3/28/2012: Coming apart…

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the saltwater tank. I think everything is under control now, but there have been several losses.

The issues started (I think) with one of the heaters, the temperature was fluxuating between 80 and 90 degrees. I also had a nitrate spike, which I’m not exactly sure what caused it, but I think it was a combination of several different things. Regardless, at the beginning of last week I planned to do a few large water changes to bring things back.

I had 40 gallons of pre-mixed saltwater in a trash can in my living room, I was going to do the water change the next morning, but the can fell over at 2AM, which caused a lot of issues with my carpet and laminate floor. All of the damage is covered by my homeowner’s insurance, but at the very least, dealing with this along with having to travel for work and vacation meant that the water changes were delayed.

As part of the restoration process, there were several large pieces of dehumidifying equipment in the room with the SW tank, which resulted in the ambient temperature in the room being 95 degrees for about 4 days. The nitrates spiked to about 200 ppm during this time.

Needless to say, I’ve lost several fish because of all of this: it’s easier to say who is left, really. All of the damsels and the tangs are still alive, along with a mated pair of the cardinals (and the snails of course). I’ve been doing extra water changes recently, and the nitrate level is down to between 40-80 ppm, and the temperature is stable between 76-80 degrees. The casualties seem to have stopped for now.

The other thing that happened was that it seems Filet has asserted himself as the dominant fish again. I know this because he beat the ever-loving crap out of Buzz. For 3 days or so, Buzz would hide in a cave all day, only coming out to eat a little bit. He had significant damage to his entire face and was obviously in a lot of pain. Thankfully, he doesn’t appear to be sick, just beat up, and yesterday he started coming out of his cave and eating more. He’s also showing signs of healing, but he’s definitely not the same — he’s still treading very lightly around Filet.

I’m going to keep up the frequent, large water changes until the nitrates get down below 40 ppm, and I’ve ordered a new refugium light. I plan to change the macroalgae situation in there quite a bit, since that’s supposed to help keep the nitrates down and I think the chaeto algae I had down there mostly dying contributed to all of this. I don’t plan to stop until my nitrates get below 5 ppm (or whatever the appropriate level for corals is), but the plan of attack for reducing nitrates changes when you get down below 40 ppm. After the tank is stable there for a while and everybody seems to have calmed down, I will start replacing the fish I lost, and eventually add corals.

On a happier note, the other two tanks are doing quite well: the shrimp tank is getting more and more populated with lots of shrimp — my strategy of “Don’t Touch ANYTHING” is working quite well so far 🙂

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