Marine Aquarium Disasters and How to Prevent Them (Part 2) - Scott L. Moore
Posted by Chad , 26 October 2011 · 0 views
THE ARTICLE: Major Pest InfestationsAsterina Starfish, Aiptasia, and FlatwormsMarine pests are numerous and some can cause a tank disaster. Coral eating nudibranches can wipe out corals very quickly.Mantis shrimp may eat small fish. Live rock often contains many interesting and beneficial hitchhikers but it can also import dangerous pests into a tank. The Asterina species with a bluish spot in the center will eat coralline algae. Acropora Red Bugs will kill expensive acropora corals. Flatworms and aptasia can also slowly kill many livestock. Some pest treatments, such as flatworm killers, will kill many flatworms thus causing a die off and ammonia spike. If the directions call for water changes after treatment then do them.Prevention: Quarantine of all livestock is the best way to prevent pests from entering a tank. For new tanks that have just been filled with live rock and have finished cycling, introduce livestock slowly into the tank, one fish at a time to see if they are susceptible to pests that arrived on your new live rock. Consider dipping corals to kill pests on them. Study potential pests ahead of time and be ready to react quickly if they appear. Pests, like blue spotted Asterina, can be eliminated by picking them out with tweezers before they become numerous. Predators of pests are usually not one hundred percent effective in a tank environment.Heaters Gone WildAquarium heaters generally do not have very sophisticated thermostats. On some heaters, the thermostat may malfunction causing the heater to cook the tank. Many tanks have had die-offs for this reason. There have also been cases where heaters with too low wattage were used and during the colder winter months the tanks got too cold causing a die off.Prevention: Choose quality heaters by getting good recommendations from experienced aquarists. Titanium heaters tend to be superior. Replace heaters at least every two years. Consider using 2 heaters in case one stops working. Heaters can be attached to more precise temperature controllers for greater safety. Chillers can also prevent malfunctioning heaters from cooking your tank. Choose heaters with adequate wattage. Five watts per gallon is plenty. Audible temperature alarms are relatively inexpensive.Glass Heater BreaksGlass heaters should never be removed from water when plugged in. Removing them for only a couple seconds can cause them to break and possibly electrocute you and everything in you tank. You may try this and notice that you can remove them without them breaking –this doesn't mean they won't break the next time you try it. This scenario has happened many times. Many heaters, contain a copper element which can fall into the water after the heater breaks. Copper will slowly kill off all inverts –small and large.Prevention: Use shatter-proof heaters. Unplug all heaters before removing them from water –even if removing them for only a second. Handle glass heaters with great care, especially during water changes. Put a titanium ground in the water.Power OutagesA lack of power means no flow or heat. Without flow your tank livestock will die –possibly in a matter of hours.Prevention: Develop and test a plan to deal with power outages well in advance. If there is limited power during an outage, use it to drive the flow and heater only. Most livestock can live without light for at least a day or two. With any of the following backup power options, the use of a good surge protector is strongly recommended.Options:* Power generators can be very expensive but for large tanks they could prevent a loss greater than the cost of the generator.* Battery Backup UPSs such as those used to power computers during outages may be able to run a pump and a heater for short period of time. Battery backup units with enough power to drive a pump and heater for several hours can be very expensive. UPSs without sine wave power may not run some equipment at all.* Battery powered air pumps can provide some limited flow and can be ordered online. They are inexpensive.* Auto power inverters can create 100 watts of AC power to keep a small air pump and heater going. They are relatively inexpensive but consider the cost of gasoline with this option. Auto inverters will probably not run a water pump because they do not simulate sine wave power.* Manual Flow can be created by scooping up water and pouring it down into the tank on a frequent basis so as to create surface agitation. Heat packs may help.* Friendly neighbors with extension cords can help if only your home is without power.Auto Power InverterMassive OverfeedingIf a very large amount of food is dumped into a tank, usually by a well meaning child, and goes unnoticed, it will decay and cause nitrates and phosphates to rise high enough to start killing first the corals, then other invertebrates and if it goes high enough –your fish too. Your fish and corals can die in only hours in this scenario.Prevention: Keep tight lids on tanks. Educate family and friends on why they must not touch the tank. Tell children that small sharks are hiding in the rocks.Anemone NukageWhen an anemone dies and decays, millions of nematocysts float all over the tank and can eventually kill everything. If an anemone crawls into a pump or Koralia and gets pureed, minced, diced or chopped up, the nematocysts will go everywhere and kill everything very quickly. This is anemone nukage. The anemone's nematocysts contain a potent paralytic neurotoxin.AnemonePrevention: Anemones are for advanced aquarists who have adequate light, excellent water quality and an understanding of how to deal with anemones when they become a problem. Ensure pumps cannot be blocked by any livestock.Dropping Electrical Equipment into the WaterDon't laugh, everyone can make mistakes. People have dropped live light fixtures into their tanks.Prevention: Unplug all equipment during water changes and maintenance. After water changes and maintenance, use a flashlight to check for water spills on equipment before restoring power. Handle electrical cords with dry hands.Bad or No Top OffsWhen salt water evaporates, the salt does not evaporate with it. If you have ever seen a salt flat, it's obvious to see. Some beginners have topped off with salt water causing salinity to rise and ended up killing everything in the tank. Failure to top off will also cause salinity to rise.Salt Flats - Lake HartPrevention: When salt water evaporates, replace with fresh water. Use a marker on the glass (like a small piece of tape) to determine the proper water level when topping off. Use of an automatic top off (ATO) can greatly reduce the need for manual top offs. With an ATO one only needs to refill a fresh water reservoir on a far less frequent basis. Also, consider placing your tank in a cool spot in your home to reduce evaporation. Before doing any tank maintenance that might suddenly change the water level, unplug your ATO. An unintended ATO replenishment with fresh water could cause a drastic reduction in salinity killing everything.Unsuitable Livestock ChoicesOne aquarist read somewhere that Dwarf Moray Eels are less aggressive than the larger types. His new Dwarf Moray eel started out by eating two fish that had cost him $260 each! This aquarist made the mistake of not reading enough about his choice. It is crucial that each livestock choice be studied and evaluated for your tank using criteria such as: * Is your tank large enough? Fish tend to become more aggressive or stressed out in tanks that are too small for them. If the tank is undersized for the fish, the filtration may not be able to handle the fish's waste.* Compatibility with other livestock. Take note of how aggressive a fish is: peaceful, semi-aggressive, aggressive, or predator? Semi-aggressive fish can kill! Does the creature have a favored prey or is it the natural prey of something already in your tank? Dottybacks and wrasses will probably eat your shrimp. Starfish may eat your clams. Some crabs will eat only starfish. Corals can kill each other. The blue-ringed octopus' venom is deadly to humans. No anti-venom is currently available. Do not assume that because one fish is peaceful that a very similar fish will also be peaceful.* Many corals, invertebrates and some fish require excellent water quality.* Do you have sufficient light? Many corals and some invertebrates require advanced lighting such as metal halides.Moray EelPrevention: Do not give in to "new fish emotion" which is very similar to "new car emotion". Fish store sales persons, however nice, have misled aquarists many times so do your own research. After studying your potential choice you may decide not to buy it for very good reasons. You might take a good fish book to the store with you and look up the fish's requirements while you are there. Use species compatibility charts. Sudden Algae OutbreaksAlgae outbreaks can quickly overtake a tank, grow over and kill corals and other livestock. Algae needs three things to grow: light, nitrates and phosphates. If you see a sudden algae outbreak, one of these three things has changed. Reducing nitrates and phosphates is of one of the greatest challenges of marine aquarists.Prevention: Reduce nitrates and phosphates to zero! The methods for reducing these chemicals are numerous but the best ways are:* Install good protein skimmers.* Use refugiums with plenty of macro-algae and a very strong plant light.* Regular water changes.* Do not overstock. Know how many inches of fish your tank can handle.* Use cycled live rock which is an excellent filter.* Do not overfeed.* Nitrate and phosphate reactors use chemical media to reduce these chemicals.* Use reverse osmosis (RO) or de-ionized (DI) water only. Test your RO and DI water with a Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) meter because filters may become prematurely worn out and lose effectiveness. Use of tap water has caused many algae outbreaks. Tap water often has phosphates in it and charcoal filters will not remove phosphates. One person used a garden hose to fill his tank with tap water. The hose had copper fittings which are deadly to invertebrates. If an algae outbreak occurs but nitrates and phosphates are near zero, consider that these two algae nutrients may be settled in the rock and sand but not in the water. If so clean the rock and let snails, gobies or starfish sift the sand.