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Marine Aquarium Disasters and How to Prevent Them - Scott L. Moore



Tank disasters cause people to leave the marine aquarium hobby more than any other reason. All of the following, emotionally draining and expensive disasters have actually happened to aquarium tank owners. Some disasters destroyed not only the tanks but aquarist's homes as well. Read carefully and learn from someone else's mistake instead of your own.gallery_2632346_867_43691.jpgOne disaster can wipe it all out. Read on.Moving Too Fast:Although in and of itself this may not cause a disaster, it is the root cause of many of the following disaster scenarios. Patience is the absolute number one rule in this hobby.Prevention: Take the time to educate yourself on all aspects of your tank. Plan as much of your tank setup as possible. Make absolutely sure you are buying the equipment, fish and other livestock that is right for your tank. Confer with fellow aquarists before moving forward.Not Understanding Tank Cyclinggallery_2632346_867_26398.jpgTank cycling, also referred to as the nitrogen cycle or new tank syndromeAll aquarists must understand what tank cycling is or risk a mass die off. A tank cycle is necessary to establish beneficial bacteria that will eat toxic ammonia, nitrites and nitrates, but a cycle can also kill livestock. One needs to also understand the various reasons why more tank cycles can happen long after the tank has been established.Prevention: Do not add livestock during a cycle. Do not add too much livestock at one time as it will cause a new cycle. Remove dead fish quickly! Understand why tanks can cycle more than once. Read up on tank cycles! Learn the causes of 'mini-cycles'. Excellent article: What is the Nitrogen Cycling Process? http://saltaquarium..../a/aa073199.htmPump Gets BlockedFlow is perhaps the most important tank parameter. If the intake to a pump, sump, refugium or other system becomes blocked, flow may be interrupted. Without flow, water quality will degrade quickly and temperature may drop suddenly. With this type of disaster, some aquarists have lost most of their tank livestock overnight. Cucumbers, anemones and other creatures can block intakes. Filters can become saturated with detritus, seaweed (macro-algae) or detritus and cause blockage in the filtration system. Pumps may burn out if they are blocked or if they run dry.Prevention: Examine your filtration system and sequentially list each and every item that water flows through. Determine if anything can become clogged and clean it on a regular basis. Consider pushing a bulbous shaped piece of screen into an intake. Most pumps come with a small vent-like attachment that goes over the intake and prevents blockage. Disassemble and clean pumps often. Soak them in vinegar to release salt build up in them. (Rinse out all vinegar). Replace pumps and pump impellers before they break. Keep spare pumps or pump impellers on hand.Floods and SpillsWater on the floor is caused by pumps or attached hoses that get out of control. Floods can also be caused by poorly designed plumbing usually between the main tank and a sump or refugium. Almost every tank owner has let heir change out container overflow when filling it with filtered water.Prevention: Use plumbing designs that cannot flood even if a pump fails. For instance, pump water from the top of the main display upward towards the sump and let gravity bring water back through a pipe near the top of the sump. The return pipe should be several times larger than the uptake and very difficult to block or clog. Flexible, curved tubes are less likely to clog than PVC pipe with 90 degree turns. When filling large containers with filtered water use loud, audible timers to remind you when they are full. A wrist watch with a countdown timer is ideal.Failure to Properly Clean Filter MediaThis applies especially to bioballs but also to mechanical filtration and large carbon packs. If bioballs are filled with beneficial bacteria and you clean them with bacteria-killing tap water, then a sudden ammonia spike could result. The sudden lack of ammonia eating bacteria will cause an ammonia spike that can quickly kill everything in a tank. Also, if you have lots of bioballs and you remove them all from the tank at once, an ammonia spike could result.Prevention: Clean bioballs and other filtration media with a soap-free brush in used tank water from a water change. Remove bioballs gradually, perhaps 25% at a time.Electrical DisasterThere are a substantial number of aquarists who have failed to read equipment safety instructions and had electrical disasters some of which resulted in their homes catching fire. Unventilated chillers or equipment, failure to use drip loops, faulty wiring, lack of GFCI outlets and other electrical problems have all resulted in serious problems that can destroy a tank and your home.Prevention: Use drip loops! Allow power cords and any cable to hang down in a loop so that when water spills it doesn't run along the cable down to the equipment. Please don't say 'water spills won't happen to me.' Aquarium equipment can produce a lot of heat therefore make sure that all electrical equipment has adequate ventilation. One tank owner put a chiller in a closed cabinet. Because there was inadequate heat dissipation the chiller overheated and caused a major house fire. Ground all electrical devices. Old and faulty equipment often lets electrical current leak into the water. Consider putting a titanium ground in your tank water to prevent stray voltage from killing you and your fish. After a water change out, use a flashlight to check for water spills before restoring power.Putting Contaminates in the TankSeveral common scenarios:* You wash your hands with soap and don't quite rinse all the soap off and then you put them in the tank. Soap may have phosphates.* Your maid or a well meaning friend sprays Windex all over the tank glass to clean it. Windex has a lot of ammonia and thus will cause a cycle. This scenario has caused many fish kills!* You put your hands in the tank after you touched some other contaminant such as lotion or your dog's anti-flea and tick medication.* You worked on your lawn mower engine then put your hands in your tank


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