Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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beantownsox 09-25-2008 05:41 PM

Strange Clown Behavior
I just setup my 30 gallon marine aquarium again after being away at school for a year. i let the tank run for about a week before i added to percs to cycle it. Its been 3 days and the two looked fine throughout, they looked fine when they were in the store as well, the last few days one has become tired looking, he breathes heavily and rarely swims much, he never lays on the substrate he just kinda chills near the bottom of the tank, while the other is very active. The temp is around 78 all the time and the parameters are solid for a tank that is cycling, the ammonia level was around .2 yesterday so i added ammex to neutralize it, nitrate is beginning to spike and there hasnt been much nitrite. Salinity is 1.023, these two are the only two fish in the tank right now, its an eclipse filter and a t8 flourescent which is on tops 6 hours a day. He looks healthy otherwise, he hasnt lost color or doesnt appear to be sick hes just lazy maybe?


Pasfur 09-27-2008 08:27 AM

There is a lot built into this post, and I'm not sure how much experience you have in the hobby. I will provide a couple quick points and then we can move forward with a detailed answer if necessary. For the most part, how to properly set up a marine aquarium has been discussed steadily on this forum and the threads are very easy to locate in the marine section.

1 - When using a biological filter on a saltwater aquarium you would not want to add Clownfish until after the aquarium has fully cycled. These are hardy fish by marine standards, but not typically hardy enough to cycle an aquarium. The better choice would have been to cycle with Damsels, or better yet to set the aquarium up properly from the beginning.

2- The eclipse filter system is horrible by marine standards. There is just no other way to say it. The filter is designed to break down organic waste with the eventual result of Nitrate, which is not what we are looking for in a marine system. You will have to do very frequent water changes and limit your fish selection to only extremely hardy fish long term, such as Damsels, Clownfish, Baslets, and Dottybacks.

3- Very briefly, a properly set up saltwater aquarium does not use a biological filter. Live rock, aragonite sand, and a protein skimmer are the widely accepted filtration method.

CoralJedi 09-29-2008 12:07 PM

Beantownsox, You gotta watch some of those products that remove/lower ammonia such as Amquel. Most are very efficient at doing this..However, if you read the directions there tends to be a warning section "May lower oxygen levels". Another side-effects is that when you remove oxygen, you may lower your pH in the process. This may be why one of them is breathing very heavily. Low O2 and pH being the reason why. Just a theory. Hope that helps and check out the directions to see if there is any warning of sorts.

bettababy 09-29-2008 02:27 PM


Originally Posted by Pasfur
3- Very briefly, a properly set up saltwater aquarium does not use a biological filter. Live rock, aragonite sand, and a protein skimmer are the widely accepted filtration method.

Let me start by clarifying this typo. Live rock, sand bed... bioball medias sponge medias... those will create the biological filtration, which every marine environment needs, and relies on heavily for balance and survival.

Now, to address the original post and what I see...
I believe a good point was made about low O2 levels. Is there a powerhead in this tank? 30 gallons is a fair size tank and needs circulation. Eclipse systems are not appropriate for marine use. The filtration units in the Eclipse system don't push enough water flow, and don't allow for enough biological filtration to happen. They are also famous for clogging with salt creep over time. Eclipse if used properly will use carbon in the filtration unit, and carbon is not something to run long term on a marine tank. The best advise I could give for that problem is to remove the Eclipse cover/filtration unit and install a basic glass cover with either a good canister filter accompanied by 2 powerheads (if you need help in rating the size of the powerheads just let us know)... or you could work with a hang on filter alongside of a powerhead or 2. Fixing the filtration issue is going to be key in fixing the overall problems this tank has.

What I didn't see in your information is how much live rock you have in this tank, and what type of substrate you are using (sand or crushed coral, or something else). Those 2 pieces of info are ultimately important for us to help you.

There are a number of issues that could be affecting your fish, some of them more serious than others. This could be as simple as low O2 levels, or it could be something more serious such as gill flukes or even ammonia poisoning. I will also agree with the warning about using chemicals to fix problems in a marine tank. For every action this is a reaction, and chemical on top of chemical to treat natural problems can cause a chain reaction that at times, is deadly. Please use caution when adding anything chemical to this tank, especially when these chemicals offer a "quick fix". There is no such thing as a quick fix in a bottle, that is am important rule in marine keeping. Treating symptoms will often mask a problem until it is so serious it becomes deadly.

.2 ammonia is toxic. Anytime ammonia is in high enough quantity to show up on a test kit, you can assume its toxic. Nitrites is also highly toxic, and fish have a lower tolerance to nitrite than they do to ammonia. Nitrates is also toxic if it's in a high enough quantity for any length of time.

The proper way to set up and cycle a marine aquarium is to use the live rock and live sand to get it started. Any live rock that goes into a new aquarium will experience a period of die off. This is unavoidable and normal. Whenever the environment changes die off is going to occur with cured rock. There are many organisms that live in and on that rock and not all of them can handle water quality and temp changes which are brought with a new aquarium. If live rock is added at the same time but before sand, the sand can help to anchor and support the rock to allow for good building base to create structure and territory at all levels of the tank.

Now that you have already started, it's a little late to start this tank properly. There are a number of things you may be able to do to help correct the problems naturally, but we will need a lot more information before we can guide you through that process. At the end of this post I will outline the most important questions we need answered.

Before I get to the info questions, I first want to ask if you have a quarantine tank set up? If you don't, I am going to strongly urge you to do so now. IF we are dealing with a parasitic issue, which is very possible... you may need to quarantine the affected fish during treatment. A quarantine tank should be set up at least 4 - 6 wks before bringing home a new fish to allow it to cycle. Using water and rock from the main tank after cycling can be a quick and easy way to get a quarantine tank started, but it should still be given a wk or 2 before adding fish so it has time to stabilize. Some people also choose to use a few handfuls of sand from the main tank. If you need help in setting up a quarantine tank, please ask.

Ok, questions we need to ask in order to help you...

1. How much live rock is in the tank?
2. What substrate are you using?
3. How many powerheads are in the tank?
4. What is your pH reading?
5. What is your calcium level reading?
5. What stage of algae is the tank working through at this point?
6. How long from the time you put the fish into the tank before the
onset of problems?
7. Are there any other symptoms, such as scratching against rock or
other items in the tank?
8. How big are these fish?
9. On the sick fish, do the gills appear inflamed or discolored? Compare
the 2 fish, do the gill openings appear the same on both?

Pasfur 09-30-2008 07:44 AM


Originally Posted by bettababy

Originally Posted by Pasfur
3- Very briefly, a properly set up saltwater aquarium does not use a biological filter. Live rock, aragonite sand, and a protein skimmer are the widely accepted filtration method.

Let me start by clarifying this typo. Live rock, sand bed... bioball medias sponge medias... those will create the biological filtration, which every marine environment needs, and relies on heavily for balance and survival.

You know what betta, this has been going on with your posts for far to long and i'm not going to sit aside any longer and take your rude behavior. This was not a typo. In fact, it conveys to the reader a very accurate and simple ideal that is common in the hobby today.

This is a ridiculous attack on a very simple situation. Even worse, it support a style of filtration that inhibits success for the average hobbyist.

The term "filter" has meaning. And today's marine aquarium does not have a need for a biological filter, meaning biowheel, bioballs, sponge filter, undergravel filter, etc. Filters are man-made additions to an aquarium designed to remove debris from the water or to chemically alter the state of the water.

Live rock and live sand are not biological "filters" in the traditional meaning. Perhaps in your future posts you could attempt to help the situation, rather than attempt to rule the roost.

wake49 09-30-2008 11:37 AM

Both of you. Settle down.

Does this seem like a healthy way to DISCUSS flitration methods? I bet beantownsox is as confused as when he posted, if not more, because of this spitting contest. You both should be ashamed.

For starters, a filter is any material (such as cloth or SAND) through which gases or liquids pass through to suspend solids or impurities.

Biological filtration would therefore be a type of filtration that filters out organic matter, such as fish waste or uneaten food. It seems to me that a protein skimmer does this very task, as does a sand bed, and live rock. I believe that this is the point that Betta is trying to get across.

After reading both of your posts, I see a lot of similiarities in the advice you both give. If you can find a healthy way to agree on semantics, I think that you might find both of you can be a great assett of advice.

Beantownsox. My friend and I have both set up marine aquariums. He has a shallow sand bed, Live rock and a protein skimmer. I am running a Fluval 304 with no sponges, just carbon, a protein skimmer, a deep sand bed and live rock. At the end of the week we both get similiar readings. Trites are zero, ammonia 0, trates are usually in the 10 ppm range.

I am moving to a sump setup as soon as the budget permits. I will put a filter sock on my oulet to catch large particles, and use a fuge with a DSB and cheato and other beneficial macroalgaes. But until then, my Fluval 304 is running the aquarium just fine.

It seems that despite betta's and pasfur's opinions, both can offer years of experience and education in the hobby. Sometimes I think that one or the other can stand behind some antiquated ideas, so pick out what you think will help you the most. You will find out that there are a lot of different opinions in this hobby and in the end, only true trial and error is the best way of learning.

Hope this helps.

Filter definition:

bettababy 09-30-2008 04:10 PM

I am settled down and not attempting to rule anything.

I am, however, confused by the comments about biological filtration. Anytime you have a wet surface and oxygen, you will have nitrifying bacteria. When you have a wet surface with no oxygen, you will find denitrifying bacteria. The nitrifying and denitrifying (also known as aerobic and anaerobic) bacteria are biological filtration. The best example of biological filtration is the nitrogen cycle. Bacteria eat ammonia, their waste product is nitrite, more bacteria eat nitrite and their waste product is nitrate, and if you finish the cycle with denitrifying bacteria, they eat nitrate and convert it to nitrogen gas.

Nature provides many forms of natural filtration, including sponges, sea squirts, feather starfish, feather dusters, rock, sand, etc. Not all of these offer biological filtration, but they do offer forms of natural filtration.

So I guess my question is this:
How do you cycle an aquarium without biological filtration? And how do you avoid biological filtration in a marine environment?

If I'm wrong, then can you then please define "biological filtration"?

Pasfur 09-30-2008 07:13 PM

Bryce - awesome post. Agreed.

Everyone - Obviously there was history that is not showing on this thread. We took this offline and hopefully it is a non issue moving forward.

Betta - my public appologies for what appears to be a misunderstanding.

Back to the thread...

There is a significant difference in "biological filtration" and a "biological filter." Let me explain.

A biological filter, as sold and purchased for use on an aquarium, will break down organic waste with the end result of Nitrate. This is bad. Sponge filters, u/g filters, biowheel, bioballs, etc. All of these pump Nitrate into the aquarium.

Biological filtration occurs in many forms. Live rock and sand provide biological filtration in a marine aquarium. They process organic waste, and if properly set up, the end result is Nitrogen Gas, which leaves the system naturally and is not toxic. Nitrate does not build up to any significant degree in such an environment.

Continuing on...

The "cycle" very often does not occur in a marine aquarium. This is because most live rock purchased for the home aquarium has already been "cured" and has all of the necessary bacteria for processing organic waste in an aquarium. There is a very distinct difference in the freshwater cycle, which allows time for bacteria to grow, and the saltwater curing process, which allows for life to die. In saltwater, the bacteria are already present. (Yes, the bacteria expand into the sand, but many systems are set up without sand with no ill effect on the initial cycle.)

Everyone - again, my appologies for overreacting. I am simply here to share my personal experience and it often seems there is power positioning going on that does not benefit the hobby. I sincerely hope my posts are never interpreted that way. This is just a decade of frustration with internet forums. Maybe i need a break.

bettababy 09-30-2008 09:40 PM

To pasfur,
apologies all the way around for any "misunderstandings" between us.
So that we can focus on helping the author of this post with the original problem, I will suggest we begin a thread of our own to discuss/debate biological filters and biological filtration, in a friendly manner.

To beantownsox,
I look forward to your next reply with the needed information for us to help with your fish. I did not intend for this thread to go off topic, and I in no way wished to hijack it. You might wish to also contribute to another thread with us to further discuss biological filters and the filtration process.
I think the point both pasfur and I were concerned about when things got a bit out of hand was that properly cycling a marine tank is vitally important to its immediate success, and that filtration is also vitally important and could be contributing to the problem your fish is having at present.
I will come back and help with this thread as much as I'm able to get here, and I look forward to the other thread I mentioned. I hope everyone joins in on both threads, as both are very important topics.

wake49 10-03-2008 10:07 AM

How's the clown doing?

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