Saltwater Aquarium: Water Information That You Will Need to Maintain Your Reef Tank

on Jan 29 in coral aquariums tagged , , , , by Aaron

By Aaron Ediger, Main Contributing  Author for Coral Reefing…

Adding a lot of equipment, livestock, supplements, and a lot of water changes in a short period of time makes for constantly changing water quality, and  little if any aquarium water stability.

In my opinion not enough emphasis is put on the "stability" factor, until they were put in captive aquaria these animals had little or no fluctuation in their water quality, dietary intake and hours of light. Stress is a huge killer of captive animals and stability is probably the best thing you can give them to avoid problems (In fish and corals).  I have seen the most beautiful mushrooms and zoas in some of the most neglected, nitrate heavy, phosphate ridden systems…

Aquarium Water Stability

WHY???… Water Stability. They had been there in those tanks for years, and water quality had degraded so slowly that they were essentially acclimated to toxic water. Upon seeing one of these systems, I immediately traded for some zoas without thinking anything of the water conditions..renaedsg300reefmed2

Why would I?… everything looked so healthy. Got home, acclimated for 15-20 min, zoas never opened. I had changed their environment so drastically the coral couldn’t recover… I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with my tank, so I tested this persons system, and found immeasurable phosphate.

He never thought anything was wrong, but he hadn’t done a water change in months, maybe a year or more, his reasons were when he did a water change, nothing opened for a week… I wonder why?…

I am not endorsing neglect, toxic water, or other abuse.. all I’m saying is these corals could accept these conditions, as if they were normal, simply because it was stable… "the norm".  If corals are "melting" they are doing so in response to a huge change in the environment, for good or bad.

If your sleep cycle, dietary intake, and oxygen consumption were all altered you wouldn’t feel so hot either. When purchasing livestock ask questions. Lighting (watts, bulb type, and age), flow, and tank placement should all be factors you take into consideration as well.  Especially when making a purchase that will affect live animals…

Some Remedies to Aid Aquarium Water Stability

If you can, “turkey baste” it with a little tank water in a separate container, and suck out the slime that separates it the tank, to get stinging cells and digestive enzymes off, as they can continue to do damage and kill even after the corals are separated
As bad as red slime looks, it is your tanks way of dealing with toxic water in a stable and non toxic manner.

If you use red slime remover, it leaves nowhere for the nitrate and phosphate to go… so, solve the cause, and the slime will go away on its own. Over-feeding is the most likely suspect, next is an incomplete bacteria cycle, and the last suspect is not enough water changes. If you have a light on your refuge, add a plant or two, they compete for the nutrients in the water. Some people (including myself) transplant the red slime into the refugium.

Cyano-bacteria cannot grow in the dark as it is symbiotic with one of a few different filamentous algae. Chemi-clean can clear your water up to 20% so if you do that treatment, shorten lighting hours, add a screen over the tank, or lower corals in the tank as you might sunburn them.  Just remember the cyano might not be visually pleasing, but it is better than toxic water.

Also you might not come up with significantly high levels of nitrate or phosphate because it is all bound up in the cyano, but it is there, if it wasn’t, there wouldn’t be cyano.  An advanced method for dealing with this issue is to increase your RedOx potential.

By adding ozone to your system (increasing redox potential) you lower the acidity, increasing the buffering capability of your substrate over long periods of time. As your buffering capability is increased you will have better calcium and magnesium level sustainability. You also get better light penetration, more effectively using your electricity. Best of all you can see your investments better due to the increased water clarity.

Stressed Fish are Susceptible to Ich

msaggese1000greef_400 Almost any tank has the potential to house what we like to call ich, most of the time the fish’s immune system is good enough to fight it off, but stressed fishes have a lowered immune system and are susceptible to infections.

The parasite has 3 life stages, only one of which can be identified visually, and by this time they have already begun reproducing. What most people see as ich is actually dead skin cells being pushed up by the pregnant parasite, most often a linear view will show some bumps that are a little fuzzy, or cloudy.

The newly introduced fish is stressed, having been recently moved, and the resident fish has somebody new in his house, which also stresses the fish. Slow acclimation and careful fish selection are best. Some people think garlic works, actually it is better as an appetite stimulant and a better preventative measure as is a u/v sterilizer.

Hypo-salinity, copper (NOT IN THE REEF), and some antibiotics can help but in my expierience with minor infections nothing is as good a good quarantine practice. The parasite runs a complete life cycle in 6-8 weeks so a 10 week no fish period is the only way to ensure your reef does not house this parasite.

Aquarium Water Stability Leads to Good Photosynthesis and More Colorful Reefs

This might be why your new coral isn’t as colorful as you thought it would be;  Some cnidarians are hermatypic (reef building corals) and they contain a symbiotic unicellular (flagellate protazoa) alga called zooanthellea. The tissue of the coral is actually quite transparent and you are seeing these algae in the gastroderm. This single cell algae is responsible for many processes within the coral. 

  • First- thru photosynthesis it is the primary supplier of nutrition for the coral, some estimates are as high as 98%. (this is why I run 13 watts per gallon)
  • Second- zooanthellea when under attack can secrete a host of various chemicals in defense of itself and its host organism.
  • Thirdly- it assists in the production of sodium carbonate and this aids in the calcification process.

The zooanthellea responds to changes in its environment, primarily light.  Small changes in light change the pigmentation (color) and the algae has to adjust the the new spectrum or intensity. This can happen even when you change your bulbs.  When you change its environment too rapidly the algae begins to die, and the coral purges it out. This process is referred to as “bleaching”.

My Recommended Reef Tank Light Levels

9131_3 I never said that you need 13w per gallon, that’s just what I run on one of my coral displays. Simply because those are the recommended light levels (some people think this is an absolute) to support those organisms doesn’t mean that they can’t handle more light and in fact thrive in these circumstances. My LPS have colors that I don’t see in anybody else’s pics, simply because I push the envelope.  Recommended light, flow, nutrient, and filtration info is a generality and can be altered to produce different effects, just like the peeps at garf show us with the micro bubble feedings, new approaches to some of these issues produce different results, for good or bad.

Without pioneers who take this approach in this reef aquarium hobby, we wouldn’t be where we are today… till next time…

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One Comment

  • hemswell from aquael econoline(new comment) says:

    A good point well made, we get people coming in to the shop frequently mystified by what has killed their fish/reef. It is all about limiting change.

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