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coachkells 01-13-2010 10:26 PM

46 Gal Bow Front
6 Attachment(s)
Here is my new tank been set up for about a month now. I bought the tank off craigslist complete for $350.00

magnum 350 canister filter (currently not running)
16" CPR refuge w/protein skimmer (1" sand and LR frags)
Current Nova Extreme T-5, 156 watts, 4 bulb (2 blue 2 white)
maxi-jet 900
40 lb. live sand
50 old LR (been sitting in salt water for 6 months Pump running)
10 LR from LFS

Nitrates 0-20 ppm
Nitrites 0
Total Alkalinity 300 ppm
ph 7.9
Ammonia 0

1 clown
1 cleaner shrimp
1 rainfordi goby
5 hermit crabs

Should I have so much brown algae in my refuge?
Should I clean any of the brown algae out of my refuge?
What is the white material in my refuge and should it be there?
How long should the diatom bloom last? (It started about a week and a half ago)
Are the bubbles on the algae normal?( I had a problem with microbubbles early on which has now been taken care of, could those be for earlier trapped air in the rock)
Should I scrape off the old coralline algae on the back of the tank?

The following pictures are of my tank and refuge:

Pasfur 01-14-2010 05:24 AM

Ok. I am having one of those moments where I am not sure where to start. From looking at the pictures, I assume that you moved the system as is? In other words, you didn't start over, using the equipment. You actually disassembled the tank and moved it to your location, setting it back up all in the same day. Is this correct?

My preference would have been to utilized the equipment and rock, but start the system from scratch. For anyone reading, any time you buy used, you will be much better off if you start from the beginning. Not knowing the history of an aquarium system (first hand) makes it all the more difficult to do the right thing.

That being said, we are here. So lets take some action to maximize your long term success. You have a lot going for you. You have a nice amount of live rock, although an experienced eye tells me that about 2/3 of that rock is base rock. Base rock is much less porous and generally does not have the benefits of actual live rock. This is one reason i recommend purchasing dry rock rather than base. Dry rock is extremely porous and become live. Base rock is highly questionable as to what you can honestly expect to achieve. My guess... and this is a crazy guess based on nothing but my experience... my guess is that the person selling this tank could never get hair and bubble algae problems under control.

At this point you should use a razor blade to scrape off the dead coraline algae (the white stuff on the glass). When you do, I would suggest turning on the canister filter for 24 hours, just to help remove the free floating gunk of algae that you are going to have. You do not want to use the canister long term, because it will cause more harm than good. But it will work for a quick clean up of free floating algae and detritus. Speaking of detritus, when you do the algae scrapping, also take that powerhead and use the water current to spray into the live rock bed, blowing any dirt which may have settled off the rock. A final thought on this, you need to be certain that the canister filter has a strainer on the intake. The intake will be powerful and a strainer is needed to protect the fish.

I also like that you have a refugium, although I question the ability of the protein skimmer to handle a tank of this size. A thought that comes to mind on this is that the live rock, sand, and protein skimmer all compliment each other to make up the life support system of the tank. I've already pointed out that some of the live rock appears to be base rock. Then the skimmer is really not what we want. And, to finish it off, the sand bed is not a 4'' depth. The lesser depth will not provide efficient denitrification. So, we actually have all 3 important components of this system at a quality that does not meet the standards we should be aiming for. This is concerning. But again, the fixes should be easy, and you got a great deal on the price.

I know i'm jumping all over the place. Next topic, light bulbs. How old are these bulbs? If the bulbs are over 12 months old this will contribute greatly to algae problems, especially on a system where phosphate buildup was clearly a problem in the past. It is probably time to replace the bulbs.

The brown diatom on the rock would normally occur in weeks 3 to 5 and last for about 2 weeks. The green bubble algae on your rocks is enough to scare the last breath of life out of me. As soon as I saw those bubbles I was almost ready to tell you to disassemble the tank and start over. Hopefully this was only a result of the move and will clear up quickly. A correctly set up and maintained marine system should really not experience the dreaded bubble algae.

I need better pictures of the refugium to help. I can't tell what I'm looking at in the picture above.

By the way, Total Alkalinity and Alkalinity are not the same thing. Total Alkalinity is a freshwater term used to measure calcium carbonates. In marine systems we are interested in all buffers, and are interested in calcium alone, not just the calcium which is included in calcium carbonate. You need to purchase an alkalinity test kit and a calcium test kit. When you do, you will also want a buffer and a calcium supplement. I personally use Kent Marine Super Buffer DKH and Kent Marine liquid Calcium Chloride.

coachkells 01-14-2010 11:38 AM

Ok, let get started the tank had been broken down for about 3 months, when I bought it. The now dead coarlline algaes still had a little pink in it and the guy I bought it from said it could come back so I left it mistake number 1. The rock I bought the same day from another source and after reading some other post I dont think I cleaned the rock sufficantly mistake number 2. The guy at the LFS told me the sand bed would be sufficant mistake number 3. I have a ten gallon QT setup should I move the fish over there and start over? or should I just try and clean the rock and tank during a water change. I dont mind starting over but my girlfriend might.

As for the protien skimmer I couldn't figure out if it was a good or bad thing from you statements. The collection cup is 3x3x4 and it becomes half full about every 2 to 3 days, with a thick brown liquid. I will try and get a few better pictures of the refugium in the next couple days if not tonight.
As for the bubbles I dont believe that they are bubble algae they will blow off with the power head and pop at the surface. But I have been wrong before.

As for the alkalinity test it said total buffer but I will invest in those two test.

Now the lights, the guy I bought the tank from said they were changed about three months before he broke the tank down, how much I can trust him god only knows.

Finally the rock, do I need to invest in some dry rock. The rock I have is porous but not extremly porous. It also has some branch rock in there too.

Thanks Pasfur for all your help.

Pasfur 01-14-2010 02:48 PM

Well, from your answers things are little bit better than at first glance. As far as the rock, you have plenty. You have a nice reef structure. If you think the rock is a decent quality then don't make any changes. However, it is appears to you that several of those larger base pieces are solid chunks that are to heavy for their size, and have very little porosity, then I might replace those with some other pieces of dry rock. Bottom line, the tank is not that big, so you want to take maximum advantage of all the space.

I would not start over. You did the right thing already. You are just experiencing a heavy diatom bloom. I suspect that dirty white stuff in your refugium is compounding the situation. I just can't tell what that is. I need more pictures. Same with the protein skimmer. It is difficult to form an opinion without seeing it or knowing the brand.

As for setting up the 10 gallon as a Q tank, I don't think it is necessary. There is no reason for you ....
Ok, just kidding. Of course you should set the 10 up as a Q! EVERYONE needs a Q.

coachkells 01-14-2010 04:31 PM

Ok I got home and most of the bubbles were gone from the rocks.
Question about lighting how long should it be on for? Currently it runs from 3:00 pm to 10:00 pm antics about 45 min before and after. I am going to replace the 10k lights first most likely tonight. I hope that takes care of some of the problem.
As for the sand bed should I beef it up and if so how would you go about doing it?

Thanks again.

coachkells 01-14-2010 11:43 PM

2 Attachment(s)
The following are the images of the skimmer you asked for. The protein skimmer is apart of the refuge. The pictures are not the best seeing as the refuge is hanging on the back of the tank.

CPR model AFPSS skimmer size 3x4x15 maxi-jet 600 running it.

you can get a better view at

coachkells 01-19-2010 09:35 PM

Ok I have replaced all 4 lights with 3 Giesemann Actinic and One Aquablue+
I removed all the dead coralline algae from the back of the tank, like you suggested. I also removed a few dead coral head that were accumulating lots of algae. Retested tank results as follows. (10% water change 3 days ago)

Nitrates between 0-20 ppm
Nitrites 0
Ammonia 0
pH 8.2
Calcium 378 + or - 2
dKH 15

Just added 4.6 ml Kent Liquid calcium
Is my dKH to high?

Where to go from here?

coachkells 01-23-2010 04:09 PM

Retested dKH last night

dKH 13.5
Calcium 394

Pasfur 01-24-2010 06:29 AM


Originally Posted by coachkells (Post 309138)

Nitrates between 0-20 ppm
Nitrites 0
Ammonia 0
pH 8.2
Calcium 378 + or - 2
dKH 15

Just added 4.6 ml Kent Liquid calcium
Is my dKH to high?

Where to go from here?

Ok, first things first. Are you adding anything to your tank that you have not told us about? ANYthing? Magnesium? Coral boost? etc etc. Maybe you are dripping or recently dripped kalkwasser? The reason I ask is that you have a situation which so rarely occurs. Your calcium levels are at the bottom of the ideal range, but your alkalinity (DKH) is high.

Before you continue reading, test the alkalinity again and double check the results.

IF you confirm the alkalinity reading is correct AND you do not have any additional information to share with us, then {Sigh} this thread just became very complicated. :-?

The rest of this conversation is over my head. I know WHAT to do, but I can't do justice to explaining the chemistry behind WHY you do this. Honestly, very few people really can, which is why all the experts in this hobby turn to Randy Holmes Farley with their complicated questions on alkalinity. I will explain to you WHAT to do, and then give you a few links to Randy Holmes Farley articles that provide the chemistry explanation to my answer. OK?

Here goes:

Do water changes. Lots of them, frequently and large, until the situation is corrected. I would suggest 20% every other day until you find that calcium and alkalinity have reversed. In other words, alkalinity should deplete faster than calcium, or at the same rate. But you should not have such huge distinctions between calcium and alkalinity readings, meaning a test result which shows calcium low and alkalinity very high.

Quick explanation loaded with imperfect facts:

Calcium is one of the major buffering ions. There are many other buffering ions, all that are at an EXACT ratio to calcium. These other buffers are what you are adding to the tank, along with the calcium chloride. Kind of. You can't just add calcium, because there is an over use of the other ions, and the calcium chloride has no available carbonates to bond with, meaning it will likely precipitate out of solution. Again, this chemistry is crazy complicated, as you will see if you read these articles:

Reef Aquarium Water Parameters by Randy Holmes-Farley -
Chemistry and the Aquarium

This next link is totally unnecessary in practice, because the modern products on the shelf at your LFS are greatly improved, but the article offers some great insight to how calcium and magnesium impact alkalinity:
An Improved Do-it-Yourself Two-Part Calcium and Alkalinity Supplement System by Randy Holmes-Farley -

Again, doing water changes is the solution. And in the meantime, stop dosing both calcium and the buffer until the DKH drops to a reading which is respectively "under" the calcium reading, speaking to the balance of the two tests as they relate to one another.

When you get things back to normal, with routine buffering, dosing, and testing, you will not be in this situation again. Which is why, after nearly 2 years on this forum, for the very FIRST TIME, I just recommended doing a water change as a solution to a problem in a marine tank. ;-)

coachkells 01-24-2010 07:46 PM

I am not adding anything but calcium (and will stop now). I tested the source water and it is very hard. Alkalinity around 10+ and and after I add salt (Instant Ocean) it is roughly 13 dKH. I don't have an RO/DI system yet. The LFS is about 35 min away and day water changes are not possible at this time. I will test the water of the city in which I work and is if the alkalinity is any lower, if so I will use that as my source and start daily water changes till I can afford the RO/DI system.

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