New Tank - What am I doing wrong?

Martja

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Hello All-

In the beginning of September 2012 I purchased a 150 gal tank with a 40 gal sump. When I was a teenager my dad and I did some freshwater and saltwater aquariums (only up to 55), but this is my first time doing the experience on my own. I decided I wanted to go with a larger tank and in the long-run as a reef tank. During the month of September I added my substrate and dry/live rock. I went with roughly 175 lbs of dry rock to seed with roughly 50 lbs of what was considered "highly cultivated" live rock. In addition, I went with about a 1 inch bedding of substrate on the bottom. At this time I was using purple up and Seachem buffer for ph. I also installed my own RO/DI water system and prepared my water for first time and exchanges; in addition was running my protein skimmer.

I waited roughly nine weeks with continued testing and finally purchased 5 yellow tail damsels to test out the tank. At this time my water was 76 F, 1.024 salinity, 8.3 ph, no traces of ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate. In addition, I never noticed really any activity with ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate to determine that a cycled had occurred. I acclimated the damsels over a 1.5 hour period by doing the following: dip bag into tank for 30 min, exchanged 1 cup water bag with 1 cup of tank water, wait 15 minutes, repeated those steps for 4 exchanges, then netted them from the bag into the tank. Within 24 hours all five of the damsels were dead and I was severely taken back by this because I thought I was doing everything correctly and slowly. This also took some of my energy from the aquarium, but I decided to give it more time and continue testing.

Now comes this week, the tank has now been running for four months without any livestock. The parameters are the same as before: 76 F, 1.024 salinity, 8.3 ph, no traces of ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate. I thought to myself the aquarium should be good to go for at least a few fish. I went to the local store and picked up three False Percula Clownfish. I had the owner feed them in his tank, and they viciously ate and were very active. I did the same acclimation process as I did with the damsels. It has now been roughly 30 hours and one of the clownfish has already passed. In addition, the other two seem to be breathing heavily and very lethargic with their movements (leaning on rock/bottom, not swimming around as they did when first in the tank). This worries me because the one that passed was acting in the same fashion as the other two. I am very disappointed with what I have put these fish through, but I really have no idea what I have done wrong.

Does anyone have any recommendations about what steps I should take? Anything would be appreciated. I have included pictures of the tank and some of the growth it has on the rocks.

Thanks,
James
 

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Hi,
In a new tank you should add one fish at a time. Adding five fish at once (or three) adds a lot of waste to the tank and there may not be a sufficient bacterial population to handle that waste yet.

You will also want to try drip acclimating the fish.

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSnJjTEjWyU]How to Drip Acclimate Fish or Corals - YouTube[/ame]

With clowns, if you have more than two, they will often fight to the death. Clowns should be kept solo or in pairs. Now I don't think this happened right away (usually it takes a little while for them to establish dominance and start picking on each other) but just for the future, three clowns isn't a good idea.

Damsels are also highly aggressive and tend to pick each other off one by one, and will often attack and kill other fish in the tank. I hate to say it, but you may have dodged a bullet with those five damsels -- odds are that they'd become terrors in your tank had they lived!

Your water parameters look good, and your tank looks good. It looks like you have enough powerheads, so I doubt lack of flow is a problem.

If the remaining clowns pull through, then I'd wait at least 3 weeks before introducing the next fish. Then add no more than 1 fish every 3 weeks (unless you buy a pair of the same species that have to be introduced together).

Another thing to consider -- where are you buying these fish from? You may just be getting them from a bad place and they are coming to you unhealthy. Always ensure that a fish is eating before you bring it home -- ask the salesperson to feed the fish in front of you. Don't buy fish if there are dead bodies in the tank or if they have spots, cloudy eyes or other signs of disease. Maybe try buying your next fish from a different store if you got all these guys from the same place.

Good luck, keep us posted, and welcome to the site. :)
 
Thanks for the information, I wish information like yours was given at the fish store, they always tend to forget those little bits of information when selling...

The drip acclimation is great... I will certainly do that from now on...it is more simple then doing the transfers I was doing and safer!

I did have the owner of the store feed the clownfish before buying and unfortunately it is the only store where I live. I will certainly keep you all posted, my girlfriend keeps calling me a helicopter parent because I am checking on the clownfish every 10 minutes to see what they are doing.

Have you or anyone else purchased fish online? That would be my only other option as to the local store, but not sure what the opinions are to such operations.

I did check the ammonia today after the one clownfish passed and nothing is registering over .25, so how else would I know if I overloaded the bacterial population if nothing is registering?

Thanks,
James
 
Hello and Welcome!

Did you ever add anything other than live rock to start the cycle and between the damsels and the clowns, did you ever feed the tank? It sounds to me like the tank never properly cycled and the ammonia from adding the fish is what is doing them in.
 
There are lots of great places to order from online, but it's usually not worth it unless you buy a lot at once because fish have to be shipped overnight, so shipping costs are very expensive. Especially if you are only buying a $5 to $10 fish!

While you were cycling your tank, did you ever see a spike in ammonia or nitrite? Or have they always been zero? If they always were zero, there's a chance your tank never really cycled (even though you used live rock). If the clowns don't pull through, then try putting some fish food in the tank (just a couple pinches) then test your water over the next couple days. If ammonia and nitrite still stay at zero, then it means there was sufficient bacteria to handle the amount of waste produced by the food. If one or both go up, that indicates that your tank never properly cycled, which would explain the fish deaths.
 
I did occasionally add some flake food to the tank to give some ammonia source and for the algae growth. But like I said I have never seen a large spike of ammonia.... even right now as we speak it is <=.25.
 
Hello and Welcome!

Did you ever add anything other than live rock to start the cycle and between the damsels and the clowns, did you ever feed the tank? It sounds to me like the tank never properly cycled and the ammonia from adding the fish is what is doing them in.



This is what I came to ask :Cheers:

Since you are currently showing ammonia, and still have a few fish I would recommend this :

http://store.drtimsaquatics.com/One...Bacteria-for-Reef-and-Nano-Aquaria-_p_96.html

I have used this many times and it works great at breaking down ammonia.
 
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Hello and welcome to the site...glad to have you aboard. They've got you covered.
 
Well unfortunately at this time I can report the other two clownfish have passed as well.

I feel as though there must be something poisonous in the tank that I haven't measured. This is now a total of eight fish and none have survived... I've heard better chances with people who put a fish in right after mixing their first batch of saltwater...

I have been thinking of a few things... please let me know what you all think.

1) I am thinking about purchasing [ame="http://www.amazon.com/DrTims-Aquatics-Ammonium-chloride-Aquarium/dp/B006MP4QG6/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1357369113&sr=8-2&keywords=dr+tims+ammonia"]Ammonium chloride [/ame], and using that to verify my cycle and bacteria.

2) Get my water tested at a professional lab to see if there is something beyond my parameter testing that is at dangerous levels that is passed from the RO/DI.

3) Do some dramatic water changes (50%+) to cycle out the water based on info from 1 or 2.

Any other recommendations are appreciated... and thank you all for the feedback so far.

Thanks,
James
 
You dont need to purchase ammonia, just drop in a piece of raw shrimp. I would start there and see if the tank cycles after adding the shrimp. If it doesnt, then move on to options two and three.

Also, while you have the shrimp in there, check your test kit readings against another kit. You could have a bad kit.
 
I second Hannah's opinion. Put in a piece of raw shrimp from the grocery store. Let it rot. Track your parameters.
 
+1 more... your tank was never cycled as best I can tell.

Think like... you water has not had the breath of life given to it yet... it and the live rock need to become a living team. This what the cycle process does.
 
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I think you should bump up your temps a bit more also. I would bump it up to 78 F im running my tank at 79 F.

And even if u dont have fish i heard running the lights on for a bit helps the good bacteria grow. So run your lights for a couple hours even with out fish . Are you running carbon ? Carbon could help remove some stuff out of the water. Try running it or some chemi pure for a vouple weeks.
 
I think you should bump up your temps a bit more also. I would bump it up to 78 F im running my tank at 79 F.

And even if u dont have fish i heard running the lights on for a bit helps the good bacteria grow. So run your lights for a couple hours even with out fish . Are you running carbon ? Carbon could help remove some stuff out of the water. Try running it or some chemi pure for a vouple weeks.


ditto
 
I question the test kit, I've seen first hand an ammonia kit go bad, using drops or strips? Ive had ammonia and nitrate bottles both go bad. Also, what are you using to test salinity? Do you have power heads making the surface of the water constantly moving to allow gasses to escape. W/ live rock and 4 months, that tanks gotta be cycled!
 
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