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First marine tank crisis?
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Pete Harcoff

Joined: 18 Jun 2005
Location: Canada

PostPosted: 2006.07.30(Sun)1:18    Post subject: First marine tank crisis? Reply with quote

I'm not sure if this is a problem or not. But it was definitely out of the ordinary.

I admittedly hadn't been paying much attention to my marine tank the last week or so. A few weeks ago I had added in a blenny, a few hermits and a bunch more snails. They'd all seemed fine over the first couple weeks. I had plenty of algae in the tank for the blenny and hermits to munch on, so I hadn't even been feeding them.

Earlier this week I remember noticing some stuff floating on the water. Little dark spots. I didn't really think too much of it at the time. I'd seen all sorts of things in my tank, so I'm no longer surprised when I see something new.

Tonight, however, I was examining it again and I noticed the surface was covered in these spots. I stuck my hand in and pulling it out, my hand was covered in these brown "gunk" spots. I'm guessing it was protein building on the surface of the tank. Which is odd, because I run a Coralife Super Skimmer 125 almost 24/7 (I only switch it off for watching movies).

That's when I also noticed the smell. No longer did my tank have that fresh "saltwater" scent. It now stunk, kind of a mixture of rotten fish and rotten eggs. It wasn't super strong, since I could only smell it directly over the tank, but it was enough.

I'm guessing the smell was from the protein buildup. Either that, or something died. I couldn't see my blenny (he disappears at night), but I'd seen him a few hours earlier, so I hope he's fine. I suppose a snail could have croaked, although I'd had one previously die in my tank and I don't remember it causing a stink.

I promptly did about a 10% water change (5 gallons or so). That used up all the RO water I had on hand (fortunately, I had just made up some earlier today). I did what I could to skim out the gunk from the surface. It appeared to work, but the smell remains. I also attached an Aquaclear 30 with some activated carbon in it. I don't know if that will help, but I figured it can't hurt.

Next was the usual battery of tests. My water itself seems okay:

temp: 80.8 F
pH: 8.2
salinity: 1.0235
ammonia: 0
nitrite: 0
nitrate: <5 ppm

Finally, I tried something I hadn't done before. I have three powerheads in my tank (2 maxijet 1200's and 1 maxijet 900). The 900 is positioned at the bottom of the tank to blow across the back of the reef. The 1200's are positioned near the top in opposite corners. They are on an alternating timer, so that one comes on during the day and the other during the night. This way I get alternating currents in my tank. Well, I decided to stir things up, so I plugged both in at once. I guess the extra turbulance really stirred things up, because a bunch of debris came flying out of the reef. I'm going to leave that running all night and hopefully it will help clean out the reef.

Whew, it's late (3 AM here), so I'm off to bed. I wonder how things will be in the morning.
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Joined: 10 Jan 2005
Location: Abbotsford Canada

PostPosted: 2006.07.31(Mon)20:44    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi pete,

Offhand, I can't recall your configuration or how long the tank has been set up, but here are some thoughts:

Perhaps your rock is still curing - this will produce quite a smell. Even if the LFS said it's cured it might not be.

Perhaps a hitchhiker that you were unaware of died off (like a nice big mantis shrimp or a porcelain crab).

Check your flow to see if you have dead spots or areas within the rockwork where detritus accumulates. Providing flow to all of your rockwork can be a bit tricky but without it you can easily develop cyanobacteria.

Do you have a method of surface skimming like an overflow box. The Coralife skimmer intake is off the pump that sits below the waterline. Dissolved protein organics often float so they don't make it to the skimmer and thus accumulate on the surface. How is your skimmer set up (HOB or sump)?

It sounds like you're on the right track though. PWC's, adjusting flow patterns and time... time time time.
Intelligence is not having all the answers; it's knowing how to think!
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