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Many things about this hobby are not as hard as people are inclined to think...

Posted 01/30/2014 at 11:13 AM by Sk8r

...and it's useful to know these aren't magical rituals, but processes with purpose.

1. Cycling. 2+2=4 with most critters, but with bacteria, 1=2. They divide and multiply under favorable conditions, and fortunately their 'favorable' is pretty broad. To hasten cycling a wee bit, keep your tank temperature a steady 78 degrees and keep the water circulating to move the water around. You can 'ghost-feed' your tank a few flakes of flake food a day, which will supply any nutrient NOT provided by the live rock's natural dieoff. And it'll give you something to do.
But the REAL DEAL is a bacteria 1=2 slowly penetrating the rock all the way to its core and the sand all the way to its bottom. Lacy rock goes faster.
The notion that you can pour a bacterial solution into a tank and have it 'cycled instantly' just defies physics and biology. Yep, you can have a lot of bacteria floating around and doing their best to eat, divide, and make more bacteria, but it's not actually cycled, in the sense of the process being really finished, and the rock and sand being as lively as they can get. Fatal can be putting multiple fish in there too fast.

2. Water tests: I can run the whole series inside 5 minutes. Daily during a tanks early life, weekly as it matures, and less frequently thereafter. Keeping a log book lets you 'dose INTO trends' not AFTER a disaster. If a reading is falling from last time, dose to keep it where it belongs. My sig line has some parameters that are good for a stony reef, and fish also like them. YOu don't need many tests. If you have a fish-only, you need 4: ammonia, nitrate, salinity and alkalinity. The last is very, very, very important, from the get-go. If you have a softie reef, you can get by with that. If you have a stony reef (and one stony coral makes your softie reef into a stony reef)---you rarely need nitrate/ammonia tests, but you should test salinity, alkalinity, calcium, and magnesium. Daily, at first. Then, etc. KEEP A LOGBOOK. This is how you remember that 3 days ago your alk was 8.5 and now it's 8.4, and therefore...falling...which needs action.

3. Water emergencies: if things are going south fast, get the surviving fish and live things out. This lessens the load on the tank, and lets it recover its balance. This can often head off a crash, coupled with a quick 30% water change, followed in a day by a 20% water change. How fast can you use newly mixed salt water? If you have a really strong mixing pump, like a mag 12, or even a zealously applied stick (your arm is going to kill you tomorrowZ) you can use it in about 4 hours. Can I use conditioned tapwater to make salt water in an emergency: yes! just understand you're going to have a recurrence of algae, if in your tank, but if it keeps your tank alive, it's minor.

4. something weird in your tank: catch it if you can, put it in a bowl (mixing bowl is fine) and get a photo. Use Photobucket to post it to RC and ask before killing it. Worms are 98% good. Hairy crabs and crabs in general are 98% bad. Slug-creatures are 50% either. Ask. A loud 'pop' from your tank that sounds as if the glass had cracked---99.9999% bad: mantis or pistol shrimp. A bottle trap is your best hope: don't get any new fish until you catch that bad boy. But take the trapped shrimp to your lfs, and someone will probably want him. ALSO: things that are bad for your tank can live happy, useful lives cleaning up the crud in your sump: if you've got a sump, just pop the rascal in there and let him work for you.

5. acclimation---doing it without understanding kills fish. The whole reason for acclimation is to adjust the salt levels to match and bring the water temperatures even. When you get a fish, don't open the bag until you're ready. Float the bag for 15 minutes to equalize the temperatures. A little off isn't going to hurt. Read the sticky. Opening the bag causes the harmless ammonium generated in the water by fish's life processes to instantly start converting to deadly ammonia. You have about 30 minutes between the time you open that bag until that fish has to be IN the quarantine tank. Most shippers ship fish at a salinity of 1.019 and inverts at 1.025. A reef tank sits at 1.024 to 1.026. But if you're smart, you have your quarantine tank prepared at 1.019, you don't acclimate at all, you just put that fish straight into quarantine for 4 weeks, and you begin, by 'topping off' evaporation with salt water from your main tank, to change that salinity. Test salinity daily, and when you reach the same salinity as your tank---start using freshwater topoff to maintain. At that point acclimation has happened. HOW TO TELL WHAT A SHIPPER SETS AS SALINITY? Call them. Ask. And then when the shipment gets there use a refractometer on each bag to make sure they told you the truth. How big a salinity rise can a fish safely tolerate in an emergency? It can tolerate a .002 rise. That's not much. But if you're that close between bag and qt, it's close enough.
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  1. Old Comment
    Despairodyne's Avatar

    Very Encouraging

    Just starting out so this sort of information is very much appreciated.
    Posted 02/16/2014 at 08:48 PM by Despairodyne Despairodyne is offline

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