- This topic has 3 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 14 years, 6 months ago by Pete Giwojna.
May 29, 2009 at 6:48 pm #1693MirienMember
I\’m very new to this, as in just setting up my first ever tank and I\’m confused and a bit lost.
The tank is a Juwel Lido 120l, with the fliter and heater it came with. I also have a Tunze nano reef pack skimmer/surface skimmer on it (which is causing me troubles!!) and the whole set up is driving me nuts, to the point that yesterday there were tears and threatenings of giving up before I even got anywhere near getting my my sh\’s!!
Here\’s what\’s up and any help would be very gratefully recived.
Firstly, my LFS told me to put some macro algae in WHILE THE TANK WAS CYCLING. I did, it\’s been in about 4 weeks and now the water is going slightly cloudy and the stuff appears to be dying :S I know enough now to know this is bad and intend to pull it out later and do a 10% water change, but I have no idea, if I don\’t have macro algae in my tank, how to keep on top of the nitrates and how to find ways of doing the jobs the macro algae does in the tank. Just to add, I have no sump on the tank.
How do people provide a decent home for their sh\’s without macro algae???
Secondly, my flat is very warm and the temperature is regularly hitting 26 degrees. I want to keep H. angustus, which I understand need 24 degrees, but from what I\’ve read, anything above that leaves the sh susceptible to all kinds of bacterial nasties. I have been told my a guy from my LFS who has seen my tank and where it\’s postioned that I won\’t be able to run a chiller, so I have no idea what to do beyond doing the bottles of ice water in the tank thing and obviously I can\’t do that 24/7, I have to sleep sometime!
Thirdly, the skimmer is throwing so many bubbles into the tank it\’s ridiculous. The skimmer has been on about 2 weeks and there\’s no sign of the bubbles lessening. I\’ve been told to turn it down, but that doesn\’t seem to help. What about a bubble trap? Is there anything else I can do?
I think I\’m getting more uptight about this than I need to, but that\’s just me (and the M.E I have), but I badly need some guidance because I\’m at the point where the stress is beginning to not seem worth it, no matter how desperately I want sh\’s.
Please help?May 30, 2009 at 2:08 am #4831Pete GiwojnaGuest
I’m very sorry to hear about the problems you’ve been having with your new saltwater aquarium and I’ll try my best to help you get everything straightened out.
Regarding the macroalgae, I normally don’t introduce it to a new aquarium until after it has cycled, because there are no nitrates for the macroalgae to absorb in a brand-new tank and it would be counterproductive for the macroalgae to remove the nitrogenous wastes (i.e., ammonia and nitrite) that are present while the tank is cycling, since you want a good spike in the ammonia and then the nitrate levels in order to support the growth of a large population of the beneficial Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter nitrifying bacteria that perform biological filtration.
You needn’t be overly concerned if the macroalgae failed to thrive while you’re newly established aquarium was cycling, Mirien. You can always try again after the aquarium has completely cycled and the biological filtration is well established. Can you tell me what type of macroalgae you are using? Some types of macroalgae are much hardier in the aquarium and less demanding regarding the lighting may receive that others.
In any case, a dense bed of macroalgae is not strictly necessary for controlling nitrates or providing your seahorses with a suitable habitat. The amount of nitrate that accumulates in your aquarium is related to how much nitrification and denitrification your system provides. Nitrification is the process by which aerobic (oxygen loving) nitrifying bacteria break down toxic ammonia to relative harmless nitrate in a series of steps. Nitrification thus ultimately causes nitrate to build up in an aquarium. Denitrification is the process by which anaerobic (oxygen hating) denitrifying bacteria then convert nitrate into completely harmless nitrogen (N2), which eventually leaves the aquarium. Denitrification thus removes nitrate from your system. This entire process is known as the nitrogen cycle.
Cycling your aquarium simply means to build up a healthy population of beneficial bacteria in your tank that can carry out the nitrogen cycle and breakdown your fishes’ waste products. Ammonia (NH3), nitrite (NO2), and nitrate (NO3) are all nitrogenous (nitrogen containing) wastes. All living aquarium animals whether they be fish or invertebrates excrete these wastes, and they are also produced by the decay of protein-containing organic matter (uneaten food, detritus, dead fish or inverts, etc.). The nitrogen cycle breaks down these wastes in a series of steps into nitrogen gas (N2) which leaves the aquarium as bubbles.
The nitrogen cycle begins with ammonia, which is highly poisonous. In the first step of the cycle, Nitrosomonas bacteria reduce ammonia to nitrite, which is also very toxic. In the second step of the nitrogen cycle, Nitrobacter bacteria convert the nitrite to nitrate, which is relatively harmless but becomes harmful when it accumulates in high enough levels. In the third and final step of the cycle, denitrifying bacteria then convert the nitrate into completely harmless N2, which of course bubbles out of the tank as nitrogen gas. In this way, thanks to the nitrogen cycle, dangerous wastes are converted into progressively less harmful compounds and finally removed from the aquarium altogether.
When we set up a new aquarium, and wait for it to cycle, we are simply allowing a big enough population of these different types of bacteria to build up in the biofilter to break down all of the wastes that will be produced when the aquarium is stocked. If we don’t wait long enough for the cycle to complete itself and the biofiltration to become fully established, and hastily add too many specimens to a new aquarium too soon, they will die from ammonia poisoning or nitrite toxicity. This is such a common mistake among us impatient aquarists, that when fish get sick and/or die from ammonia/ntrite poisoning, it is commonly called the "new tank syndrome."
When your aquarium has completely cycled, the ammonia levels will stay at zero because, now that your biofilter is fully established, there is a large enough population of aerobic (oxygen loving) nitrifying Nitrosomonas bacteria to reduce all of the ammonia to nitrite as fast as the ammonia is being produced. The nitrite levels will likewise stay at zero because there is also a large enough population of aerobic (oxygen loving) nitrifying Nitrobacter bacteria to convert all of the nitrite to nitrate as fast as the nitrite is being produced.
The nitrate levels ordinarily continue to build up, however, because there are simply not enough anaerobic (oxygen hating) denitrifying bacteria to convert all of the nitrate that’s being produced into nitrogen (N2). Since nitrates are being produced faster than they can be transformed to nitrogen, the excess nitrates accumulate steadily in your aquarium.
That’s perfectly normal, since the denitrifying bacteria that carry out that final step, the conversion of nitrate (NO3) to nitrogen (N2), are anaerobes that can only exist in the absence of oxygen. For our aquariums to support life, and for the fish and invertebrates to breathe and survive, our tanks must be well aerated and well circulated so that there’s plenty of dissolved oxygen in the water at all times. That means there are normally very few areas in our aquariums where anaerobic denitrifying bacteria can survive, limiting their population accordingly (which is generally good, since some anaerobes produce deadly hydrogen sulfide gas during the decay of organic matter and would poison our tanks if allowed to proliferate).
Consequently, most aquariums lack a sufficient population of anaerobic denitrifying bacteria to complete the nitrogen cycle and convert nitrate to nitrogen as fast as the nitrates are being produced. The only way to keep the nitrates from building up to harmful levels in such setups is with regular water changes and by harvesting Caulerpa or other macroalgae periodically after it has utilized nitrates for growth. Overcrowding, overfeeding, or under filtration exacerbate the problem by resulting in more nitrates being produced and more frequent water changes being required to control the nitrate levels.
Live rock helps because the oxygen-poor interior of the rock allows anaerobic denitrifying bacteria to grow and break down nitrates. A deep live sand bed (DLSB) also helps because anaerobic denitrifying bacteria can flourish and break down nitrates at a certain depth below the sand where oxygenated water no longer penetrates, but a DLSB can sometimes be difficult to set up and manage properly if you’re inexperienced with live sand. Both live rock and deep live sand beds give aquaria denitrification ability — the ability to complete the cycle and convert nitrate to harmless nitrogen. Ordinarily, about 1-2 pounds of live rock per gallon is recommended – that amount of LR will provide your aquarium with all of the biofiltration you need, as well as adequate denitrification ability. You will then keep nitrates at harmless levels by performing regular water changes and practicing good aquarium management.
So if you are having trouble establishing a good bed of macroalgae and your aquarium, consider using lots of live rock or perhaps a denitrator to keep the nitrate levels nice and low, Mirien. You can then provide your seahorses with an excellent habitat that will make them feel right at home by aquascaping the tank with colorful, lifelike artificial corals that make good hitching posts for seahorses. If you read the post at the top of this forum titled "Best artificial corals and hitching posts for seahorses," it will give you lots of ideas about how to decorate your aquarium to create an ideal environment for seahorses without the need for any macroalgae.
Yes, you are quite correct regarding the water temperature in your seahorse tank, Mirien. Heat stress is very debilitating for seahorses and makes them vulnerable to tail rot and other bacterial infections, so it’s important to keep them well within their comfort zone with regard to temperature.
in my experience, the optimal temperature range for most tropical and subtropical seahorses is 72°F-75°F (23°C-24°C). If your water temperature consistently runs much warmer than that, there are a couple of things you can do to stabilize it at 75°F (24°C), Mirien.
For example, some hobbyists keep their fish room air-conditioned and adjust the air conditioning to keep the air temperature in the room at about 75°F (24°C) or so. The water temperature then tends to stabilize at around that temperature range as well. Many hobbyists cannot afford central air-conditioning, but perhaps you could manage a small room air conditioner that can keep the rule in your flat where your seahorse tank is located nice and cool.
Or you can reduce the water temperature via evaporative cooling instead. One simple way to drop the water temp in your aquarium is to position a small fan so it blows across the surface of the water continually (Giwojna, Oct. 2003). This will lower the water temperature several degrees through the phenomenon of evaporative cooling (just be sure to top off the tank regularly to replace the water lost to evaporation). Leaving the cover/hood and light off on your seahorse tank in conjunction with evaporative cooling can make a surprising difference. (A hood or cover tends to trap heat and hold it in the tank, so removing the voter cover from the aquarium can make a surprising difference in the water temperature, and is safe to do with seahorses since they do not jump at all.)
Most hobbyists find that small, clip-on fans that are equipped with a cord and all ready to go right off the shelf are the most convenient when they need to cool down one of my tanks, as Leslie Leddo described below:
Fans work great for decreasing tank temps. Small 6 to 8 inch plastic electric clip on fans are available at most home improvement centers and places like Longs or Rite Aide. They can be clipped on to the tank rim and adjusted so that the air from the fan blows across the surface of the water rippling it a bit. This works very well. I would suggest 2, one on either side of the tank.
It does increase evaporation quite a bit so you will need to top off more frequently.
It is also a good idea to use a heater set at the the low end of the goal range. If your tank is 78 (25.5°C) without a heater start by setting it to 76 (24.5°C) with the fans running and decrease it by 2 degrees Fahrenheit every day until you figure out just how much the fans will bring that temp down. I am guessing with 2 fans you should be able to keep the temp about 75 (24°C), which should be just perfect.
I must also caution you to observe all the usual precautions to prevent shocks and electrical accident when you are using an electric fan or any other electrical equipment on your aquarium, Mirien.
One such precaution is to install an inexpensive titanium grounding probe in your aquariums. That will protect your seahorses and other wet pets from stray voltage and should also safeguard them electrocution in the event of a catastrophic heater failure or similar accident..
But the best way to protect you and your loved ones from electrical accidents around the fish room is to make sure all the outlets are equipped with Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters. And it’s a good idea to make sure all your electrical equipment is plugged into a surge protector as well to further protect your expensive pumps, filters, heaters, etc. from damage. Some good surge protectors, such as the Shock Busters, come with a GFCI built right into them so you can kill two birds with one stone. So when you set up your cooling fan(s) on the aquarium, be sure they’re plugged into a grounded outlet with a GFCI or a surge protector with GFCI protection.
When it comes to your protein skimmer, Mirien, it’s counterproductive to operate a protein skimmer when a new aquarium is cycling. Wait until the aquarium has cycled completely and the biological filtration is fully established before you begin to operate your protein skimmer.
If your Tunze skimmer is throwing out copious amounts of microbubbles, that is something you will definitely want to correct. With a relatively new protein skimmer, most likely the skimmer simply needs to be tweaked or adjusted properly in order to eliminate the excess microbubbles it is producing. For example, the water level inside the main chamber of the protein skimmer is a crucial factor for most units. If the water level is too low, it will inhibit foam production. On the other hand, if the water level is too high, it may result in excessive amounts of very wet foam and overflow the collection cup, as well as releasing clouds of microbubbles into the main tank.
Don’t hesitate to contact the manufacturer of your protein skimmer for troubleshooting tips to help you eliminate the excess microbubbles that are being released. Some protein skimmers have bubble traps available to eliminate excess bubbles from the outflow of the skimmer. Ask the manufacturer if there is one for your Tunze nano reef pack skimmer.
Finally, Mirien, I would like to invite you to participate in Ocean Rider’s training program for new seahorse keepers. This basic training is very informal and completely free of charge. Ocean Rider provides the free training as a service to their customers and any other hobbyists who are interested in learning more about the care and keeping of seahorses. It’s a crash course on seahorse keeping consisting of 10 separate lessons covering the following subjects, and is conducted entirely via e-mail. There is no homework or examinations or anything of that nature — just a lot of good, solid information on seahorses for you to read through and absorb as best you can, at your own speed:
Aquarium care and requirements of seahorses;
Selecting a suitable aquarium for seahorses;
size (tank height and water volume)
aquarium test kits
Optimizing your aquarium for seahorses;
water movement and circulation
hitching posts (real and artificial)
Cycling a new marine aquarium;
The cleanup crew (aquarium janitors & sanitation engineers);
water quality & water changes
aquarium maintenance schedule
Compatible tank mates for seahorses;
Courtship and breeding;
Rearing the young;
Disease prevention and control;
professional rearing protocols
Acclimating Ocean Rider seahorses.
If you are interested, Mirien, I will be providing you with detailed information on these subjects and answering any questions you may have about the material I present. I will also be recommending seahorse-related articles for you to read and absorb online.
In short, the training course will teach you everything you need to know to keep your seahorses happy and healthy, and it will arm you with the information you need in order to tackle your first ponies with confidence. After you have completed all 10 lessons you may feel much better about your quest to keep these amazing aquatic equines in your home aquarium.
Best wishes with all your fishes, Mirien!
Pete GiwojnaMay 30, 2009 at 2:36 am #4833MirienGuest
Oh my goodness, thank you so much for such a comprehensive and wonderfully informative reply! I’m a bit stunned you went to so much trouble to help me and need to read what you said carefully a few times to make sure I ‘get’ it all and then I’ll reply properly, but I wanted to just thank you for your help in a quick initial reply. I’ve seen your replies to other people’s questions on the forums and would imagine I’m not the first person to be speechless at such detailed help, nor the first to be incredibly grateful, but it doesn’t hurt to say so once in a while, I think.
While I’m here, I’d like to add I would be very interested in the course you mentioned and would be very grateful for the details.
Another reply coming soon!
My respects to you also,
Mirien/Jenny.May 30, 2009 at 6:08 am #4836Pete GiwojnaGuest
You’re very welcome (and thank you very much for all the kind words)!
The seahorse training program is a correspondence course so all you need to do to get started is to send me a brief e-mail off list ([email protected]) with your first and last name, which I need for our records, and I will reply and send you the first lesson once I have your e-mail address.
The lessons are quite comprehensive and I think we’ll have you back on track in no time.
Best wishes with all your fishes, Jenny!
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