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Mostly Rock

My accidental addiction

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Let me start with a little history. I've been keeping FW fish, predominantly African Cichlids for about 20 years... African Cichlids are tough as nails, so I've probably developed some disgusting habits. My daughter has been a fish fanatic since she could lift her head, so her first tank was set up when she was only about a month old. I set up a community, planted tank for her room, and spent most weekends watching her reaction to different fish in my various LFS's. She always got more bubbly around the SW fish, but I've always stayed away from SW because of the horror stories about tank crashes due to one wrong move. When she went nutzoid over a FW flounder, I picked up a couple... Yeah, without researching them. After researching them I discovered that they had to be moved from FW to SW via a brackish transition in order to grow to adulthood. Around the same time, I stumbled into a used 75 gal with a 10 gal sump, an overflow box and a couple of pumps. I dropped in a 2" aragonite bed and cycled the tank, then, after adding the Flounder I added a cup of CoraLife salt every 2 days until I hit a specific gravity of 1.023. Zero water changes. I watched my PH, ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. PH stayed between 8 and 8.4, Nitrites and ammonia stayed 0 and nitrates never got over 40ppm (remember, Cichlids are fine with over 100ppm of nitrates, so I had no clue that there was a need for water changes). During that period I became more excited about SW fish and Corals than I had ever allowed myself to get before. I added 100lbs of live rock (over a period of a couple months) and built a solid clean up crew (including a Sea Hare) and now I have a decent number of fish. My nitrates stick around 35ppm. I recently added a skimmer, because I finally started looking for answers on my own instead of asking my LFS, and I finally found Robs Podcasts! I'm up to episode 45 now. After all I've learned, I want to start over! I am trying to decide if I should add a few bags of SouthDown to get a DSB, I now know that I need a real test kit, but I'm not sure which one to get (I've been living off the test strips forever.) and I really want to start adding corals, but there is a massive amount of education I need before I start doing that. I am looking for as much advice as you guys care to throw my way, and I am reading forum posts as much as possible.

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  1. Mostly Rock's Avatar
    So I just found out that it's not a sump, it's a wet/dry, and the BioBalls are a Nitrate factory... Any Ideas on mods or media once I get all the BioBalls out?
  2. CarmieJo's Avatar
    SW fish are OK with some nitrates but not most corals. Removing the bioballs is a first step to lowering them and then I would begin looking a a remote deep sand bed (RDSB) or deep sand bed. Southdown is no longer available so you will have to look for aragonite elsewhere. I would not bother buying live sand in a bag.
  3. Mostly Rock's Avatar
    I tested today, what I tested for and the results are as follows:
    Ammonia: 0
    Nitrites: 0
    Nitrates: between 15 and 20 (my API test kit is in the mail)
    Phosphates: 0.1
    Calcium: 540 (yeah, that's high)
    Alkalinity: 7.0 (yup, low, what a coincidence)
    Magnesium: 1300
    Salinity: 1.023
    Should I continue with the 50% water changes or switch to 15% a week?
  4. Mostly Rock's Avatar
    Water test this am gave me some pretty weird results.
    Ammonia: 0
    Nitrites: 0
    Nitrates: between 5 and 10 (these colors are hard to judge!)
    Phosphates: 0.1 (got some good tips from Iggy on that @ the ORCA frag swap tonight!)
    Calcium: 600 (and no, I didn't add anything but reef accelerator)
    Alk: 7 (still!)
    Mag: 1700 (how?!?)
    Salinity: 1.023
    This is a bit frustrating, why is my Magnesium jumping like that, and why isn't the calcium and alk leveling out with the water changes? Should I dose with Alkalin 8.3?
  5. Mostly Rock's Avatar
    I got my new Koralia 750's yesterday and set them up at opposite ends of the tank. I also moved my new corals off the substrate (my Bullet Goby keeps covering them with substrate.) and have been making stupid mistake after stupid mistake ever since.
    First, my purple mushroom (Yeah, Dick told me to leave it alone, it'll find a home and thrive, or it won't... but did I listen? nope, Why? after almost 40 years of being me, I still don't know why I sometimes fail to listen to experience when I know I should...) it did find a spot on the substrate and it sat there for a day. Then I moved it onto a rock, it fell off... I did that several times, in several different ways, then I moved it across the tank to under the overflow box where it slowly scooted over into a strong current that blew it across the tank again, then I moved him back across the tank and stuck him in a small cavern where he promptly puked up his guts. He has since retracted them and has sort of settled out a bit. I'm just going to leave him alone now.
    Next is the Xenia. Every time I come back into the office he's face down in the substrate again. When I move him into the direct flow of one of the Koralia 750's he closes up and doesn't look so hot once he starts opening up again. I finally moved him under one of the Koralia 750's so he gets some flow but not too much.
    The Frogspawn however looks like he's loving the extra flow, but he too keeps getting blown off of his perch. I finally clamped the tile he's attached to between two rocks and he looks to be happy.
    The Ricordea only got flipped, cause I noticed some small pink flower looking things all over the bottom of the rock it came on, I'm hoping turning them toward the light will help them propagate all over the surrounding live rock, but I think a lot of them got crushed cause I didn't notice them earlier.
    The Orange Cap has had nothing exciting happen (other than the small piece that broke off during transit, I placed that on the live rock in hope of more growth.)
    The Zoanthids are still only opening three at a time, I moved them just onto the bottom of the live rock, I'm thinking about trimming away most of the tile they're on so maybe they'll spread onto the live rock.
    Aside from all of my coral excitement, I found out I need to move my algae clip away from the Koralia 750, so I don't create an algae Blizzard! As much as my tangs looked to be in heaven, I'm not sure that was really a beneficial event...
  6. Mostly Rock's Avatar
    So I figured out my Mg issue, it was the 5 gallons of live sand from another reefer's tank that I had recently added. It's stable at about 1450 now, another water change or 2 and it'll be @ the 1300 range. The Nitrates are low enough now that the API test kit is irritating me, I can't figure out if it's higher or lower than 5ppm. Good news, cause before TR and ORCA, I couldn't drop it below 40!
    I have done a few really kool things and one or two really stupid things recently. First on the UberKool meter is I got a couple pieces of LR from Amphibious (Really beautiful, with all kinds of hitch hikers like a scallop and my first bristle worm!) along with a Green Star Polyp and my first Red or Rose Bubble Tip Anemone! Which is where stupid action number 1 comes in. I used a 5 gallon bucket to transport it all, not a big deal, I know. When I got home I set up my drip, about 15, 20 min later when the water level was going up, I pulled out the LR and dropped it in the tank, figuring I'll spend a few hours acclimating the RBTA and the coral, and be done. Well... The RBTA was AWOL. She jumped ship to the large piece of LR, and basically got little to no acclimation process. I was very worried for a few days, but she is very fat and happy right now, actively taking food and reaching toward the light.
    So I averted disaster with pure dumb luck. I've been doing that for over a year with this tank (now that I think about it, I've been doing that all my life in almost every category!) So on to stupid decision number 2. I have a problem with my Lawnmower Blenny and my Starry Eyed Blenny. The Lawnmower blenny is about a half an inch bigger and about fiftyleven times more aggressive. The Starry Eyed Blenny stays hidden (which sux, because she is definitely the more attractive of the two.) so I've been trying to capture the lawnmower blenny (without pulling over a hundred pounds of LR out...) Today I broke down and bought a lb of LR rubble COVERED with Hair Algae. I figure that if I can bait the LM Blenny with the hair algae I can catch him in the net. I currently have a large net sitting on the substrate with a few pieces of hair algae covered rubble in the net. I figure the hair algae won't survive very long with my sea hare loose in my DT, so it's a safeESQUE bet, but this could possibly end in disaster.
  7. Mostly Rock's Avatar
    I found another hitch hiker!!! It's a decorator crab! This is really kool! I also have a patch of live rock that pukes out white stuph every once and a while, so I think there's something else living in there that I can't see yet.
  8. CarmieJo's Avatar
    That's a cool hitchhiker!
  9. Mostly Rock's Avatar
    So I'm doing my water change. I have a jug of salt water with a small powerhead in it preparing the water to be introduced into my tank. I'm blowing detritus around with my turkey baster, and I hear my wife asking my daughter why her hands are wet. No, I didn't take notice, I just went on about my business... I get the tank siphoned down, I pull out the power head... and there's a whitish glob of gunk hanging off of the intake! What could it possibly be!?! ...toilet paper. My daughter, the most amazing person in the entire world, crammed a bunch of toilet paper into my make up water. So now I'm hurriedly mixing another jug... I really need more extra jugs.
  10. Mostly Rock's Avatar
    Dear God it takes forever for that mess to mix! When I'm prepping the day after the water change (OK, so, maybe it takes me about three days to get three jugs ready...) it's not a big deal... when I need it NOW, it's CRAZY SLOW!
  11. CarmieJo's Avatar
    Oh no! Toilet paper!