View Full Version : Lab_Rat's first SW experience

06-08-2010, 05:53 AM
Figured I'd start up a journal to catalog my learning experience with my first sw tank. I picked up a 24g Aquapod with stand, live rock, sand, a pencil urchin, and various snails and hermit crabs on Saturday. First thing I did was take the pencil urchin to the LFS where he's on consignment. I know the tank is likely to hit a mini-cycle since I've disrupted everything and I didn't want to have to worry about the urchin. Also, I don't have any desire to keep an urchin at this point.

I rinsed all the sand as well as I could with clean saltwater. There are tons of bristleworms in the sand and live rock. I also rinsed the live rock. I just threw all the live rock and stuff in the tank, with a half and half mix of sw I mixed myself and sw premixed from the LFS. I will be buying all my sw from the LFS as it's cheaper than investing in a RO/DI unit and mixing my own.

Yesterday there were billions of bristleworms all over the tank. At first I thought they were pretty, but it's just too many. Today many of them had died off. The tank was smelly and it is in full swing cycle wise.

Today's readings:
Ammonia 1
Nitrite 0.125 (trace)
Nitrate 15
pH is low at 7.8 and I can't figure out why
sg also dropped...when I mixed the sw it was 1.022, today it was 1.019 and I haven't added any water. Maybe I mixed it wrong when I mixed the stuff for half of the water. Maybe the two jugs of LFS premixed water varied. I'll be sure to check each jug from now on.

I vacuumed out as many of the dead bristleworms as I could. Unfortunately the large hermit crab and the large snail died. I've pulled as many of the snails and hermit crabs out as I could find. They're in a temporary holding tank so they will not be exposed to the cycle. I wish I'd pulled them out yesterday. I probably caused this cycle by messing up the pH/sg somehow.

Some pics of the cloudy tank. The filtration on this thing doesn't seem strong, I need to look into it more and make sure I'm not missing anything. I need to get a couple of pumps for more circulation. Tank is cloudy because I keep sticking my hands in to snag crabs and snails.



The snails and crabs in their temporary, ammonia free home:


06-08-2010, 06:27 AM
7.8 isnt terrible, for a FOWLR I probably wouldnt do more than add some Seachem Reef Buffer. My guess is your salt has to low of a dKH and to high of a Calcium level to support higher pH levels. Also could be your tap is to blame...either way the Reef Buffer is a cheap fix. I use it once weekly to keep my reef at 8.0...you could also try adding some fresh aragonite sand. It also takes SW around 24hrs of mixing to level out to its true reading.

Scape looks nice, hopefully the spike subsides soon :22:

06-08-2010, 12:14 PM
Just wanted to say congrats on the tank and good luck with your first SW experience. I will definitely be keeping an eye on this as I want to do SW someday and following along with your experiences on it will help me to learn some of the basics.

Keep us posted and good luck.

06-08-2010, 02:33 PM
Sorry about the die off. I missed the part about reusing the old sand.

If you ever do it again, buy new sand, and then seed it with a handful of the old stuff...that's what most of the guys around here are doing...and most have moved tanks successfully...

Otherwise...looks good! Nice rock.

06-08-2010, 11:47 PM
Thanks guys! Rue, Travie did tell me I should get new sand. I just didn't understand why perfectly good substrate should be trashed at that time...now I do! :ssuprised: Jenn, I picked up some of the Seachem Reef Buffer. I'm going to wait and see what happens before adding any.

Last night I added enough salt to get the sg up to 1.021. Today the sg was still holding at 1.021 and the pH had increased slightly, to an estimated 7.9. I'm going to add more salt and aim for a sg of 1.024. We'll see where the pH goes to at that sg. I'm sure I underdosed the salt when I made the water the first time since I measured sg just a few minutes after I mixed it all up. Now I know better.

Today's readings (Day 3):
Ammonia 4
Nitrite 0.5
Nitrate 10
pH 7.9
sg 1.021

The cycle seems to be in full swing. I'm so glad I got the snails and crabs out of there last night. Today I gravel vacced up a bunch more bristleworms. I think the dying bristleworms are raising ammonia causing more dying bristleworms. I guess that's one way to cut down on the population. It was amazing how many there were (and still are). I'll continue vaccing them up until there are no more on the surface. Any that stay hidden can stay in the tank. I just don't need a million of them.

06-09-2010, 10:26 PM
I added more salt yesterday, but am being conservative so I don't overshoot the sg.

Today's readings (Day 4):
Ammonia 4
Nitrite 0
Nitrate 5
pH 7.7 (I think due to organic die off)
sg 1.0215

I'll be adding more salt today. The snails and crabs are doing well in their temporary tank.

06-09-2010, 10:45 PM
How are you adding salt to the tank?

Topping off with pre-mixed SW, doing a partial water change with greater salinity replacement water or adding salt directly to the tank?

Lighting question: are you keeping the tank lights on for any length of time?

06-09-2010, 11:03 PM
How are you adding salt to the tank?

Topping off with pre-mixed SW, doing a partial water change with greater salinity replacement water or adding salt directly to the tank?

Lighting question: are you keeping the tank lights on for any length of time?

I'm dissolving salt in some of the tank water (in a separate container) and adding the higher concentration solution to the tank. Yesterday I added about a half cup of salt total and it raised the sg from 1.021 to 1.0215. I added another half cup today so tomorrow I expect it to be at 1.022. I plan on doing this until the sg is 1.024. How should I be adding salt?

I'm keeping the lights on for about 7-8 hours a day (from when I get home until I go to bed). I've been just turning the regular lamp on for the most part, should I be running both lamps (regular and actinic)?

06-10-2010, 12:04 AM
Sounds like you're doing everything right!thumbs2:

06-10-2010, 01:04 AM
Oh boy.. I can't wait until I get myself into a SW tank, I'm gunna keep you guys busy, anyway, thanks for posting a thread, it'll be good to see what problems arise and how they can handled!

06-10-2010, 02:09 AM
Oh boy.. I can't wait until I get myself into a SW tank, I'm gunna keep you guys busy, anyway, thanks for posting a thread, it'll be good to see what problems arise and how they can handled!

It's been interesting so far. I'll be sure to document my mistakes so others can avoid them. First one...don't use old substrate. Second...wait 24 hours after mixing to test the sg otherwise it's not accurate.

Honestly, I need to do a lot more reading. I hadn't planned on getting a sw tank for another year, but this deal was so good I couldn't pass it up. :14:

One thing that's really cool is seeing the creatures coming out of the live rock. A bunch of bright red tube worms have started emerging. I'm thinking of getting another piece of live rock from the lfs just to introduce some new life into the tank for diversity. The tank is cycling anyway, I figure it can't hurt.

06-10-2010, 02:22 AM
I'm thinking of getting another piece of live rock from the lfs just to introduce some new life into the tank for diversity. The tank is cycling anyway, I figure it can't hurt.

Now is definitely the time to do it - once you put fish/corals in there you will be too scared of introducing baddies into the tank to want to add any more lr! At least I am. I am only putting in dead rock anymore, if I come across a peice I like.

06-10-2010, 06:18 AM
Won't the tube worms be dying slowly in the cycling process? I saw a bunch of little ones pop up in a display tank at the lfs once. Apprently they can/will reproduce successfully in aquariums. There were tiny tubes and feather dusters all over the tank for a while, but eventually something ate them.

06-10-2010, 11:18 PM
The way you're increasing salinity is a good way to do it.

I'm keeping the lights on for about 7-8 hours a day (from when I get home until I go to bed). I've been just turning the regular lamp on for the most part, should I be running both lamps (regular and actinic)?

Someting to think about: LIGHTING

In regards to your current lighting period, I would recommend keeping the lights OFF until the tank recycles and stablizes a bit.

The reason being, right now the system is 'nutrient rich' and IDEAL for fueling cyanobacteria and nuisance algae. At this point in time it hasn't shown up yet. Keeping the lights on now grants cyano and nuisance algae a great opportunity to establish an initial strong hold.

While cyano and nuisance algae typically assail many newly set up tanks, I think that by denying the tank light from the very beginning the cyano (when it appears) will be milder and the nuisance algae stage may even be bypassed.

It's easier to tackle the stuff when it when it has a harder time developing in the tank in the first place (e.g. after the tank has recycled and conditions have improved a bit) rather than dealing with it after it's been essentially been 'powered' up from being (taking advantage of the excess nutrients and light).

Think of it like this: The newly set up tank is an empty house filled with lots of old food. Cyano and nuisance algae are pests (which are attracted to the old food). Light is symbolized by open doors and windows. In this scenario pests can only enter the house when the doors or windows are open.

It's better to gradually remove the old food (which represents the improvement of water quality and reduction in excess nutrients), and start opening the windows and doors AFTER all the old food has been removed. Pests will be less likely to enter the house and when they do it will be in smaller numbers and easier to eliminate.

Compare that to a different house in which trash is also being gradually removed however the windows and doors are opened from day one which allows an infestation of pests. Pest eradication will eventually come but it will come faster and easier in the first scenario than in this one.

My take on lighting in a newly set up SW tank: unnecessary until the tank is completely re-cycled, stabilized a bit and has undergone its first water change. Basically lights-off until fish (or desireable photosynthetic livestock) are added.

06-11-2010, 12:58 AM
Won't the tube worms be dying slowly in the cycling process? I saw a bunch of little ones pop up in a display tank at the lfs once. Apprently they can/will reproduce successfully in aquariums. There were tiny tubes and feather dusters all over the tank for a while, but eventually something ate them.

I hope they don't, but I can't exactly remove them from the tank since they're on/in the live rock.

Kaybee, thanks for that info. I've turned the lights off and will leave them off until the cycle completes. Would it be better off to black out the tank with a blanket until then?

06-12-2010, 01:48 AM
Day 6, ammonia is still around 4ppm, though I think it's slightly lighter than 2 days ago. Should I do a wc to drop the ammonia a bit?

Also added a couple more pounds of live rock. Some of it had a bright orange colored algae on it, hopefully that's a good algae.

06-12-2010, 06:14 AM




06-12-2010, 07:10 PM
Got my poly-filter in today. Should I go ahead and add it to reduce the ammonia or am I better off letting the tank continue with it's cycle?

06-12-2010, 08:45 PM
Not sure...I think you could leave the tank be...or add your poly-filter...don't think it will make a huge difference either way.

Nice pics!

I was in our reef store today (only buying water, nothing exciting...I have to control my BTA population before I can do anything at all with my tank)...and I actually thought of you! Some gorgeous corals...some I'd like for myself too, if I didn't have 200 million anemones...

06-17-2010, 11:08 PM
Thanks Rue!

Tank is nearing the end of the cycle. :woo:

Today's readings:
Ammonia 0 ppm (yesterday was 4 ppm, day before was 8 ppm)
Nitrite 0 ppm
Nitrate 20 ppm
pH 7.8

Tank is also entering the diatom phase and I've seen some of the hair algae too. I got a koralia nano pump to help with circulation and added it to the right side of the tank.

06-18-2010, 01:01 AM
Cool! That's such an exciting part of it...being done cycling and watching the rock 'come alive' *bwahahahaha*

06-18-2010, 01:10 AM
Yeah, I was happy to see the itty bitty bright red tube worms survived the cycle. I was worried about them but there was nothing I could do since they're all attached to the rocks.

I'm going to put the snails and crabs back in (they've been in a tiny holding tank so they wouldn't have to be in with the cycle. I don't plan on adding any fish until after I get back from New Jersey (if I go, since it would be the month of August and maybe Sept). I figure by then the tank should be stablized a bit. Does that sound like a decent plan?

I may add a few more of the cuc before then. Need to do more research into what I should get invert wise. If I were to try easy corals, like zoas, when would be the best time to add them? Before fish or after?

06-18-2010, 01:17 AM
You can add the easy corals anytime. I had a frag tank with only corals in it. They did well (for the short time I maintained that tank).

Up to you.

But do start with a couple of easy zoas...or a leather...and see how it does before you spend money on something a tad more expensive.

06-18-2010, 01:22 AM
I'm pretty broke so no way I'll attempt anything difficult/expensive. From what I've read, the zoas are pretty beginner friendly. There is a local reef club here too that I'm thinking about joining.

06-18-2010, 01:44 AM
Try a green star polyp high up on your rock, if it wont survive nothing will. Zoas and mushrooms wont only add a tremendous amount of color but they are very easy to keep. In your tank with PCs I wouldnt tempt anything but the previously mentioned.

06-18-2010, 02:09 AM
I'll check around to see if the stores here carry the green star polyp.

06-18-2010, 02:16 AM
That saltwater stuff seems very difficult. Glad it's coming along for you.

06-18-2010, 02:51 AM
Nice pics! Your tank seems like its coming along great!

09-25-2010, 02:29 AM
The tank has been up and running for 3.5 months now. The original hermits and snails are still doing well, and amazingly I've resisted the urge to add anything so far. Of course it helped I was out of town for almost 2 months of that time period. Today I did a 20% wc and plan on checking all the parameters tomorrow. If they all look good, I may head to the LFS and pick up something live. Not sure what that something is yet, I've been considering attempting easy corals. Another option is a pair of clownfish. I don't think I want just a lone damsel.

09-25-2010, 02:56 AM
I'd go for a pair of clowns and a couple of anenome's.

09-25-2010, 03:15 AM
Clowns are a definite possibility, if I can find domestically bred ones. I don't think I'm ready to take on care of an anemone yet, they sound complicated and more for experienced sw keepers.

09-25-2010, 06:10 PM
So my nitrates are at 20. Boo. Probably due to the ceramic rings and bioballs that had been in the overflow filter part. Should have removed those from the start, didn't take them out until last night. I'm going to swap out the polyfilter for a new one and re-test tomorrow to see if things look better. Obviously I can't get any livestock with the nitrates that high.

09-26-2010, 12:46 AM
Purigen might help if just removing the biomedia doesn't do as much as you'd like.

09-26-2010, 02:58 AM
I swapped out the polyfilter this morning. It's going to be probably next week before I consider adding anything since the dual daylight PC lamp blew and not a single LFS (checked 5 today) has square pinned lamps in 32w. Found them at DFS thankfully, but they probably won't be here til later in the week. I'm hoping that will give time for the nitrates to drop. I also received some calupera macroalgae and added that yesterday (before the lamp blew of course). Hopefully it will be happy with actinic and sunlight for a few days.

09-29-2010, 05:03 PM
Great journal LR - SW certainly sounds a little bit more involved than FW [and I'm having a hard enough time with just FW!] They certainly are beautiful though, and your tank looks great from the original pictures!

09-30-2010, 03:21 AM
Hey, nice job on the tank so far. I can't wait to see how it all looks in the end. thumbs2:


10-01-2010, 01:07 AM
Thanks guys! It's been a learning experience.

The new lamp came in so now I have daylight to run along with the actinic lamp. I also saw a couple of very coraline coated small pieces of live rock at the LFS today and figured why not, nothing in the tank yet. When I was inspecting the two pieces (almost 2#) I noticed bubble algae. There were green ones and purple ones. I picked them off with tweezers and a razor blade. I don't think I ruptured any of them. Next I rinsed each piece in clean saltwater twice to try and get any spores off. I think I got all of it. Tomorrow I'll try to get pics up. The macroalgae I added looks pretty cool.

10-04-2010, 03:17 AM



This is the cool new live rock I bought the other day. Has lots of coraline on it.

10-04-2010, 03:18 AM
And a hermit crab saying hi

10-04-2010, 03:33 AM
Nice pictures!

10-06-2010, 04:08 PM
So even with the new live rock additions I am still at 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, but the stupid nitrate is still at 20 ppm. I guess it just needs more time.

Also, it seems I've brilliantly introduced bubble algae. I'd seen some on the cool live rock so I scraped it off carefully and rinsed the rock several times in new saltwater. I just noticed some little vesicles of it on some of the rubble in the front of the tank. It's actually pretty cool looking, a vibrant purpley-red color. Tentatively I've ID'ed it as Botryocladia skottsbergii:

I guess I'll be throwing out the rubble to try and get rid of it. Other suggestions on ridding it are welcome.

10-16-2010, 03:57 AM
Finally decided to get some fish for the tank. Picked up a small pair of ocellaris clownfish. They're cute little buggers, hopefully they do well in my tank. The caulerpa is growing very well and I added some chaetomorpha to the tank too. Hopefully the Marine LFS will have more macroalgaes in next week.





10-16-2010, 03:59 AM
very pretty fish. :ssmile:

10-16-2010, 03:59 AM
Looks good, glad to see some fish in there finally :)

10-16-2010, 11:25 PM
Nitrates - I wouldn't worry about them at this point. They are only a real problem for corals. Also, another plug for purigen to help with nitrates if you want to drop them. Its reuseable, so not too dear considering, and I have it in my sw tank and my african tank.

bubble algae - again, I wouldn't worry about it, because, you just won't be able to get rid of it anyway. I redid my rockwork, and took out every blessed peice of stone in there, picked off bubbles and rinsed the rock after picking - and STILL had bubble algae appear after a couple weeks.
If it looks cool anyway, leave it be until it looks like it might become a real problem, then get CUC that will eat it. I have a couple emerald crabs now, and aside from being cool little critters in their own right, they are doing a fine job of keeping the bubble algae from taking over.

A lot of things that I read about online like bristles, aiptasia, and bubble algae turned out not to be the Unmitigated Evil they are made out to be when I joined my local reef club. Its only when they start to look like they may overpower other things in the tank that action needs to be taken.

10-17-2010, 01:02 AM
Never ends what will show up in a SW tank, if you go digging into one Im sure youll find things you never knew were in there as well. The tank looks good Labby :22:

A skimmer may be your best option to limit the waste products entering the nitrogen cycle....hence killing out some of that nitrate.

10-17-2010, 01:19 AM
Nice tank and fish. I am just reading more about SW tanks and maybe like to get one, too in the future. Still have to read more so I know which one would be good for a beginner.

10-17-2010, 04:28 AM
Thanks guys!

Sadly, the male clownfish died today. I have no idea why. Last night he looked good, swimming all around. This morning he was swimming in circles and I knew he was a goner. I was gone all day and when I came home he had passed. I'm really bummed about it. The female looks stressed, swimming up and down the tank. Not sure if she's distressed over losing her mate or what. Last night she took pellets but tonight she was ignoring them. Not sure what I did wrong, drip acclimated them for about an hour. I hope she will be ok.

10-17-2010, 07:55 PM
Sorry to hear about the loss of the new guy. The tough thing about SW fish is that most aren't very adaptable to different conditions. The ocean environment is very stable (basically unchanged over centuries), unlike FW habitats that can change in a matter of minutes from a heavy rainstorm. Too much trouble and expense for me personally, particularly with the learning curve, though I am occaisonally tempted to do an invert tank. But then I'd want fish too...

10-17-2010, 09:20 PM
Yeah, and these guys were wild caught too. I need to try and find captive bred ones if I get another male. Dave mentioned they may have been caught by cyanide poisoning and the move to my tank was the last straw. Someone else mentioned it could have been low oxygen so I moved a nozzle up so it's breaking the surface.

On a brighter note, the female is looking better today and ate pellets aggressively. She kept begging for more, though I had to cut her off. She doesn't look as distressed, though I think she still misses her mate. I may have to go look for one this next week if she continues to look lonely.

10-18-2010, 04:36 AM
Tanks looking great. I've never had any luck with wild caught clowns. I've bought 4 wild caught since starting the hobby (one right after the other) and everyone died within a few weeks. After that I bought tank raised and they did great. We've had our male for over 2 years and our female for over a year.

10-19-2010, 03:54 AM

So last night I had a bit of a scare. Went to check on the fish before going to bed and I noticed the little clown had about 4-5 little white salt like specks on her. After saying a couple of choice words, I did a 2 minute FW dip on her. She was not pleased with the dip, but all the cysts but one were gone when I put her back in the tank and that one looked like it had ruptured. Today she looks great, no cysts, so hopefully we're in the clear. I'll wait two weeks to see if it recurs before getting her a mate. She's still eating well too.