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Wilting Coral


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So for my job I was basically handed aquariums sick from neglect...and I have to fix them.

We have a tree branch coral that is doing really poorly. Its usually a little tempermental but had been doing really well until last friday. Now its leaning over and shrivelled-looking. There are smaller tree branch anemones right next to it that are doing fine.

Also there's some pulsing xenia that's also doing poorly. It is under a powerhead... maybe they don't like turbulence? Again, the pulsing xenia next to it is doing fine.

There is a lot of green hair algae in the tank, a little red slime, and lots of aiptasia I've trying to remove. I tried to test some things and I know I do need to do a waterchange but I didn't find anything that looked really suspicious. Help? My supervisor said he was asisst me with the first waterchange last weekend but he hasn't answered any of my calls.

PO4: 1, I think

Ca: n/a


NO2: 0

NH3: .05, I think

pH: 8

Alkalinity: 300+

Fe (cheleated and non cheleated): 0

I could not get the calcium test to work. It was the kind that uses titration. You are supposed to add reagent 1, mix, add reagent 2, mix, add 1 drop of reagent 3 and it should turn light pink. Keep adding drops of reagent 3 til it titrates to purple. However, when I do it, it turns dark pink after adding reagent 2, and I'll add up to 10 drops of reagent 3 but nothing will change.

I use all RO water, the salinity is fine, I feed daily or every other day with brine shrimp and supplement with phytomax, zoomax, and.. something else like that. I feel like I need to add chemical supplements, but I don't know how to test that stuff in the water.

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Too much nitrate--I can almost guarantee that's the problem. The tree coral (Sinularia) is extremely delicate and I've had no luck with them in the past. They need pristine water.

The pulsing xenia should probably be moved out of the direct path of the powerhead. Too much current can injure them.

I know the tanks hadn't been maintained well in the past. I hope that the others are all doing okay. It sounds like water quality is definitely the issue here. We always fed our tank extremely lightly and you should be doing water changes every other week or so. How many fish are in this one? Also, is there a protein skimmer on this?

I know what you mean about the frustrations with the calcium test! Is it the one by Seachem? Also are there stony corals in here or just soft? If there are just soft, Ca shouldn't be a big issue with the tank. It's only if you have a lot of SPS and clams constantly sucking up the Ca that you'll get deficient; otherwise your levels should be okay.

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On thing I would like to add I know that the pulsing xenas dont like others touching them, I also remember that if a Mushroom is touching them they look like they are melting..make sure they are being touched and out of very strong power heads, they like alittle current but not to the point of pushing on them :)

The nitrates I see as the biggest problem, is there a skimmer on the tank?

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To be honest I'm not sure how many fish there are. There are several blue-green chromis, several spotted cardinals, a couple yellow tanks, 2 clownfish, a mandarin fish, a flame hawkfish, and a bicolor pseudochromis (or a yellow gramma basslet, I'm not sure). They get frozen brine shrimp and seaweed sheets.

I talked to someone who used to take care of the tank and they said that the xenia like the water flow and the jet has always been right there. It just doesn't seem right though, I'll try moving it because there is basically a large hole in the xenia where the jet goes.

The calcium test is by Hagan.

Yes there is a protein skimmer on the tank and I've been emptying it regularly. What exactly does the protein skimmer do? I also added a bag of phosguard, and I dosed the tank with some strontium, calcium, and iodine tonight and less strength that the bottle recommended because I was frustrated and I'm hoping that was not a bad move.

We have another problem too... well I was warned the the lights on one side of the tank are not safe and will electrocute me if I don't turn off the powerstrip. I DID turn off the power strip and I got a couple minor shocks yesterday. UGH no one has answered my phone calls in the past week. I even left a sticky note on my supervisor's office computer to call me. He obviously saw it but no call >>

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Sorry you're havin trouble with the tank,,, and your supervisor. :) Hope you can get it straightened out.

Protein skimmers remove dissolved organic compounds (waste byproducts, or DOCs) from the water. It does that by using the surface tension of millions of microscopic bubbles, which bring the waste to the surface and deposit it in the collection area.

btw, What's FE (from your water params)? Does that mean iron?

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how big is your tank? what is your specific gravity?

I also added a bag of phosguard, and I dosed the tank with some strontium, calcium, and iodine tonight and less strength that the bottle recommended because I was frustrated and I'm hoping that was not a bad move.

are you testing for strontium, calcium, and iodine??? DO NOT DOSE ANYTHING UNLESS YOU ARE TESTING FOR IT. reason being is because if you aren't testing for it then how do you know that you need it? in most cases, the list of parameters you need to test for go as follows:


salinity/specific gravity









in smaller systems (less than 50 gallons), everything else will be kept in check by weekly water changes.

refer to this article for all of you reef aquarium water chemistry needs... http://www.reefkeeping.com/issues/2004-05/rhf/index.php

your nitrates are probably most of the problem... do you have a refugium? have you been doing weekly 10-20% water changes?

another potential problem i see is your alk... the best range to be in is 125-220ppm, and elevated levels can lead to a calcium deficiency. do you have any stony corals??

Edited by Szywica
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Yes, Fe means Iron.

pH, ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, phosphates, and alkalinity are above. I can NOT get the calcium test to work, and as far as I can tell I do not see a test for magnesium anywhere. Should there be a test for strontium and iodine too?

Specific gravity.. I do not know the number off the top of my head but I top off with DI periodically to keep it in the middle of the bracket on the reader. How do I lower the alkalinity?

I think we have a little stony coral but I'm not sure. I'll try and get a picture. I don't think we have a refugium.

I have not done any waterchanges for the 1.5 weeks I've had this job. Someone was supposed to assist me with one last weekend but he and the other two guys who said they'd help me with my job are not returning my calls either. I'm almost positive I can do it myself, but I'd really feel more comfortable if there was someone else there to guide me the first time.

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it would benefit you a great deal to obtain/buy a refractometer. they are used to measure specific gravity and are MUCH more accurate than hydrometers. many people have reported hydrometers to be off by a substaintial amount for a number of reasons. i bought a cheap refractomer for $40 and it hasn't failed me yet.

don't worry about the strontium and iodine tests. these elements aren't necessary to test or dose for, and they aren't anywhere near as important as the other 10 parameters i listed. water changes will keep these levels just fine.

since you don't have a substantial amount of stony corals, the Mg/Ca/Alk should better themselves with a water change, but do try and get test kits for each of them. API makes good tests for a decent price. remember drop tests are far more accurate than dip tests.

water changes aren't too complicated, but i understand that it's always nice to have a better knowledge of what you need to do BEFORE you do it. you just have to make sure that the SG (specific gravity), and temperature match EXACTLY what is in the tank. if either of these are off, they will stress the fish and corals.

you'll do fine, just be careful, ask questions, and research.

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I'm not sure if I want to put money into this new job just yet.. the bio dept is supposed to take care of that but the entire school is going through an economic crisis right now so they can't pay and there's a good chance I will be laid off. The Arizona legislature is going to cut all univerisity budgets by 40% :\

I found one of my supervisors today, and he said that we don't have tests for Mg or Iodine but to just dose according to the bottle. Tomorrow he is going to help me with the Calcium test and answer some of my questions. And he said that the electrical shocks won't be bad enough to do damage (YIKES!) but he promises to buy new electrical equipment. I will ask him if we have a refractometer.

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yikes... hopefully you get to keep your job. needless to say, be very careful while working in and around the tanks with electrical safety problems. if they don't have a refractometer just make sure that when you use the hydrometer to get all of the air bubbles off of the swing arm. good luck. :)

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