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kmasonbx 10-16-2010 09:26 PM

Fish Behavior Question
 
Realized I posted this in the wrong forum.

I'm just starting my aquarium and have just introduced fish. Originally I bought 2 Three Stripe Damsels and after a few days they were doing fine so I bought 3 more fish,2 more damsels, 1 yellow tail and 1 domino as well as a chocolate chip starfish (I have a 55 gallon tank, so the potential size of the starfish isn't too big of a concern).

In the few days when I just had the 3 stripe damsels I put food in the tank once a day and never saw them eating but I assumed they were because they were very active in the tank. Today I put food in the tank for the 1st time since I added the other fish and I watched the domino and yellow tail pick food out of the air while both 3 stripes did not make much of an attempt to eat and when they did they couldn't get the food into their mouth. Should I be concerned about this, or are the 3 stripes likely eating but just picking food off the plastic plants and/or bottom of the tank.

Also the 3 stripe damsels seem to be acting very aggresively towards the other 2 damsels I just introduced, is this common? And will it eventually stop? The domino and the yellow tail also stay to 1 side of the tank and I have yet to see them even attempt to explor the other side, which I find pretty weird.

As for the starfish as soon as I put it in the tank it crawled over to the glass and climbed all the way to the top, which clearly makes it impossible to feed. Currently I have brine shrimp for the starfish to eat, and I plan on buying some snails to let the starfish eat. Will this be enough or should I make the diet more varied?

How often should I be changing my fliter, and what should I look for when determining if it's time to change it. I currently have 2 filters, the filter that came with the tank (Aqueon 55) which has standard filter pads and a Fluval 405 cannister filter which has 4 trays, 2 of carbon and 2 of some white chalky stuff that I'm not sure what it is.

Any insight on these questions will be of great help, thanks in advance.

Pasfur 10-17-2010 07:43 AM

These questions are sure to cause some discussion, because the premise honestly does not give us reasonable opportunity to provide good answers. To have the discussion, we first have to be in agreement that the setup and livestock selections are appropriate, and I fear that you will find almost everyone on the forum disagrees with your most basic principles.

I am very intentionally posting first on this, to ensure that you get a fair conversation here. Is your choice of filtration typical for a marine setup? Not at all. Had you come here ahead of time, we would have explained to you why using biological filtration, which processes organic waste with an end result of Nitrate, is not appropriate for a marine tank. We would have suggested that you look at the build threads on this website, located here http://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/s...ctures-videos/, and you would have seen that 100% of the successful systems on this forum utilize live rock, sand, and protein skimming. I suspect that had you known this ahead of time your entire approach would have been different.

The other discussion we would have had ahead of time would have concerned livestock. You will also not find other successful marine hobbyists who are keeping a tank full of Damsels. The reason is that their level of aggression is ridiculously high. Unlike aggressive freshwater tanks, where you can often overstock the system to dilute aggression, in a marine system these Damsels will only behave more aggressive when the tank is heavily stocked. In aquariums under 6' in length it is virtually impossible to have Damsels in a community. The situation becomes even more difficult when mixing different species of Damselfish together, which requires an aquarium in excess of 400 or more gallons to properly reduce the aggression. Had you come here ahead of time, asking questions, we would have given you a very easy to keep selection of hardy marine species that are appropriate for the tank size. This would have included Clownfish, Blennies, Gobies, Dwarf Angelfish, and other small species which do not display this level of aggression.

Finally, if you browse this website, you will not find a hobbyists who has successfully kept a Chocolate Chip Starfish. The reason is that they are predators capable of hunting down fish and eating them. Further, their long term dietary requirements make it nearly impossible to sustain them in a tank long term. Starfish are extremely difficult to maintain, so most experienced hobbyists stay away from them.

However, you are at this point and my comments do not change your questions. I believe the behavior you are seeing is typical and was predictable for the setup you have created. The Damsels will stake out territory and slowly pick each other off. As far as the starfish diet, something larger and more meatier would be better, but really won't provide you with a long term solution to the growth and predatory nature problem of this species.

If you would provide us some long term goals with your system we could really be of assistance. What made you decide to set up a marine tank?

kmasonbx 10-17-2010 11:07 AM

I have live sand, about 20 pounds and 5 pounds of live gravel, is that enough for this size tank? I also have a couple of small live rock which I know is not enough but I plan on adding more, totaling about 15 pounds, do I need more?

I bought damsel fish to start because they were the cheapest and if they died it wouldn't be a very big deal. The starfish I got because my girlfriend wanted it (the tank was a bday gift for her). I do not plan on getting anymore damselfish, and in fact have more than I planned on having mainly because my girlfriend wanted the last 2 we bought. Will they be aggresive towards other fish species or just fellow damsels? As far as feeding the starfish I plan on getting some cleaning snails and letting it feed on them as well as the other food I will put into the tank.

I've been told I need to get a protein skimmer by 2 different people but the price of it is a big road block. How necessary is it, and what's the cheapest good skimmer I can get? Will the skimmer work well with the filtration system I have or will I have to remove 1 of the filters?

My long term goal for this tank is to get about 15 or so fish, a nice mixture of small, medium and larger fish. Nothing too fancy. Honestly the reason I got it is because my girlfriend said she wanted a fish tank and I was tired of getting her jewelry for gifts so I bought the tank. I had no clue how much work went into this but now I'm committed to making the tank as good as I possibly can. As you can tell I'm a total newb when it comes to this and I need as much help as possible.

Pasfur 10-17-2010 02:13 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by kmasonbx (Post 494356)
I have live sand, about 20 pounds and 5 pounds of live gravel, is that enough for this size tank?

The depth of the sand bed is the important topic. You want a sand bed depth of 1'' or less, OR you want a sand bed depth of 4-6''. You do not want a depth between 1'' and 4''. I suggest you read this article http://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/s...shwater-31955/ which will go into more detail on the difference in freshwater and saltwater filtration systems, including sand beds.

Quote:

I also have a couple of small live rock which I know is not enough but I plan on adding more, totaling about 15 pounds, do I need more?
It depends on the type of rock. Different rocks have different density, which determines size. Saying a rock is "5 pounds" tells us nothing of the size. As a rule, you will want 50 to 100 pounds of rock to make a decent size structure and to provide good filtration capabilities. You can save a ton of money by ordering dry rock from Marco Rocks The finest aquarium rock available, base rock, live rock, reef rock, marco rock, reef tank saltwater fish, live corals, Marco rocks, Fiji live rock, Tonga Live rock. I personally use the Key Largo dry rock, of which 75 pounds or so would be good for your system.

Quote:

I bought damsel fish to start because they were the cheapest and if they died it wouldn't be a very big deal. The starfish I got because my girlfriend wanted it (the tank was a bday gift for her). I do not plan on getting anymore damselfish, and in fact have more than I planned on having mainly because my girlfriend wanted the last 2 we bought. Will they be aggresive towards other fish species or just fellow damsels? As far as feeding the starfish I plan on getting some cleaning snails and letting it feed on them as well as the other food I will put into the tank.
Damsels will not go into a mixed community due to their aggression. There are no other fish that I would be comfortable mixing with Damsels in such a small tank. (by marine standards)

Quote:

I've been told I need to get a protein skimmer by 2 different people but the price of it is a big road block. How necessary is it, and what's the cheapest good skimmer I can get? Will the skimmer work well with the filtration system I have or will I have to remove 1 of the filters?
Hopefully you read the Saltwater 101 article I linked about. After reading it you should understand that the protein skimmer is the single most important item to purchase for a marine tank, next to salt.


Quote:

My long term goal for this tank is to get about 15 or so fish, a nice mixture of small, medium and larger fish. Nothing too fancy.
This goal is probably unrealistic, unless you are dealing with tiny fish sizes. My 180 gallon has about 15 fish and is easily maxed out. You have to understand, the stocking level of a marine system has nothing to do with filtration or bioload. It is 100% related to fish behavior. Again, I recommend an article from our article section:
http://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/s...ng-list-38579/

Hopefully this helps. After the 2 quick reads I linked above you should have a much better understanding of where to begin, and your next questions will probably be very productive.

As for a skimmer recommendation, lets wait until after you read the links.

kmasonbx 10-17-2010 10:30 PM

Ok so I read through the links you provided and realize I need to buy more sand. I measured my depth and it's only about 2 inches, so I'll buy another 20 pound bag ASAP, maybe even tomorrow if I get the chance.

The Fluval 405 filter as part of it's filtration media it has carbon that you state is good for marine systems like mine however it also has biomax which encourages nitrate growth. You state that you like to use phosphate resign, if I replace the biomax with phosphate resign will that make this filter ideal, or at least suitable for my setup? In case you don't know how the Fluval 405 works it's 4 seperate baskets, 2 filled with carbon and 2 filled with biomax however you can replace the media and put whatever you want. If I use this filter would it eliminate the need for a protein skimmer or will the protein skimmer still be necessary (I'm guessing the answer to this is I still need the skimmer).

From looking at your fish reccomendations it would seem I can have 9 or so fish, 6 from group A and 3 from group B, is this # correct?

Also what should I do about these damsel fish. From their aggresiveness, especially the 3 Stripes, and what you have said I can tell they won't do well in a community tank.

As far as the dry rock would I need to also include seperate live rock or will this rock just naturally become live rock after a while?

Thanks for all of your help so far. Wish I would've been this proactive before I started buying fish and filters, lol.

Pasfur 10-18-2010 01:35 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by kmasonbx (Post 494804)
The Fluval 405 filter as part of it's filtration media it has carbon that you state is good for marine systems like mine however it also has biomax which encourages nitrate growth. You state that you like to use phosphate resign, if I replace the biomax with phosphate resign will that make this filter ideal, or at least suitable for my setup?

I can't recommend any form of canister filtration, simply because they are very effective at trapping detritus, which generally results in rising nitrates and phosphate.

I am not sure where you read about phosphate resign, but I don't recommend that product because I have never used it. In theory, a phosphate remover is not going to hurt, but when used with a canister filter the negatives outweight the positive.

Quote:

From looking at your fish reccomendations it would seem I can have 9 or so fish, 6 from group A and 3 from group B, is this # correct?
They terms "group A and group B" could get confusing to anyone trying to follow along, but were helpful in presenting examples for that article. But yes, 9 fish is a more appropriate number, so long as you distinguish between rock dwelling and open water fish, selecting appropriate species for your tank size.

Quote:

Also what should I do about these damsel fish. From their aggresiveness, especially the 3 Stripes, and what you have said I can tell they won't do well in a community tank.
Take them back to the LFS.

Quote:

As far as the dry rock would I need to also include seperate live rock or will this rock just naturally become live rock after a while?
The dry rock will naturally become live. Within a few short months you will not be able to distinguish what was dry rock from live rock.

kmasonbx 10-18-2010 03:07 PM

Misread what you wrote in your filtration guide, I skipped over the "absorbing" part. What do you recommend for phosphate absorbing resin, and when I get this if I exchange the biomax with that in the filter (with the Fluval 405 I can remove the stock media and replace it with whatever I want) wouldn't that stop the filter from creating nitrate since the media in the filter would consist of carbon and phosphate absorbing resin and nothing that creates nitrate or am I misinterpeting how the filter works and the nitrate is created by the filter itself and not the media inside the filter. Here is what I've found to use as a phosphate absorber and replace the biomax with: Aquatic - Products.

I do understand that a protein skimmer is far and away the best option but at this time it's not viable for me because of the cost and I probably won't be able to purchase it for a couple of months, so I need a stop gap between now and then would a filter system consisting of carbon and a phosphate absorber as well sufficient live sand and live rock be enough to sustain the system for a couple of months?

While cycling the dry rock is it safe to have fish in the tank? I know it's not safe to cycle live rock with fish in the tank.

Pasfur 10-18-2010 04:12 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by kmasonbx (Post 495069)
While cycling the dry rock is it safe to have fish in the tank? I know it's not safe to cycle live rock with fish in the tank.

By definition, it is not a problem to "cycle" a tank without fish. Let me explain. There are only 2 options. Option 1, the live rock is already cured and has bacteria present to process organic waste. In this case, there will be no cycle. Option 2, the live rock needs to be cured. In this case decay within the rock produces organic waste to feed the bacteria. No fish are ever needed to cycle a marine tank with live rock.

Now, when it comes time to add fish you need to ensure that you add fish at a reasonable pace. This old rule of thumb from freshwater applies here. Add fish slowly so that bacteria populations can multiply to keep pace with the bioload. Fortunately, this is a very small issue in marine systems because the protein skimmer removes the majority of organic compounds.

As to the canister.... activated carbon will absorb some organic compounds. However, in these systems the live rock and sand are being asked to process more waste, resulting in more nitrate buildup. Additionally, bacteria will coat the activated carbon and phos zorb, then acting as a biofilter. Over the short term, this won't matter much because the amount of live stock will be minimal. You really want to allow this tank to mature for a good 3 to 4 weeks before you begin adding many fish anyhow. At that point you are only a few more weeks away from having the money to afford the skimmer.

Notice that I am more concerned with the tank maturing than I am with cycling. When I say that you want a mature system, I am referring to other factors. For example, you should see a diatom bloom come and then disappear. You should see copepods and amphipods begin to spread across the glass and in the sand bed. You should notice coraline algae begin to take hold and spread, and even see nitrates begin to LOWER, slowly dropping towards zero. All of these are signs that a tank is mature, and this is when you want to begin investing money on fish. Patience is critical. A little patience up front will save you a lot of heartache later.

For a protein skimmer:
AquaC Remora Protein Skimmer with Maxijet 1200 Pump
Be sure to add on AquaC Surface Prefilter Box.

You could also use the new CPR AeroForce, which is impressive:
CPR Aquatic Aero Force Protein Skimmer, CPR Aquatics AeroForce Protein Skimmer

Or, if you want to go very economical, yet not horrible, here is a good deal on eBay today:
SEACLONE PROTEIN SKIMMER 100 GALLONS - eBay (item 170554409794 end time Nov-17-10 07:25:52 PST)

kmasonbx 10-18-2010 04:58 PM

I feel so dumb after seeing the price of these protein skimmers, I was led to believe they were far more expensive than they are. Once I was told how much they would cost I didn't even look them up online knowing that I couldn't afford one yet. However after seeing this price I really wish I had looked earlier because it's only marginally more expensive than the filter I purchased. I'm still going to put off buying the skimmer immediately, I think I should get a sufficient amount of live rock first and then get the skimmer (I can't afford both at the same time). Unless you think the skimmer should be purchased before the rock, I'm guessing you think it should be.

Also I don't want you to think I bought this tank filled it with salt water and immediately threw fish in. I've had the tank for a while now and was testing regularly waitin for the levels of nitrite, nitrate, ph and ammonia to become correct and when they did I bought the fish.

As far as cycling the live rock, I am aware the fish aren't needed to cylce it but I've been told that it's not safe to have fish in the tank while the rock is cycling, is this correct? If so does that also apply to dry rock that is naturally becoming live? From your language it seems you can cycle rock with fish in the tank, although I could be misinterpeting you.

Pasfur 10-18-2010 06:05 PM

Live rock which is pre cured already has the necessary bacteria to process ammonia and nitrite. There is no "cycle" so to speak. The cycle is really a freshwater concept that does not apply in the modern marine aquarium which utilizes live rock.

On the other hand, you do want to allow the tank to mature, as described above. Keep in mind, maturing and cycling are in no way related. Very different concepts.

My suggestion is to add the dry rock before the skimmer. Allow the tank to run with only rock & sand, using a power head for circulation. This is all you need to allow the tank to mature. Meanwhile, I would purchase a very inexpensive (used?) 20 gallon tank to use as a quarantine tank. The canister filter can be used to run the quarantine tank, using the existing BIOMEDIA and carbon. Nitrate buildup in a quarantine tank is not an issue, as you will be doing a large water change following the removal of every fish.

Read the article on Quarantine tanks for more info:
http://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/s...ne-tank-35693/


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