October 19, 2018

The Wrasse pair

I'm finding that setting up and maintaining a saltwater tank is not nearly as hard as I imagined. Of course, it takes research and a bit more $$$ than a freshwater tank, but the fish are so beautiful and interesting. As previously posted, I have a solar fairy wrasse. [I've seen it listed as "solar" and "solor" - but look at the picture, okay? They are a common aquarium fish.]

Since I have two clownfish, I wanted to get a mate for the wrasse. I also have a skunk cleaner shrimp, snails and five coral frags. From what I found in my research - the clown fish are males as juveniles and the larger one will eventually turn female when they get mature enough to mate. What I also found was that this wrasse can be kept in pairs because one will morph into the appropriate sex. Okay - so I have a saltwater tank with transitioning/gender fluid fish. Go figure.

Yesterday I picked up the 2nd wrasse. My LFS had just gotten a delivery of new fish and this one was still in the bag. It was curled up and motionless - and even the store owner looked at it twice before re-bagging it and putting it with my order. When fish are moved, they normally get a little WTF-itis. This is normal and once they are in the tank for a bit, they normally get over it. The first wrasse took a couple of days before showing herself in the front of the tank. So I expected a bit of initial shyness.

I floated the bag (as normal) and the wrasse stayed motionless in it. The original wrasse and the clowns seemed to swim by and welcome it to the reef. After a while I let it into the tank. It went to the bottom and stayed motionless. After a while it looked like it was hyperventilating. The other wrasse kept swimming by and seemed to be encouraging. But the new wrasse seemed caught up in her own hysteria. Then it moved to the side of the tank by a rock edge and just stayed there. I really thought it wasn't going to make it. Both wrasses disappeared at night (which is normal) and I decided to wait to see if she was going to show up for breakfast in the morning.

The wrasse was gone for most of the day. When I finally found her - she was motionless in the corner next to the floating tank cleaner.

I thought it was dead, so I poked it with my finger. It swam about an inch away - and I quickly removed my hand from the tank. Then it wiggled itself back into position - with its fin neatly tucked into the scraper slot. And went back to its nap/meditation.

OMG - I have an emo fish. So since she seems to be healthy and just "having a moment" (or fish ptsd) - I'm just going to let her find her comfort zone. Later this afternoon she was motionless in a crevice watching the other wrasse pace back and forth. Every now and then the original wrasse will come over as if to encourage her, but she's not having it yet.. At the end of the evening I saw her swim around the front of the tank for about 5 minutes - and then went back to motionless in a hiding spot. Let's just give her some time.

Posted by BlueWolf on October 19, 2018

October 13, 2018

Brown Algae - New Tank Syndrome

Almost all my tanks have finally cycled. Right around the time the saltwater tank cycled, I noticed something brown in the tank. It was like a brown snow had fallen. From looking online, I figured out that this is a brown algae known to occur commonly when a saltwater tank cycles. It is actually made from diatoms.

If you look to the left, you can see where I tried to use a vacuum gravel and water change to get rid of it. Looking at the tube while doing so, I noticed that it was not coming up. All I did was mix it into the substrate - and it definitely did not come off the rock. So I went to my LFS (Local Fish Store) to find a better way to deal with it.

Since my tank was finally cycled, I could actually start adding fish, corals and inverts. I had read there was a certain fish that would munch on the diatoms. Well, the fish I had in mind was not in stock and probably would not have been a good permanent resident. But the store owner did recommend some snails which also eat diatoms! I got 3 different kind of snails and they got to work right away.

I also got two inexpensive coral fragments. One thing I didn't realize is that corals contract when stressed. Once they were bagged, it looked like they fell off the stand and disappeared. They were just contracted. It didn't take long once I put them in the tank to see them start to open again. They are not as open as they were in the frag tank at the store yet, but they are getting there.

I was not sure how long it would take, but in just about an hour or so I saw it start to open again.
These are my first corals, so we'll see how that goes. The green one seemed to be swaying - and I was told to put it in a calm area of the tank. So I moved it - and it scrunched up to a tight little square when it was moved. Just a few minutes later, it's starting to open again. I'm going to do a bit more research on what type of corals I have and how to care for them. There's so much to learn. I have a feeling the corals may need to be moved again once I find out more. Looking at where I have them now, they may not get enough light in their current positions.

And the one fish I added to the tank is a Solar Fairy Wrasse. It's very beautiful and seems to be getting along with the two clowns. It really likes going in and out of the spaces between the rocks. However, at the end of the night it seems to have disappeared. I found that they spin a cocoon at night so parasites don't attach. It's probably sleeping somewhere and will pop up in the morning.

Posted by BlueWolf on October 13, 2018

October 05, 2018

The cycle moves forward

Water testing 10/5/2018:

Angel tank:
0 ppm ammonia
0.25 ppm Nitrite
20 ppm Nitrate
7.0 pH
This is almost cycled. Just a few more bacteria turning nitrite into nitrate and this tank is home free.The last two angel fish have survived the process. I would think that next week I can start adding some fish and expect them not to die. Whew.
[screeching record sound]
Rut-roh. Just checked the angels in the tank. The newest one came to me with a few spots. They look like grains of salt. I'm not sure if it's ick or some other bacterial disease. With 4 ppm ammonia, I really didn't expect that either of these fish would make it through the cycle. I was going to use the cycle time to "quarantine" this fish in the tank with the other koi angel as a test of contagion. For about a week, the koi was clean. Today I noticed a grain of salt on the koi. Ugh. This means I need to treat the tank with the fish in it before I put any other fish in the tank. I guess I needed to do that anyway and if they can survive the nitrogen cycle, hopefully they can survive the treatment.

Crayfish tank:
0 ppm ammonia
1.0 ppm nitrite
10 ppm nitrate
7.2 pH
This tank is still going through the cycling process. It still really has a low bio load - only one small pleco and one crayfish. The crayfish lives inside the decoration and I really have to keep checking to see if it's still alive (found it and saw it move today). The pleco cleans the outside of the decoration and is easy to see. Let's see what the readings are next week - and I may put some new fish in there.

Goldfish tank:
4 ppm ammonia
0 ppm nitrite
5 ppm nitrate
6.0 pH
Not sure what's up with this tank. The readings for pH are unexpected. I'll have to look into this. I haven't been testing pH while the tanks have been cycling, so that may be normal. I believe that all the fish that are going to be in this tank are already there, so I'll just let this tank do its thing. The water looks very clear, the hornwort is healthy and not too badly nibbled and the fish seem content.

Danio tank:
0 ppm ammonia
0.5 ppm nitrite
20 ppm nitrate
6.8 pH
This tank went to 0 ppm ammonia a while ago. Not sure why this is taking so long to cycle. The tank has two hang on back filters and a sponge filter. One of the two HOB filters was changed to "upscale" it (mirroring the Aquaclear setup) and the other was left with the filter cartridge normally used by Penguins. I was going to swap out the other cartridge this weekend, but I think I'm going to wait another week to do that.

Reef tank:
0.25 ppm ammonia
1.0 ppm nitrite
40 ppm nitrate
8.2 pH
1.022 salinity
19 drops 380 ppm Calcium
15 drops ??? ppm KH - not sure since the chart stops at 12
0.25 ppm Phosphate

The two clown fish seem to be enjoying their home. I have played with the arrangement of the rocks for quite some time. It was a lot harder than expected. I have several pieces of "life rock" and about twice as much dry rock. There really is no set way to arrange them. And you are talking about several irregular size pieces of rock that must be put together in some "natural" looking formation. It was like a puzzle with no picture on the front of the box to reference. I started off with trying for two arches, but only one side made a good arch and the other side looked like a pile of rocks. You want the rocks as far back as possible to allow space in the front for the fish to swim freely. You also want to provide as many little holes for the smaller fish to slip through or hide in. You also have to take into account that you have multiple devices (filter tubes, heater, skimmer) at the back of the tank. The instinct is to hide them, but you have to balance that with disrupting their function or water flow. You don't want any dead spots of water flow and you don't want to block your powerheads as they spit out water. It took a few hours and multiple iterations to get it set the way that I think is workable. I can see several areas where I would put corals and it looks somewhat natural. In addition to the major pieces that I initially bought, I added a bunch of smaller pieces. They were very helpful to get the bigger pieces to fit together. It seems like the clown fish approve - as they frequently dart through the holes. Oh - and expect as you arrange these rocks, your tank will get cloudy. It cleared quickly.

FOWLR tank:
0 ppm ammonia
1.025 salinity

Not testing the rest of the parameters since I just set up the tank and it's just substrate, water and rock. The "life rock" is supposed to have beneficial bacteria on it and cycle the tank faster. [Claims it cycles a tank in two days, but the reef tank shows that's not true.]

Yes - I set up the 2nd saltwater tank! It also has an undergravel filter with two powerheads, heater and I bought a little mini skimmer for it today. I saw the mini skimmer at the LFS (local fish store) on a frag tank. With this being only 20 gallons, it's going to be a challenge to keep the parameters stable. I know I won't be able to put very many fish in this tank, so I have to choose wisely. This tank will not have corals but is using CaribSea Arag-alive for substrate, life rock and dry rock. The smaller tank was much easier to arrange - since only a few pieces (and one level) is going to fit. Both saltwater tanks use arag-alive but the reef tank substrate seems to be a bit more coarse and the FOWLR tank seems to be more fine-grained. I thought I had bought the same thing for both tanks.

I went to the LFS today to get some fish to cycle this tank. I wasn't really sure what kind of fish I wanted for this - and instead I got some Ammonium Chloride Solution to use for a "fishless" cycle. I've seen some mention of "ghost feeding" so that the food decays and cycles the tank and I really didn't want a lot of decaying food sitting in the tank (just another mess to eventually clean). This seems like a better option. However - the directions say to use 4 drops per gallon of water. They should give an alternative dosage for 5 ml of the solution. All the other solutions have this 5 ml per X gallons of water dosage directions so it seems a bit odd. I'll let you know if it works.

Posted by BlueWolf on October 05, 2018

October 02, 2018

My View

I am fortunate enough to work from home most of the time. And like everyone else - my job sometimes gets a little stressful. To counter this, I have a few fish tanks.

Yes, I live inside an aquarium.
Let me number the tanks...

The first one (that you can just see the edge of) - is a 5 stall betta tank (with the dividers removed). It's really tiny, but useful. I am keeping (and growing) a small foreground plant in this tank. You can see part of the plant in the reflection on the front of the tank (which makes it look larger than it is) in the picture.

Tank 2 is a small 5 gallon bow tank - growing some hornwort for my goldfish. The goldfish have a tendency to nibble on it - so I'm growing some in another tank to provide a constant supply. It's pretty and useful.

Tank 3 is the 20 gallon angel tank. It is still working its way through the nitrogen cycle with two angel fish and a corey catfish. It has a large sponge filter and an AquaClear 50 with a large helping of live plants. The plants appear to be getting fuller and note that all my tanks have some kind of decoration in them. I find that it helps with water changes. When I add water back into the tank, I pour it on the decoration so that the gravel is not disturbed.

Tank 4 is a 10 gallon tank beneath the angel tank. The design of the stand will only fit a smaller tank on the shelf below. This is the "hospital" tank - now known as the crayfish tank.

It seems to be almost done cycling (no ammonia) - but the load is actually very low. It only has one crayfish and one pleco. There are several mid-size live plants and I'm trying to grow some dwarf baby tears as a foreground plant. It also has a (smaller) sponge filter and a Penguin 150 hang on back filter. I love the Penguin filters, but I soon decided that I wasn't going to rely on them (as designed) to meet my filtration needs. I like the size of the box and strength of the impeller, but the filters.... I used the setup of the AquaClear to "upscale" my Penguins. I got a large block of the white sponge and cut it to size to fit at the bottom of the Penguin boxes. Then I used a bath pouf for netting - to hold a handful of the bio balls (normally used in cannister filters). I took the original charcoal/fiber filter and cut it in 4 and shoved that in at the top (again, wrapped in netting for easy removal). The cut filter retained the good bacteria generated so far and the other items and sponge filter gives plenty of opportunity for more growth than the original design. I left the bio wheel in place, but it really doesn't matter at this point if it spins or not. The cut filters will be replaced later by some some filter floss wrapped in filter pad once I feel like the rest of the media has become established.

Tank 5 is my first saltwater tank (30 gallon). I have a couple of hunks of life rock and a few more chunks of "dead" rock. The substrate is CaribSea Arag-alive reef sand. I am using an undergravel filter (old school style) with two powerheads. I also added a thin hang on back protein skimmer. So my filter for this tank is 40 pounds of live reef sand. The rocks still need to be arranged and the skimmer needs to be powered on and tuned (for flow). It is a work in progress. Two cute clown fish are helping to cycle this tank. This will eventually become a reef tank with as many corals as I can grow. I expect this tank to be established (and just be in maintenance mode) sometime around the end of the year. This is not a fast hobby and requires quite a bit of patience. I'm really pleased that I decided to try a saltwater tank. With the freshwater tank next to it, you can see that the water in a saltwater tank looks very different. It's a lot of work and a lot of learning, but is so worth it.

Tank 6 is the 20 gallon long goldfish tank. I've had most of these fish for quite some time. But now that I'm testing the water - I find that it's still cycling. It clouded up when I moved it, but now is crystal clear. It has a large sponge filter and an "upscaled" Penguin filter (as described above). It also has a healthy amount of hornwort for beauty, to clear the water and for the goldfish to nibble.

Tank 7 is the 20 gallon long danio tank (this stand actually accommodates two similar sized tanks). It has a small sponge filter and two hang on back Penguin filters. One has been upscaled and the other is still using the filters that go with the Penguin. I only wanted to change one at a time since this tank is close to completing the nitrogen cycle. It has been at 0 ammonia for quite some time. It appears that this worked and changing the filter media did not interrupt the cycle. This tank has moneywort in the back of the tank and 4 other foreground plants. The plants seem to be growing a bit, but one plant seems to be constantly uprooted by the fish. Only part of the plant is being uprooted (not the entire plant) and I've pushed it back into the substrate twice. I think the fish want or need it to be floating, so I'm leaving it this time. A few look like they may be pregnant and may be preparing the environment for babies.

Tank 8 (which is hard to see) is the 20 gallon long tank that will be set up (soon) as a FOWLR saltwater tank. This is for Fish Only With Live Rock. Some saltwater fish are incompatible with coral (they eat it and it's really expensive). And some of the fish I wanted seemed to fit in that category, so I intend to set up a second saltwater tank. Please forgive/ignore the spots on the rug in front of the tank. The photo was taken right after I "topped off" the tank above and got some water drips on the rug. I am hoping to set this up sometime this week - so that the saltwater tanks cycle around the same time.The arag-alive and 10 gallons of pre-made saltwater are waiting to go in the tank. My next trip to the LFS (local fish store) will get the other 10 gallons and some more rock. The biggest obstacle to creating this tank is finding adequate power. I will need to run an extension cord from another plug to this area to power the devices for this tank. The undergravel filter with two powerheads takes up twice the outlets of a hang on back filter.And I'm very against plugging a power strip into another power strip.

As if that's not enough... in the "I need to find a place for them" category, we have two ten gallon tanks (that I want to set up with a fish bridge), one 10 gallon tank for "just in case," saltwater quarrantine tank or some off-hours emergency and one more tiny 3 stall betta tank that may be a frag quarrantine/frag tank (for coral fragments). So they do have a purpose. Now if I can just find a place to put them.

Posted by BlueWolf on October 02, 2018

September 26, 2018

Quick Fishie Update

If you know you have a fish problem, you probably should stay out of the pet stores for a while. I didn't. And now I have two more (new) angels. One is gold and the other is a "koi" angelfish. I was concerned that the tank wouldn't cycle without fish. So I got two more. Good luck fishies - I hope you're strong.

Tonight's readings:

Angel tank -- 4ppm ammonia (this happened just before the danio tank dropped to 0, so I have my fingers crossed and I'm rooting for the two new fish to survive). They get a PWC tonight.

Hospital tank - well, let's just call this the crawfish tank. That's what is in there right now.
0 ppm ammonia !!!
1.0 ppm nitrite
5.0 ppm nitrate
I'm going to leave this alone tonight and let the cycle continue.

Goldfish tank - the cloudiness that appeared when I moved the tank (apparently a bacterial bloom) is now gone (no treatment but patience). I added a sponge filter and some bunches of hornwort, so that may have helped, but it really took time.
4 ppm ammonia - they will get a PWC tonight too

Danio tank
0 ppm ammonia
1.0 ppm nitrite
5.0 ppm nitrate
Again, I will leave this tank alone tonight and let the nitrogen cycle play out.

Since my last post, I set up the saltwater (30 gal) tank! It will eventually be a reef tank.
I used Caribsea Agra-live for the substrate and a mixture of white dead rock and some purple life rock. Live rock is wet and is different from life rock (dry). It's supposed to help the tank cycle faster and is a bit more expensive - so I used a mixture. I got saltwater pre-mixed from the LFS (local fish store). I have an undergravel filter (old style v-shaped, used from the LFS) and two powerheads (300 gal/hr each). So that's 20 tank changes/circulations per hour. Of course, there's also a thermometer in there. I had it set up for about 3 days and went to the LFS and got two really small clownfish (like Nemo) to help cycle the tank. I also bought a skinny hang-on-back protein skimmer (that still needs to be connected - probably tomorrow).

The clownfish are cuter than I thought. I was really against doing a Nemo and Dory tank. That was not my intent - it just seemed too.... ordinary. But clownfish are inexpensive and there's actually a chance they can survive the nitrogen cycle. They've been in the tank for about 24 hrs - and have basically been swimming only in a very small portion of the tank. They are swimming against the back of the tank - back and forth from one end to the other - at the top. Apparently they think it's fun to swim through the small space between the top of the thermometer and the side of the tank. The smaller of the two sometimes uses the space between the two suction cups - because he can and the larger one can't... For goodness sake - you have the entire tank to yourselves and you're using about 10% of the tank.

There are more tests to take for the saltwater tank:
Salinity/Specific Gravity - 27 PPT / 1.020 - this is at the bottom of the safe range
I've also noticed that there is some water loss due to evaporation. Normally this is what makes the salinity go up - but I have added rock and perhaps some of the salt was absorbed by the rock. I will add salt water to attempt to increase the salinity closer to ideal.

7.8 pH - had to use the high range pH test solution for the saltwater tank

0 ppm ammonia - it looks cloudy, but is definitely yellow
0 ppm nitrite
0 ppm nitrate

I used the Freshwater test kit for pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. I also have a Reef Master Test Kit - but that doesn't have ammonia and nitrite tests. It does have the nitrate test and the test seems to be the same as the freshwater kit.

In addtion, the Reef kit tests:

Calcium: 18 drops 360 ppm (should be 400 to 500)
KH: 9 drops 161.1 ppm KH
Phosphate: 0.25 ppm

And I just noticed - I have a heater - but forgot to put a thermometer in the tank!
Attention to detail...

Posted by BlueWolf on September 26, 2018