Marine Aquarium Disasters and How to Prevent Them
from The Mind of Scott
Its is difficult for the uninitiated to imagine just how obsessive the "coral reef aquariums" hobby can be. Maintaining a cube of one of the most complex ecosystems on the planet in your living room is time consuming and expensive but also rewarding. Its long been recognized that nature can have a de-stressing, possibly healing, effect on us humans. This is part of the reason that tank disasters are so painful to hobbyists.
Tank disasters cause people to leave the marine aquarium hobby more than any other reason. All of the following, emotionally draining and expensive disasters have actually happened to aquarium tank owners. Some disasters destroyed not only the tanks but aquarist homes as well. Read carefully and learn from someone else’s mistake instead of your own.
One disaster can wipe it all out. Read on.
Moving Too Fast
Although in and of itself this may not cause a disaster, it is the root
cause of many of the following disaster scenarios. Patience is the
absolute number one rule in this hobby.
Prevention: Take the time to educate yourself on all aspects of
your tank. Plan as much of your tank setup as possible. Make absolutely
sure you are buying the equipment, fish and other livestock that is
right for your tank. Confer with fellow aquarists before moving forward.
Not Understanding Tank Cycling
Tank cycling, also referred to as the nitrogen cyle or new tank syndrome
All aquarists must understand what tank cycling is or risk a mass die
off. A tank cycle is necessary to establish beneficial bacteria that
will eat toxic ammonia, nitrites and nitrates, but a cycle can also kill
livestock. One needs to also understand the various reasons why more
tank cycles can happen long after the tank has been established.
Prevention: Do not add livestock during a cycle. Do not add too
much livestock at one time as it will cause a new cycle. Remove dead
fish quickly! Understand why tanks can cycle more than once. Read up on
tank cycles! Learn the causes of ‘mini-cycles’. Excellent article:
What is the Nitrogen Cycling Process?
Pump Gets Blocked
Flow is perhaps the most important tank parameter. If the intake to a
pump, sump, refugium or other system becomes blocked, flow may be
interrupted. Without flow, water quality will degrade quickly and
temperature may drop suddenly. With this type of disaster, some
aquarists have lost most of their tank livestock overnight. Cucumbers,
anemones and other creatures can block intakes. Filters can become
saturated with detritus, seaweed (macro-algae) or detritus and cause
blockage in the filtration system. Pumps may burn out if they are
blocked or if they run dry.
Prevention: Examine your filtration system and sequentially list
each and every item that water flows through. Determine if anything can
become clogged and clean it on a regular basis. Consider pushing a
bulbous shaped piece of screen into an intake. Most pumps come with a
small vent-like attachment that goes over the intake and prevents
blockage. Disassemble and clean pumps often. Soak them in vinegar to
release salt build up in them. (Rinse out all vinegar). Replace pumps
and pump impellers before they break. Keep spare pumps or pump impellers
Floods and Spills
Water on the floor is caused by pumps or attached hoses that get out of
control. Floods can also be caused by poorly designed plumbing usually
between the main tank and a sump or refugium. Almost every tank owner
has let their change out container overflow when filling it with
Prevention: Use plumbing designs that cannot flood even if a pump
fails. For instance, pump water from the top of the main display upward
towards the sump and let gravity bring water back through a pipe near
the top of the sump. The return pipe should be several times
larger than the uptake and very difficult to block or clog. Flexible,
curved tubes are less likely to clog than PVC pipe with 90 degree turns.
When filling large containers with filtered water use loud, audible
timers to remind you when they are full. A wrist watch with a countdown
timer is ideal.
Failure to Properly Clean Filter Media
This applies especially to bioballs but also to mechanical filtration
and large carbon packs. If bioballs are filled with beneficial bacteria
and you clean them with bacteria-killing tap water, then a sudden
ammonia spike could result. The sudden lack of ammonia eating bacteria
will cause an ammonia spike that can quickly kill everything in a tank.
Also, if you have lots of bioballs and you remove them all from the tank
at once, an ammonia spike could result.
Prevention: Clean bioballs and other filtration media with a
soap-free brush in used tank water from a water change. Remove bioballs
gradually, perhaps 25% at a time.
There are a substantial number of aquarists who have failed to read
equipment safety instructions and had electrical disasters some of which
resulted in their homes catching fire. Unventilated chillers or
equipment, failure to use drip loops, faulty wiring, lack of GFCI
outlets and other electrical problems have all resulted in serious
problems that can destroy a tank and your home.
Prevention: Use drip loops! Allow power cords and any
cable to hang down in a loop so that when water spills it doesn’t run
along the cable down to the equipment. Please don’t say ‘water spills
won’t happen to me.’ Aquarium equipment can produce a lot of heat
therefore make sure that all electrical equipment has adequate
ventilation. One tank owner put a chiller in a closed cabinet. Because
there was inadequate heat dissipation the chiller overheated and caused a
major house fire. Ground all electrical devices. Old and faulty
equipment often lets electrical current leak into the water. Consider
putting a titanium ground in your tank water to prevent stray voltage
from killing you and your fish. After a water change out, use a
flashlight to check for water spills before restoring power.
Putting Contaminates in the Tank
Several common scenarios:
- You wash your hands with soap and don’t quite rinse all the soap off, then you put them in the tank. Soap may have phosphates.
- Your maid or a well meaning friend sprays Windex all over the tank
glass to clean it. Windex has a lot of ammonia and thus will cause a
cycle. This scenario has caused many fish kills!
- You put your hands in the tank after you touched some other
contaminant such as lotion or your dog’s anti-flea and tick medication.
- You worked on your lawn mower engine then put your hands in your tank –bad idea.
Windex contains Ammonia!
Understand that it only takes a few parts per million of a contaminant
to kill everything in your tank. Benzene is found in plastics, rubber,
resins and synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester, and in solvents
used for printing, paints, and dry cleaning. Benzene is also found in
gasoline. Benzene is considered dangerous to humans if it exceeds 5
parts per billion in drinking water. ‘Dangerous’ in this case means
immediate damage to the central nervous system as opposed to the long
term effects which may include cancer.
Prevention: Consider using lids on tanks to prevent airborne
contaminants from entering the tank. You can cut a lid using Plexiglas
or have a glass one custom made. If you make a custom lid, ensure the
tank itself is ventilated so that oxygen exchange with the water can
take place. Educate everyone, including maids and children, about the
importance of not touching your tank. Rinse all soap off your hands by
rubbing them vigorously under running water. When cleaning the outside
of the tank glass, spray the window cleaner on the rag while standing at
least ten feet away from the tank. Use of high grade carbon is an
excellent way to eliminate contaminants from the water. Polyfilter can
remove copper. Water changes can also remove contaminants. Tell children
your tank is not a wishing well so they won’t throw a penny in for
luck. Pennies are made of copper and will kill every invertebrate in
Inadequate Flow and Poor Aquascaping Cause Detritus Traps
If there is improper or inadequate flow, especially under the rock, an
abundance of detritus may settle in these pockets causing nitrates and
phosphates to rise high enough to start killing livestock. Detritus may
also accumulate in filters (including filter media), bioballs, tubes or
anywhere there is inadequate flow.
Prevention: Ideally all water should go through the filtration
system on a regular basis. There should be no static water anywhere in
the tank. Aquascape your tank so that water can enter the caves and
holes in the rock and leave through a different opening. Avoid pockets
in the rock that have an opening but no exit. You can use small lengths
of PVC pipe to prop up the rock and get more flow under it. If you do
this, drill holes in the pipe for flow and so that inverts don’t get
trapped in the pipe. Ensure rock is stable. Match pump capacity to the
size of your tank. Ask fellow aquarists what pumps they use. Too much
flow can stir up sand and cloud the water or cause fish to become
Sand Becomes a Detritus Trap
Detritus can settle into the sand bed and build up over time to
dangerous levels. One aquarist, drained his tank to remove a fish. When
he pumped the water back in, it stirred the bottom up and released a
huge amount of detritus that had settled in the sand. This resulted in
an ammonia spike that killed everything in the tank. In the worst case
scenario, a deep sand bed (DSB) never gets stirred and toxic deposits of
hydrogen sulfide build up. When released these deposits kill everything
Prevention: Get sand stirrers such as Nassarius snails, conchs,
sand-sifting starfish or gobies that will stir the sand on a daily
basis. Ensure there is good flow in the tank so that detritus will get
removed by the filtration system before it has a chance to settle on the
sand. Some people, manually deep stir the sand in very small sections
every few days so as not to release too much detritus in one day.
(Warning: If your sand bed is already full of toxins such as hydrogen
sulfide, stirring even a small amount of sand could release those toxins
and cause a die off.) If you use DSBs, put them in a refugium and use
floss or other media to filter out the detritus before it enters the DSB
Major Disease Outbreak and Bad Medicine
Disease outbreaks do not necessarily kill all fish in the tank because
some fish may be more resistant to Ich than others. On the other hand, a
total loss of all fish to disease is not uncommon. Marine Velvet is
quite deadly. By the time this disease is diagnosed, it is usually too
late to do anything about it. Disease can enter the tank in many ways
and there is substantial debate on this subject. (This description is
not by any means meant to be a complete discussion of marine fish
disease causes and treatments.)
Notice white spots
Some common ways Ich can enter your tank:
Prevention: Quarantine all new livestock for six weeks in a
special quarantine tank. Copper can be dosed in a quarantine tank if the
fish looks sick. Hypo-salinity is also effective for fish. Do not treat
invertebrates with copper or hypo-salinity. Many aquarists have put
copper in their main tank and then watched all of their invertebrates
die. Improper use of medications is not an uncommon cause of tank
crashes. Gamma irradiated frozen fish food will be ich free. Frozen
blood worms are also free of marine ich. Consider carefully anything
else that is introduced into your tank.
- Introducing a diseased fish into the tank
- Letting the slightest drop of tank water from the fish store or any infected tank spill into your tank.
- Live foods, such as brine shrimp, may come with Ich in the water.
- Frozen foods may contain the Ich in its tomite or ‘free-swimming’
stage. When thawed they can reanimate. The ability of small crustaceans
and parasites to reanimate is not at all uncommon. Freezing fish or fish
food at minus 6 degrees Fahrenheit for 72 hours will kill parasites.
Major Pest Infestations
Marine pests are numerous and some can cause a tank disaster. Coral eating nudibranches can wipe out corals very quickly.
Asterina Starfish, Flatworms and Aiptasia
Mantis shrimp may eat small fish. Live rock often contains many
interesting and beneficial hitchhikers but it can also import dangerous
pests into a tank. The Asterina species with a bluish spot in the center
will eat coralline algae. Other types of Asterina are generally
harmless. Acropora Red Bugs will kill expensive acropora corals.
Flatworms and aptasia can also slowly kill many livestock. Some pest
treatments, such as flatworm killers, will kill many flatworms thus
causing a die off and ammonia spike. If the directions call for water
changes after treatment then do them.
Prevention: Quarantine of all livestock is the best way to
prevent pests from entering a tank. For new tanks that have just been
filled with live rock and have finished cycling, introduce livestock
slowly into the tank, one fish at a time to see if they are susceptible
to pests that arrived on your new live rock. Consider dipping corals to
kill pests on them. Study potential pests ahead of time and be ready to
react quickly if they appear. Pests, like blue spotted Asterina, can be
eliminated by picking them out with tweezers before they become
numerous. Predators of pests are usually not one hundred percent
effective in a tank environment.
Heaters Gone Wild
Aquarium heaters generally do not have very sophisticated thermostats.
On some heaters, the thermostat may malfunction causing the heater to
cook the tank. Many tanks have had die-offs for this reason. There have
also been cases where heaters with too low wattage were used and during
the colder winter months the tanks got too cold causing a die off.
Prevention: Choose quality heaters by getting good
recommendations from experienced aquarists. Titanium heaters tend to be
superior. Replace heaters at least every two years. Consider using 2
heaters in case one stops working. Heaters can be attached to more
precise temperature controllers for greater safety. Chillers can also
prevent malfunctioning heaters from cooking your tank. Choose heaters
with adequate wattage. Five watts per gallon is plenty. Audible
temperature alarms are relatively inexpensive.
Glass Heater Breaks
Glass heaters should never be removed from water when plugged in.
Removing them for only a couple seconds can cause them to break and
possibly electrocute you and everything in you tank. You may try this
and notice that you can remove them without them breaking –this doesn’t
mean they won’t break the next time you try it. This scenario has
happened many times. Many heaters, contain a copper element which can
fall into the water after the heater breaks. Copper will slowly kill off
all inverts –small and large.
Prevention: Use shatter-proof heaters. Unplug all heaters before
removing them from water –even if removing them for only a second.
Handle glass heaters with great care, especially during water changes.
Put a titanium ground in the water.
A lack of power means no flow or heat. Without flow your tank livestock will die –possibly in a matter of hours.
Prevention: Develop a plan to deal with power outages well in
advance of a power outage. If there is limited power during an outage, use it to drive the
flow and heater only. With any of the following backup power options,
the use of a good surge protector is strongly recommended. Consider power emergency options that can
come on while you are gone versus those that require you to be home to flick a switch during the power outage.
- Power generators can be very expensive but for large tanks they could prevent a loss greater than the cost of the generator.
- Battery Backup UPSs such as those used to power computers
during outages may be able to run a pump and a heater for short period
of time. Battery backup units with enough power to drive a pump and
heater for several hours can be very expensive. Battery backups do not require you to be home to switch on
- Battery powered air pumps can provide some limited flow and can be ordered online. They are inexpensive.
- Auto power inverters can create 100 watts of AC power to keep
a small pump and heater going. They are relatively inexpensive but
consider the cost of gasoline with this option.
- Manual Flow can be created by scooping up water and pouring
it down into the tank on a frequent basis so as to create surface
agitation. Heat packs may help.
- Friendly Neighbors with extension cords can help if only your home is without power.
- Battery powered pumps Battery backup pumps are on the market but can be expensive. These pumps do not require you to be home to switch on.
- Battery powered fans can cool a tank duirng the summer months.
Auto Power Inverter
If a very large amount of food is dumped into a tank, usually by a well
meaning child, and goes unnoticed, it will decay and cause nitrates and
phosphates to rise high enough to start killing first the corals, then
other invertebrates and if it goes high enough –your fish too. Your fish
and corals can die in only hours in this scenario.
Prevention: Keep tight lids on tanks. Educate family and friends
on why they must not touch the tank. Tell children that small sharks are
hiding in the rocks.
When an anemone dies and decays, millions of nematocysts float all over
the tank and eventually kill everything. If an anemone crawls into a
pump or Koralia and gets pureed, minced, diced or chopped up, the
nematocysts will go everywhere and kill everything very quickly. This is
anemone nukage. The anemone’s nematocysts contain a potent paralytic
Prevention: Anemones are for advanced aquarists who have adequate
light, excellent water quality and an understanding of how to deal with
anemones when they become a problem. Ensure pumps cannot be blocked by
Dropping Electrical Equipment into the Water
Don’t laugh, everyone can make mistakes.
Prevention: Unplug all equipment during water changes and
maintenance. After water changes and maintenance, use a flashlight to
check for water spills on equipment before restoring power. Handle
electrical cords with dry hands.
Bad or No Top Offs
When salt water evaporates, the salt does not evaporate with it. If you
have ever seen a salt flat, it’s obvious to see. Some beginners have
topped off with salt water causing salinity to rise and ended up killing
everything in the tank. Failure to top off will also cause salinity to
Salt Flats - Lake Hart
Prevention: When salt water evaporates, replace with fresh water.
Use a marker on the glass (like a small piece of tape) to determine the
proper water level when topping off. Use of an automatic top off (ATO)
can greatly reduce the need for manual top offs. With an ATO one only
needs to refill a fresh water reservoir on a far less frequent basis.
Also, consider placing your tank in a cool spot in your home to reduce
evaporation. Before doing any tank maintenance that might suddenly
change the water level, unplug your ATO. An unintended ATO replenishment
with fresh water could cause a drastic reduction in salinity killing
Unsuitable Livestock Choices
One aquarist read somewhere that Dwarf Moray Eels are less aggressive
than the larger types. His new Dwarf Moray eel started out by eating two
fish that had cost him $260 each! This aquarist made the mistake of not
reading enough about his choice. It is crucial that each livestock
choice be studied and evaluated for your tank using criteria such as:
your tank large enough? Fish tend to become more aggressive or stressed
out in tanks that are too small for them. If the tank is undersized for
the fish, the filtration may not be able to handle the fish’s waste.
- Compatibility with other livestock. Take note of how aggressive a
fish is: peaceful, semi-aggressive, aggressive or predator?
Semi-aggressive fish can kill! Does the creature have a favored prey or
is it the natural prey of something already in your tank? Dottybacks and
wrasses will probably eat your shrimp. Starfish may eat your clams.
Some crabs will eat only starfish. Corals can kill each other. The
blue-ringed octopus’ venom is deadly to humans. No anti-venom is
currently available. Do not assume that because one fish is peaceful
that a very similar fish will also be peaceful.
- Many corals, invertebrates and some fish require excellent water quality.
- Do you have sufficient light? Many corals and some invertebrates require advanced lighting such as metal halides.
Prevention: Do not give in to “new fish emotion” which is very
similar to “new car emotion”. Fish store sales persons, however nice,
have misled aquarists many times so do your own research. After studying
your potential choice you may decide not to buy it for very good
reasons. You might take a good fish book to the store with you and look
up the fish’s requirements while you are there. Use species
Sudden Algae Outbreaks
Algae outbreaks can quickly overtake a tank, grow over and kill corals
and other livestock. Algae needs three things to grow: light, nitrates
and phosphates. If you see a sudden algae outbreak, one of these three
things has changed. Reducing nitrates and phosphates is of one of the
greatest challenges of marine aquarists.
Prevention: Reduce nitrates and phosphates to zero! The methods for reducing these chemicals are numerous but the best ways are:
If an algae outbreak occurs but nitrates and phosphates are near
zero, consider that these two algae nutrients may be settled in the rock
and sand but not in the water. If so clean the rock and let snails,
gobies or starfish sift the sand.
- Install good protein skimmers.
- Use refugiums with plenty of macro-algae and a very strong plant light.
- Regular water changes.
- Do not overstock. Know how many inches of fish your tank can handle.
- Use cycled live rock which is an excellent filter.
- Do not overfeed.
- Nitrate and phosphate reactors use chemical media to reduce these chemicals.
- Use reverse osmosis (RO) or de-ionized (DI) water only. Test your RO
and DI water with a Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) meter because filters
may become prematurely worn out and lose effectiveness. Use of tap water
has caused many algae outbreaks. Tap water often has phosphates in it
and charcoal filters will not remove phosphates. One person used a
garden hose to fill his tank with tap water. The hose had copper
fillings which are deadly to invertebrates.
The Great Tank Burst
Poorly constructed homemade tanks or tanks not placed on a level
surface, when filled with water, will put undue stress on the joints and
seals causing a burst. Also, the seals in some very old tanks can
weaken. More than one aquarist has had to deal with a hundred gallons of
salt water in their living room. Consider that one gallon of water
weighs 8.5 pounds (2.2 liters weigh 1 kilogram).
Prevention: Buy from quality tank manufacturers! There are too
many cheaply made tanks on the market. Test used tanks by filling them
with tap water, drying the outside and let them sit for several days. If
possible weigh all live rock, sand and equipment before putting it in
the tank. Know the total weight and ensure your stand will support it.
Do the math! Make sure your tank is level and sitting on a completely
flat surface! Do not trust standard manufacturer stands in an earthquake
zone. Thick steel stands or stacked cinder blocks will be quite sturdy.
Attach a nice piece of panel or wood to the front and sides if the
cinder block looks too unsightly.
Rock is often stacked in dangerous ways in a tank. What many aquarists
don’t realize is that sand slowly dissolves causing even the most
carefully stacked rock to come tumbling down and crack or bust the
glass. Long before sand dissolves, livestock can burrow in the sand
under the rock and cause an avalanche. Some livestock, such as
octopuses, are very strong and can easily shift rock around causing an
avalanche. True Tale of horror: One aquarist heard a loud crash followed
by a wave of water as he lay in bed at 3am in the morning. A large rock
had tumbled down and smashed through the front glass of the tank. The
tank emptied in only a few seconds. The salt water hit electrical cords
and surge protectors and destroyed his TV and other electrical
appliances. His living room had substantial damage mostly to carpets and
furniture. All this caused by 80 gallons of salt water.
Prevention: Place rock gently on the bottom of the tank –then add
sand. One fellow put the rock down too hard on the bottom glass of his
tank and busted it –while it was full of water. Consider using aquarium
safe concrete to cement most of the lower rock together. You may wish to
leave some of the rock un-cemented until it has been aquascaped to your
liking. Some aquarists drill holes through the rock and secure it
together using strong rods or PVC pipe.
Fast Stocking and Over Stocking
Placing too much livestock in a tank all at once will cause a
‘mini-cycle’ that kills fish and invertebrates. When new fish are added,
the beneficial bacteria must be given time to increase and deal with
the added fish waste. Adding one fish will generally not cause a cycle
but adding a dozen fish to a fifty gallon tank will cause a fish killing
cycle. Also, adding more fish than your tank can handle will cause
ammonia to spike and kill fish.
Prevention: Determine how many inches of fish your tank can
handle and add fish and other livestock gradually. Allow beneficial
ammonia-eating bacteria time to adjust to the added fish waste.
Bad Test, No Test
Many problems that might snowball into major disasters can be prevented
–if caught early. The most important tests are temperature, salinity,
and Ph. If keeping invertebrates or expensive fish that require
excellent water quality one must also test for alkalinity, nitrates,
phosphates, calcium and magnesium. Keep in mind that for various reasons
nitrates can spiral out of control in a day or two and start killing
livestock. Old test kits can go bad and give bad results. Failure to
test can also allow Ph to change drastically causing corals to begin
dissolving because the water is too acidic
Prevention: Test often. Check temperature every day. Use ammonia
indicators to get a warning. If anything seems wrong in the tank, test
water quality. The more stable water quality tends to be the less
testing is needed. If water quality tends to be bad then test more
often. If using instruments, ensure that they are calibrated. Paper
strip tests are quick and easy.
Seal salt containers tight. If moisture gets in the salt it can cause
precipitation resulting in lower alkalinity and calcium. If salt has
hardened into a large chunk, it is almost certainly in this condition.
Although salt in this condition will still be usable, one must consider
if anything else besides moisture was absorbed into the salt such as
auto exhaust fumes from the garage. One person used 10 month old salt
that had not been kept in a tight container. Two days later most of his
livestock was dead.
Use salt specifically formulated for marine aquariums
Prevention: Seal salt containers tight! Do not buy a year’s
supply of salt unless you are absolutely sure you can keep it moisture
free. After mixing water let it circulate overnight. The water should be
clear the next day. Shake salt containers if possible before each use.
Rotting Fish & Toxic Slugs
A large dead fish quickly becomes a nitrate factory. A large trigger
fish or tang can be enough to push ammonia above a fish-killing
threshold. Die-offs that occur for other reasons can also cause ammonia
spikes. Some livestock such as Nudibranchs and Mandarin Dragonettes,
when stressed, can release toxins into the water that kill fish and
Prevention: Remove all dead fish quickly. Systems with excellent
nitrate reduction may be able to handle the nitrates produced by a dead
fish. If the fish cannot be removed, do water changes until nitrates and
ammonia are low again. Determine whether livestock can release toxins
before you decide to buy them.
Good water quality requires good levels of oxygen. Some aquarists have
used tight fitting lids on their tanks and cut off oxygen exchange with
the water leading to a die-off.
Prevention: Most oxygen exchange takes place on the water
surface. Ensure good air flow over the water surface. Skimmers will help
with oxygen exchange. Ensure that there is some vertical water movement
in the tank. Do not use tight fitting lids on tanks.
Attempting to Drill Tempered Glass
In order to connect sumps or refugiums with the main display tank,
drilling glass may be required. If the glass is tempered, it cannot be
drilled –attempting to do so will cause the glass to shatter. More than
one aquarists has ruined a large tank by trying to drill tempered glass.
Prevention: Contact the tank manufacturer or look at the manual
to determine if the glass is tempered. With some tanks, only the bottom
and back panes may be tempered.
Not being home when a disaster happens will compound the problem. Many
of the aforementioned problems have happened when tank owners were gone.
Prevention: Choose your home and tank sitter wisely. Try to find
someone who has experience with aquariums. School teachers and technical
professionals are usually pretty good. Use ATOs and make sure the fresh
water reservoir is full. Know how much food auto-feeders will drop into
your tank. Do major maintenance several days before leaving town. Test
your system: give your tank at least several days to run unattended
while you are still home.
If Chaetomorphia, Caulerpa or other macro-algae do not get sufficient
light they will rot, turn white and die-off causing a potential ammonia
or nitrates spike. Ensure that macro-algae gets strong florescent light
with a spectrum of 2700K or higher. Caulerpa can shoot out a mass of
spores causing a die-off and subsequent ammonia or nitrate spike. This
is why Chaetomorphia is in general a better choice.
Mature tanks with lots of corals or coralline algae will use more and more calcium and alkalinity eventually requiring the aquarists to dose for these two needed chemicals. Many tank owners will use something called kalkwasser which is usually made from calcium hydroxide. Kalkwasser can be used to raise both calcium and alkalinity using a single-dosing system. Because kalkwasser can raise Ph the consequences of an overdose can be severe. Many aquarists have raised Ph dangerously high as the result of a kalkwasser overdose and then watched as hundreds of dollars worth of corals died. If you get an overdose, consider doing a 50% water change and ensure salinity and temperature are matched.
Prevention: Use a digital timer to control dosing pumps. Dose for a short period and slowly lengthen the dosing period each day until just the right dose is added. Check and re-check the settings on digital timers. Take into account that water changes will raise calcium and alkalinity and therefore dosing right after a water change may raise calcium and alkalinity even higher. Dosing with kalkwasser does not eliminate the need for testing. Test and adjust dosing as needed.
Prevent many disasters by developing a comprehensive maintenance list
and schedule for your tank. Here are suggestions for a maintenance list:
- Refill ATO reservoir
- Replace filter floss
- Empty skimmer cup
- Scrape glass
- Clean glass cover on lighting fixtures
- Replace pump impellers
- Trim Chaetomorphia, cut out dead parts
- Clean Skimmer
- Check, change bulbs before they burn-out
- Add trace elements if necessary
- Dose for Ph, calcium and Alkalinity if necessary
- Clean outside of glass
- Clean filtration systems
- Replace old equipment
- Clean and check your pump
- Clean overflow teeth, grates and vents
- Clean powerheads.
- Clean air fans used to cool tanks
- Soak pumps in vinegar overnight to break up calcium deposits
- Check tank and equipment joints / connections for signs of leaks.
Carefully plan changes and additions of any kind to your tank and most
importantly go slow! Many of the disasters listed in this article can be
prevented by making changes to your tank only after you fully
understand the underlying issues and consequences. Bad advice is easy to
come by on the Internet, so get advice from a consensus of experienced