Hello and thanks for reading. I have worked with freshwater tanks for awhile and am pretty familiar with how they work, but have always been mystified about the saltwater world. Here is what I have inherited:
Last weekend, we spotted an ad in the the local pet store for some tanks. We had wanted to upgrade a small tank downstairs and they had a larger tank for a good price. The people were getting out of the hobby in entirety and gave us their thirty gallon salt tank. They had went on vacation and left a fishsitter. When they got home, all the fish were dead (Ouch!) Instead of starting over, they decided to get rid of all the fish "stuff." They netted the fish out and drained most of the water out, but left enough to keep the rock and sand covered. They had had the tank running for less than a year. The tank was setting back in a room, unplugged and unheated. They did not say how long it had been unplugged, uncirculating. "Not long" was all they said. The water was not cloudy, dirty, no bad smell.
We brought the tank home, put in dechlorinated water with Instant Ocean (sorry here, did not know that tap water was a bad thing). Their heater was broken, so we got an appropriate sized one and stuck that in and brought the heat up to 80 degrees. There is a hang on the bank Millennium filter (either a 2000 or 3000. There is no marking on the filter, but that is what the box with spare cartridges states). There are two powerheads, but I am uncertain of size. I plugged those in as well. I tested the water and am currently bringing the specific gravity up as it is too low (was 1.010 when I first checked it).
I have not done anymore to the tank at this time. The only thing in the tank is the rock and sand. There is some green algae on the rock and I left that alone. There is some green algae in the sand and I have not stirred that up either. I don't know if I did more damage than good. They were just going to chuck the tank and it was brand new (purchased from Petand). I guess I am saying, I was not losing anything by trying SOMETHING.
Would it be appropriate to say that the rock and sand is now dead?
What should I have done? Or, what are the next steps to do? Or, break the whole tank down and start over?
Thank you all so much for reading this long post. I would appreciate any feedback!
Hi Cassie, congrats on the find. I wouldnt necessarily deduct that the rock and sand are dead. My recommendations would be to first, get the tank temp down to about 76-78. Familiarize yourself with the Nitrification cycle (if you're not already) and test your water for specific gravity (salinity), ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, phosphates, and PH. Post us the results, and in the meantime, periodically scope out the tank for any signs of life. Get yourself a red LED penlight, and check the tank in the middle of the night after all the lights have been out for a few hours too. If all of your water params look good after a few weeks, you might consider adding a few new pieces of LR. If the rock you have now is void of life, this will help to seed it. Regardless of how tempted you may be, do not try to add livestock too soon. Only bad things happen quickly in a Reef System.
Above is a very good place to start with advice.
Using tap does not condemn your tank for life. It's just that a person keeping delicate corals would probably avoid it. You'll be alright as you cycle up. If you decide keeping corals is for you, take a few weeks and start doing water changes with RO water to lower your phos, trate, trite and ammonia to nothing. If setting up with only fish and maybe simple soft corals, keep using tap.
Parameters right now
Thanks for the advice. That makes me feel better! = ) Here are the results I got so far.
Temperature is now at 78 degrees and just turned the heater down again to get it another degree colder.
Carbonate Hardness= 80
General Hardness= 100
Ph= Between 7.5 and 8 (Used a quick strip. Will use the real test tomorrow or Friday depending on my work schedule)
Specific Gravity is at 1.018. I have been mixing a gallon of salt with the aquarium water and then putting it back in the tank. Then, let it set a few hours read the hydrometer and do it again. I was afraid to go to fast with it and knew not to just pour the instant ocean in.
There is a VERY faint smell of ammonia in the tank. Would it be correct to do a water change? I was wanting to do one Friday (preferably) or Saturday, or should I do one sooner or wait a little longer?
Also, how often would I clean the filter in this start up process?
For the project, I don't have any time frame in mind for animals. I was not even thinking about adding any livestock until up into spring. I am aiming for Fish only with live rock. I'd like to do this the right way and not rush. I've had to nearly sit on my hands when I've cycled tanks before to not bring a fish home!
And yes, we are placing an order for the book you all have cited on this website. We had been talking about which would be a good one to get as we both like to do alot of research on our tanks.
The cycle will probably take about 6 weeks, at which point the ammonia should be gone. You need to get that PH up to 8.4 and SPG to at least 1.022 so that you don't stress any critters that may have survived. If keeping only fish, consider keeping the SPG near 1.022 as it can actually help prevent many common fish issues as most of the parasites/disease and such don't tolerate the lower salinity well. For reef tanks I prefer 1.026.
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