Hi everyone, new to reefs, got a few questions

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself' started by BCReefer, Oct 1, 2011.

  1. BCReefer

    BCReefer pro stoner, newb reefer

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    Hi everyone,
    Ive had my reef tank going for 6 months now and i seem to have more questions now than when i started, so any and all advice is welcome.

    I'm running a 55 gal tank right now with 7 small fish and i just bought a couple corals. Protein skimmer is a jebo in-tank jobby, I was told its good to 90 gal so it seems it should do the trick. I just upgraded my light to a 216W T5, with 2 daytime lights, 2 actinic blue guys and some moon lights. I also have an air pump and air stone going on the same timer as the lights, it seems to make the fish livelier in the day and helps em calm down at night.

    Everything I add in gets added slowly because I'm a student and cant afford to spend $200 on live rock for example.

    K to the questions:

    My nitrate seems to always be higher than i'd like it, like between 10-20 ppm and despite too many water changes i just cant seem to get it down. So Im wondering if the following are reasons why...

    Wondering what the difference is between "live sand" and gravel? The fish store lady said regular aquarium gravel would do the trick but everyone thats serious about reef tanks seems to have finer sand. Something to do with nitrates?

    Similarly, the difference between "live rock" and real rock is unknown to me. I have about 10-15 pounds of live rock and about twice that much regular shale and sandstone rock to make more places to hide for the fish. I've read that live rock helps the filtering and amounts to less maintenance. But i just cant justify spending a few hundred bucks on rocks. Every once in a while i buy a small uncultured piece of live rock and add it in. So my questions are how long does it take to culture this rock and what are its benefits compared to other rock, and is it worth spending the money ?

    It's occured to me that im overfeeding, but no matter how much i feed them they seem to want more so thats probably not it. The hermit crabs and shore crabs know when its feeding time too so as soon as the smell's in the water there's this mass migration to the middle of the tank to clean up the extras. I've got around 15-20 hermits and about 5 shore crabs from the ocean that are doing just fine in water 30 degrees above what theyre used to.

    Next, I just bought a few little corals. First i got a little mushroom frag, which seemed to thrive with my crappy burnt out regular flourescent bulb, but since adding the 216 T5 its shrunk. So I put it in a dark corner and its doing a bit better but still not as lively. Then once i got the T5 I got a finger leather, a toadstool and a cladiella? im new to corals so i could be wrong on those. Anyway they dont look as chipper as they did in the store so i wanna make them happy. Is my protein skimmer enough for the water flow? the air bubbler helps circulate water too but maybe i need more? Also, fish store lady sold me some powder coral food to be added 2-3 times a week, which makes the polyps on the toadstool come out so it looks like its working. I've heard any nitrates are bad for corals which concerns me cause i've always got nitrate in my tank. Im wondering what else i need to add for them and what other chemicals i need to watch.

    Which leads me to my test kit - its not exactly complete. If anyone knows somewhere that sells a cheap complete test kit i'd be interested. I've taken my water in a couple times to see if there's something im missing but they always only say do a water change to take out some nitrates, which i have to do far more than most people. I've read about calcium being important for corals, what about iron? CO2 content? magnesium? anything like that? expert help would be welcome.

    Next, I have this little puffer that's a bit of a dick, i call him Dick Cheney because he likes to attack most things in the tank without provocation or reason. Im confused as to what he is, its either a striped toby or a valentin's pufferfish. At any rate, logic says i should get rid of him because he attacks my snails, so i have to manually clean the algae off. I've also got this growth next to one of my corals (forget what the name is) that fish store lady said gets eaten by peppermint shrimp, but im pretty sure Dick Cheney's gonna have a field day on these $8 shrimp so i dont wanna get any. Sometimes he gets enough at feeding time and doesnt bother anything else, but he's usually on the prowl 24/7, and now he's starting to target the toadstool. Any hints on subdueing him? i dont just wanna get rid of him cause he's got alot of character but if he's throwing the tank out of equillibrium i guess i should.

    thanks for the help, ill try to get some pics up when i can.
     
    BCReefer, Oct 1, 2011
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  2. BCReefer

    little_fish Moderator

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    Hello and Welcome!

    The high nitrates are probably a result of too many fish in a young tank, i wouldnt go over 1 fish for every 10 gallons until your tank is at least a year old. Removing a few fish will help, and you are probably overfeeding. Fish are always hungry because in the ocean they dont get a set meal every day. Just half a frozen cube every other day is plenty for your fish.

    Also, air stones and pumps are freshwater technology that just wreck havoc with saltwater tanks. I would suggest getting rid of that and putting in some powerheads. Flow is super important in saltwater tanks so want your tank volume turned over around 40 times per hour. I would get this fixed as soon as possible, its that important to your fish and corals.

    And your gravel is probably causing some issue as are the rocks you are using. The gravel is catching all the uneaten food, poop and other junk, allowing it to rot and then causing the nitrates. Also your rocks are not helping you much. You want to use rocks that are from the ocean, not land based rocks. Land based rocks arent very porous and can leach out metals that will either fuel algae or kill your sensitive inverts. This is a good example of the kinda rocks you want in your tank: MarcoRocks Aquarium Products

    Also the only different between dry and live rocks is that live rocks has a population of bacteria on it capable of breaking down wastes to less toxic chemicals, so anything you put in your tank will become live over time. Most people only put in a couple lbs of live rock and then do the rest dry rock. Its much cheaper and in a few months it all looks the same anyways.

    Mushrooms expand when there isnt a much light so they can gather more energy, so with the new lights they dont need to expand as much to get them same amount of light. Give them some time and they will adjust. The other corals are leathers and they can get very pissy when moved around. Just give them time and they will perk up. Also the corals you have are considered soft corals, and dont need any sort of food or additives. Adding that coral food is just adding to your nitrate problem. When you move up to stony corals, just doing regular waterchanges will supply them with everything they need, but you should also add testing your calcium, alk and magnesium to your list. Cheap test kits can be found online, i would suggest the API brand. Dont get the test strips, they can be wildly inaccurate. There is a thread on vendors that ship to Canada if you cant find them locally (might also be cheaper to order online fyi)

    Also, that is nature of puffer. They eat inverts. Which is why ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS research the fish, corals, anything you buy before you buy it. It will save you so much pain and money in the end. Also LFS are notorious for giving poor advice, so i would highly suggest looking online instead. They are cool fish and i would keep him, but just remember this for the future and try and find other methods of algae control. I would be willing to bet they sold you a really crappy skimmer, ive never seen a quality skimmer for sale in a store. A really good brand for the money are the reef octopus skimmers.

    I hope that helps!
     
    little_fish, Oct 1, 2011
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  3. BCReefer

    Smitty

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    Hello and welcome to the site...glad to have you aboard.
    10-20 ppm of nitrates aren't too bad, just continue to do weekly water changes.
    For your sand, if you have crushed coral, it will trap the fish waste and food, which will contribute to higher nitrates also...you should switch to aragonite based sand.
    The regular (base) rock will eventually become live, so you did the right thing buying just a lil live rock to seed the rest.
    You should really remove that bubbler from the tank, it's not used in saltwater tanks, and add a powerhead at the surface of the water for water movement. Your corals are all easier corals, so they should do nicely for you, once they become more settled. No need to add anything to your tank, just do your water changes to keep everything balanced and happy.
    I'd definitely remove that puffer, he is not reef safe, and will eventually eat all your snails and crabs and possibly corals...and if you as shrimp, he'll eat those too. Those things growing are called aptasia, and peppermint shrimp do eat them.
    Sounds like you're off to a good start, and feel free to ask any other questions you may have.
     
    Smitty, Oct 1, 2011
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  4. BCReefer

    Waddi Shenanigans? VIP Member

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    Welcome to the Reef!!
    Looks like lil' fish and smitty got ya covered!
     
    Waddi, Oct 1, 2011
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  5. BCReefer

    315hottuna61 " Take a Kid Fishing " VIP Member

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    welcome to this damn good site. +1 to all above :sfish:
     
    315hottuna61, Oct 1, 2011
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  6. BCReefer

    marcah

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    howdy and welcome to the site.:D
     
    marcah, Oct 2, 2011
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  7. BCReefer

    BCReefer pro stoner, newb reefer

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    thanks for all the advice evryone

    so why is the bubbler so bad? the fish seem to like it, it helps the flow of water, it adds oxygen and it looks cool.

    fish store lady said the aptasia are weeds, but i kinda like the way it looks. why are they considered bad? i'd rather have a tank full of living things than bare rock.

    roger that on the gravel and sand, but i'll probably buy a powerhead and new test kit before rocks and such. i was wondering if my water changes are done right, ive been siphoning from the bottom to stir up all the poop and old food, like i would in a freshwater tank. i understand the principle of having less nooks for nitrate-causing stuff to fall into, but wouldnt more porous rocks have a whole bunch more nooks for that stuff to accumulate?

    Sometimes i can hardly find any hermits in the tank. i've never seen Dick Cheney go for them but maybe he does. I have seen him go for shore crabs but their claws are bigger and he usually gets nipped so he's stopped that. Anyway my question is, do hermits sometimes canibalise each other? I've seen em playing with each others shells but never a full-on hermit crab fight, if they did i'd stop and watch lol. The most I've seen at one time is about 15, and ive bought way more than that. if i am overfeading, then the hermits should have plenty to eat, so they shouldnt be dying unless they kill each other / Dick eats them.

    what are others ways of keeping the algae down? i just scrub the front of the tank so it looks good, and the hermits do a little algae maintenance but not alot. short of selling Dick Cheney and buying snails i dont know how to keep it away.
     
    BCReefer, Oct 2, 2011
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  8. BCReefer

    Waddi Shenanigans? VIP Member

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    If im correct the bubbler messes with the pH.
    Aptaisa also when you get your coral or whatever tend to sting kill anything close, and if its not close, it will spread and become close!
    And if i were you dont stir up the sand ever, even though you think you may be sucking nitrates up, your just kicking up the ones that have built up.
    I never see my hermits either, i know that some will kill a snail if it likes its shell.
    Algae goes away with good water changes, good flow, good cleanup crew, like snails of variety and hermits.

    Hope i answered everything! :D
     
    Waddi, Oct 2, 2011
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  9. BCReefer

    BCReefer pro stoner, newb reefer

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    here's my setup, not the best pic, its tough to get a good one with that bright light. the other pic's Dick Cheney, anyone know if he's a striped toby or a valentins puffer?
     

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    BCReefer, Oct 2, 2011
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  10. BCReefer

    Waddi Shenanigans? VIP Member

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    Valentini Puffer.
     
    Waddi, Oct 2, 2011
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  11. BCReefer

    BCReefer pro stoner, newb reefer

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    I've never seen any change in ph since adding the bubbler, its always hanging around 8.0-8.2

    I've been reading about mangrove trees, people say they help filter the excess phosphates and nitrates. anyone have any experience with them? i've never seen them in stores or online shops, nor in anyones reef pics.

    also, the comment about 1/2 a cube every 2 days seems almost cruel to me. I feed em twice a day and i thought i should be doing it more often and feeding less. I usually do dry brine shrimp flakes in the morning cause im lazy and short on time and then about 1/3 cube of frozen mysis or brine shrimp at night. the valentini puffer and the yellow goby get kindy pissy when they dont get enough so i use them as a guage as to how much to feed. also, i've heard the general rule is feed them 2 minutes worth of food, and these guys demolish the shrimp in less than a minute so i wouldnt think im giving too much. thoughts?

    here's pics of "Barney" the alpha of the tank. he was very stressed the first week i got him, then one day he took on the yellow goby and took over his killer home and 1st place on the pecking order. i didnt see the goby for about a week and a half, i thought he was gone for sure, then one day i saw him hiding in the corner so i rearranged all the rocks to simulate a change in environment and he's found a good new home and is back to his old self. Anyway, barney took runs at everyone for the first 3-4 weeks and even made the firefish stay hidden for about 2 weeks and i thought he was done too. But now that the pecking order has been established theres hardly any tussles except when barney takes the yellow goby's threats seriously and chases him back into his home. Im getting sidetracked though, I forget what barney is, he's the exact same shape as a bicolour dottyback, just without the yellow. he's way to frickin fast to get a good pic so if anyone can figure it out it would be helpful : )
     

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    BCReefer, Oct 2, 2011
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  12. BCReefer

    AquaOverflow

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    :bounce: Welcome to the forum!!! :bounce:
     
    AquaOverflow, Oct 14, 2011
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  13. BCReefer

    valasaraptor Proud ocelot owner!

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    hes a purple pseudochromis
     
    valasaraptor, Oct 14, 2011
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