poke fun at you?? noooo... I see this as a chance for everyone to see that even someone with vast amounts of experience can also encounter problems with a tank and with identifying the problem and taking steps to manage or solve that issue you can help your fish or in this case anemones and corals to recover.
 

ryanr

I always had the impression they were easier than fresh water once they got established.
They are very easy (IMO), as long as you keep things stable. Stability is the key. This tank had been running fine for many months (probably 10), but a 'small' weather event caught me out. It highlights how import stability in all parameters is to the overall health of the reef.

So sorry to hear that your anemone and corals are suffering and hope that the chiller helps them recuperate. I'm sure with your care and interest in their well being, that they will do their best to get stronger for you again.

and poke fun at you?? noooo... I see this as a chance for everyone to see that even someone with vast amounts of experience can also encounter problems with a tank and with identifying the problem and taking steps to manage or solve that issue you can help your fish or in this case anemones and corals to recover.

Thanks. I don't have a chiller yet. It's a fair investment, so I'm researching my options. If I'm going to spend $500+ I wanna make sure I spend it wisely

And thanks, I did get caught out, thankfully knowledge and experience allowed me not to panic, I knew what to do. I just have to do the best I can at the moment, hope the animals survive, and that I can prevent it happening again.

Side note/update: temperature is back down to almost 'reasonable' (another couple of degrees F and I'll be happy) - I won't know for another 12 hours how bad it might be (when everything wakes up).
 

Butterfly

Thanks for sharing Ryan.
Anything can happen at any time to anybody, the difference being having done the research and knowing what to do about different problems. In your case how high weather temps affect your tank and what to do. seems your doing everything you can.
Please keep us posted on how your animals do.
carol
 

LyleB

I agree with Ryan, Saltwater isn't necessarily "Hard", but there are a few more factors to keep track of. Also, things can go down the tube quicker, especially when you are talking a reef tank. Not to mention there are few $2 fish or critters, much bigger investment.

That's why most folks REALLY stress larger tanks for Saltwater - the bigger the better - and also why adding refugiums/sumps are highly recommended. More water volume means more time to react to changes.

Even though my first Fish Only salt tank was a 29 gal (many decades ago, before I knew better), I always cringe when I hear of someone who wants to go that route, or worse yet, a nano tank to start with. Those are for very experienced salt water aquarists in my opinion. Hate to see them displayed at the LFS as it encourages folks to try it.

Best of luck getting things back to normal Ryan.
 

Fashooga

Everytime I have the thought of starting a saltwater tank I just cringe...because I'm afraid I might mess it all up. I don't even know where to start...obviously a tank...sand...the water? I'm not even sure how to go about that.

See I'm already lost!
 

JessiNoel21

I hope all works out in the end. That is why some of my tax money will go to two chillers for my tanks. I am good right now winter time and fish room and Taleigh's room are at 60F.
 

ryanr

Thanks everyone!
Well 12/14 hours on, the tank is back down to 82.4 - still too warm, but at least it's bearable. It normally sits at 78-79.

I may not know for a few weeks/months if any major damage has been done. But here's hoping. If I keep it stable, things should recover.

Oh, and BTW, this thread isn't meant to scare anyone away from SW. This is one of those "had I followed their advice" stories. When I was setting up, local reefers told me I should get a chiller, I foolishly thought "nah, won't happen to me", our house stays cool enough. Those with much more experience than me, who live in the same area were right - go figure
 

ryanr

Wish me luck
 

Ethan

to late ryan.. I will never keep Saltwater fish because of this... this... Disaster
 

ryanr

And it's installed:
Here's what it said when I first turned it on:


29.1 degrees Celsius!!!!!!!! 84.4F

In the space of 15 minutes or so, it's down to 28.1 (82.6)..... It's working!!!!!!!!!
It'll take a little while to completely cool the whole tank, so it's not a drastic temp change.

Yay.... (although it is quite loud )

to late ryan.. I will never keep Saltwater fish because of this... this... Disaster
Disaster? What disaster? Learning experience

Besides, if you just keep fish, temperature isn't a massive problem. It's some of the corals and anemones that can test your wits
 

Ethan

I made the massive leap to house angels just a little bit ago so I am slowly working myself towards a small salt water maybe a little 5 gallon or something
 

ryanr

5G is harder than 100G
 

Ethan

oh god.. I just didn't want anything so big lol what is a nice beginner size that doesn't have to be so big? * sorry for derailing the thread lol
 

monkeypie102

My brother and I agree that something betwen 20-40g is a good starter size... I am doing a 29 and my brothers working on a 40 gallon
 

Ethan

I have my 29 gallon I could convert in to a Saltwater when I get the 75 I am dreaming of
 

ryanr

Not derailing necessarily. It's still about keeping SW.

IMO, a 30G is a good starter size. It's easier to find suitable fish, it's versatile, equipment isn't ridiculously expensive.
 

monkeypie102

I have my 29 gallon I could convert in to a Saltwater when I get the 75 I am dreaming of

Maybe a bad time to mention my lfs has a 75 gallon with a REALLY nice stand for $150 I am thinking of buying then the 29 would be my sump/fuge... but I digress...
 

ryanr

We temporarily interrupt this program, and will resume normal programming after this short message: (brought to you by the OP)

Now back on topic, to me and my problem!

UPDATE:
Just over an hour, and temp is down to 27.0C / 80.6F

Just 1 degree to go (2F).... getting there.

OK, resume the off-topic stuff kids
 

Ethan

I am going to sleep and dream of a world where I have room for a 75 as is I am waiting on my new bedroom to be built so once that is done the 30 gallon Saltwater project will begin. oh man that will be fun my mom always gets down when she see's all the cool Saltwater fish and I can't buy any :/. anywho hopefully when I wake up your tank will be back to normal gnight all
 

Reefdweller

Hey everyone,
I debated where to post this, but I think Saltwater Beginners is a good spot, because I've just had an (unfortunate) experience with my reef tank today. I'm not seeking advice on how to fix it, but I want to demonstrate how quickly things can go pear-shaped in a SW/Reef tank.

This is your chance to poke fun at a moderator who dishes out 'expert' advice if you so desire, but more importantly, I hope you take it as the voice of experience as to why some of the advice given is so 'certain', or why myself and others try to help you avoid potential problems that seem 'insignificant'.

On to the story:
Keep in mind I'm referring to a 66G display with ~15G in sump, total 80+G. Weekly water changes of 10%, using RO/DI water and Seachem Salinity Salt mix. All the good gear (check my member spotlight). Tank has been setup for 13 months.

Yesterday: Tank temp 26 C (78-79F), parameters unchecked, but Salinity 33ppt (1.025 SG), As at last Sunday: Phosphate 0.07 ppm, nitrate <1ppm. Ammonia and Nitrite 0ppm. Didn't check alkalinity, magnesium, calcium.

Today: (24 hours later) Tank temp 29C (84.2+) - I now have a very sad looking Bubble Tip Anemone (retreated, lost some colour), and some of my mushrooms didn't come out today
Just to make sure, I ran a check of the majors: Salinity 33ppt, NH3/NO2 = 0 (API Liquid), NO3 0.75 (Red Sea), PO4 0.07 (Hanna Checker), Alkalinity 8dKH (API Liquid).
Now, PO4, NO3 are a little high, but nowhere near too high, and are about 'standard' for the setup. Alkalinity is a little low. I didn't test Ca/Mg (I assume Ca will be low, hence low alk - my tank does consume some Ca)

The only thing that has really changed............. Temperature, by 3C/7F!!!!!!!

We had 110F/41C today, and that was enough to raise the temperature to the point that an anemone and some corals started to suffer.

I read a book that described the effects of climate change on the reefs of the world, and the tolerances were much less (about 1C/2.5F) before animals started to suffer.

Suffice to say, I'm investigating a chiller, and I admit, I should have known better! But I hope those that wish to start a Saltwater (particularly a reef tank) appreciate the delicate nature of these environments. When we talk about stability in parameters, the above highlights how one simple change can potentially affect the whole tank.

Like I said at the beginning, I'm not seeking advice (temp reduction plan is in place), but I hope this highlights the "only bad things happen quickly in SW" phrase that I often quote. 24 hours could be enough to take out some of my tank (though I think it will be ok).

Cheers everyone!

Ryan, you do not have to say all this stuff to get me to buy a chiller ok? I know this was all directed towards me and okay okay I will buy the chiller! Kidding of course! However, with this happening to you it just keeps my concern for my own tank and temp issues. I have to say for now everything seems good. Anenome is out and healthy looking, hairy mushrooms are full and blowing in the current. The fish do not seem to be bothered by the temp but in the end I know the system needs to be around 78 degrees. I am now at 82.2 degrees as I type this so I stay on the high end of the chart for sure. You know what you are doing so I am optomistic that you will recover just fine.
 

ryanr

Soooo, 20 hours on....

I unplugged the heaters last night, I noticed them come on, which is kinda counter productive when you're trying to cool a tank!
Why were the heaters coming on you might ask? Well to cool water, you have to add something cooler to it. So my guess is that the water coming out of the chiller is less than the preset temp of the heaters, so it was trying to warm it back up

Anyway, without the heaters on, the aquarium cooled quite well overnight. The chiller display read 26.1 when I woke up (79F), and the glass thermometer read 26, so I guess that's close enough for my glass thermometer. And interestingly, the stick on thermometer also says 26! (I don't rely on the stick-on, had it lying around, though what the heck)

Continuing the story, the lights have been on for about an hour, chiller displays 26.5 (79.7). I'll keep an eye on it over the course of the day.

What I've learnt in 24 hours - there's a lot of heat being generated by my equipment, which is keeping the water a little warmer too. Remember I turned the heaters off.
Equipment submerged: 1 x Eheim Compact 600, 1 x Eheim Compact+ 2000, 1 x Aqua One pump (not sure rating, on bio-pellet reactor), 2 x Tunze 6055 powerheads. And the LED lights above the tank, I'll wait and see where it all ends up.
I had no idea my water was being heated so much.

It's an interesting learning experience......... I'm also going to re-calibrate my Eheim heaters when it's all said and done (I've got to research how people run a chiller and heaters, and the two not try and out-compete each other)

Oh, and the BTA is still looking sad, fully retracted, but has a bit of colour back - fingers still crossed for this one. All other livestock and corals appear ok.
 

Thunder_o_b

I hope things work out ok for you.

Every time I think I am ready to try salts, I hear of someone with a great deal of experience having trouble.

I think I'll stick with FW, at least for a little while longer.
 

bolivianbaby

Sounds like you have everything under control, Ryan. I commend your quick-thinking and lack of panic.
 

ryanr

I hope things work out ok for you.

Every time I think I am ready to try salts, I hear of someone with a great deal of experience having trouble.
Thanks, I think I'll be ok.
Those that have trouble with Saltwater will typically be Reefers (like me) - we keep specimens that can be quite picky (anemones, LPS corals and the like).

Here's the honest truth - if my setup didn't have the anemone, I would not have worried about the temp swing. But because I have chosen to keep an anemone, I have a responsibility to maintain a proper environment, and the anemone has told me that.

Sounds like you have everything under control, Ryan. I commend your quick-thinking and lack of panic.
Thanks BB. Certainly it's under control, well at least it can't get worse now thankfully. Now it's just a waiting game.
I guess all the research I did and continue to do prevented the panic situation. When I saw the temp on Friday, I straight away thought, "hmmm, that's a bit warm" then "ok where's that fan" - I knew I couldn't rush anything, and had to try and let things cool slowly.

I also didn't feed the corals, just in case they were a little stressed.
 

ryanr

Update time:
3 days on, and 2 days of corrected temperatures.
The chiller is doing a wonderful job maintaining the temp, it doesn't get above 27C/80.6F now

The BTA is showing signs of recovering, and has come out a bit. Not back to its full dinner plate size, but getting there!

All corals seem ok.

Too, all fish are accounted for.

Snails and Peppermint shrimp I'm not sure on. I've spotted the bigger snails, but the others are good hiders, as are the shrimp.

I (I mean my stock) may have survived!
 

Thunder_o_b

Update time:
3 days on, and 2 days of corrected temperatures.
The chiller is doing a wonderful job maintaining the temp, it doesn't get above 27C/80.6F now

The BTA is showing signs of recovering, and has come out a bit. Not back to its full dinner plate size, but getting there!

All corals seem ok.

Too, all fish are accounted for.

Snails and Peppermint shrimp I'm not sure on. I've spotted the bigger snails, but the others are good hiders, as are the shrimp.

I (I mean my stock) may have survived!

That is wonderful!
 

ryanr

Day 4: (final update)

The BTA is happy again, pretty much fully extended, back to normal size. The perc's are happy they have their host back

All seems well again

Lesson learned for me, and thanks for all your well wishes

Oh, and a final note, throughout the whole ordeal/experience, it is important to be aware that I did not try and immediately cool the tank. It had to be a gradual process. When under stress, you must be slow and patient (like re-acclimation), let things re-adjust slowly. Had I gone in and suddenly dropped the temperature, I may have made the situation worse -

"Nothing good happens quickly on a reef" or put another way "Only bad things happen fast on a reef"
 

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