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Sascha D.

300 Gallon Disaster Reboot

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Hello Everyone!

It's been exactly two years since I purchased this aquarium from Glass Cages in December 2015. You can read more about that craziness in my review here. Since then have been times of great excitement punctuated by some of the lowest times I've had in the hobby. Some of it fell into the category of freak occurrence and there was really nothing that I could have done. Some things were completely preventable with good quarantine, coral dipping, and redundancy practices. The last event in particular was completely my fault. Needless to say, the tank has fallen into disrepair during the last few months and I've considered giving up the hobby all together. After some careful thought and much deliberation with friends and family I've decided it give it another shot and this thread is my reboot build!

First, a little bit about the aquarium and the equipment currently running the display.

  • 300g glass aquarium 96x30x25
  • 100g acrylic berlin style sump Reef Angel Aquarium Controller
  • Ocean Revive S-026 LED lighting fixtures x 4
  • Aquamaxx EM-500 Protein Skimmer rated for 700g light or 350g heaving stocking levels
  • Geo's Reef Solid Media Reactor with carbon and Phosban
  • Reef Dynamics Recirculating BP Reactor
  • A.E. Tech ETSS 400 Calcium Reactor with Azoo pressure regulator and solenoid

Here are some pictures of the aquarium when it was purchased. 

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Now, here is a picture of what it looks like two years and three tank crashes later...

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In my next few posts I will talk about each of the three tank crashes, what went wrong and how it could have been prevented. After that I will highlight what I want to change and then I'm going to try my best to do it without embarrassing myself too much. Lastly, I'm going to begin restocking and try to figure out what kind of tank I'm going to keep next. :fish:

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Tank looks familiar like I've seen it before. Oh wait, like when I was pushing it with my body completely horizontal while in a Uhaul trying to unload it with one other crazy dude! Now I remember that tank.

Glad to see the reboot Sascha. I got one sweet coral eating Golden Butterflyfish to put in there first if you want to start this tank off right!

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9 hours ago, Juiceman said:

Cool, good to see it’s back on Arc also!


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Thanks! It's going to be a long process getting the tank back on track.

8 hours ago, FarmerTy said:

Tank looks familiar like I've seen it before. Oh wait, like when I was pushing it with my body completely horizontal while in a Uhaul trying to unload it with one other crazy dude! Now I remember that tank.

Glad to see the reboot Sascha. I got one sweet coral eating Golden Butterflyfish to put in there first if you want to start this tank off right! emoji12.png

Haha, when I said "try to figure out what kind of tank I'm going to keep next..." I didn't really mean reef or FOWLR! Did you catch that thing out of there yet? 

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He's hanging out in my QT tank until I have time to post him for sale. He's so dang gorgeous I almost want to keep him. All the SPS he was picking at didn't show any harm as the polyps were out again but I don't want to chance my gonis... They are my babies and I can't get rid of them for a fish.

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I purchased this aquarium in December 2015 and, thanks to a lot of help from club members, set it up in January 2016. The live rock that I used was from a previous tank and received an acid bath to get rid of the bubble algae spores. I used a bottle of bacteria to seed the rocks and the tank cycled normally. In February the tank was reading zero levels and I got some tester pieces from a friend to begin stocking. Here is where I made my first mistake by not dipping the corals. My friend had a beautiful tank and I figured the corals were clean. Spoiler alert! They were definitely not clean! More on that in the next post. The second mistake that I made was stocking corals before fish. As you can see from the pictures below, as soon as I added fish the GHA started a massive bloom.

January 2016

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February 2016

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March 2016

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June 2016

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Sometime around July 2016 my tank started to decline. The corals were the first to show distress by not extending and turning a pale color. I started doing weekly 10% water changes, but the corals continued to decline. All of the parameters tested within normal ranges and I couldn't figure out what was wrong. After three months of water changes everything in the tank should be looking great, but nearly all of my SPS were gone. When you have no idea what the problem could be you start assigning blame wherever it may fit. In September I removed the biopellets and GFO, but the corals continued to decline. By this point the only filter on the tank was a protein skimmer and that must mean the problem is in the source water. I thought it couldn't be my filter because all of the media was less than six months old. I started to read about a case of contaminated salt mix years ago and thought I had found the problem. Later that month I threw out all of my salt mix, bought new salt of a different brand, and did a 50% water change, but the corals continued to decline. In November I got a call from a friend that explained everything! He told me that a water main broke during construction of a new elementary school nearby and the municipal water was flushed with chemicals to disinfect the system. He suggested that I test the water coming out of my filter to ensure it was still coming out clean. Sure enough, my brand new filter and membrane was producing 79 TDS! Something like that may only happen once in a decade, but you better believe that I'll test every batch of filtered water as long as I'm still in this hobby.

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Was your DI Resin depleting super fast?! I have dual Carbon and Dual DI stages just because of my paranoia.


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2 hours ago, Juiceman said:

Was your DI Resin depleting super fast?! I have dual Carbon and Dual DI stages just because of my paranoia.


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One thing that threw me off was that the DI resin hadn't changed colors and I didn't even consider the filter was the problem because of that. It could be that the RO membrane or the carbon block was exhausted. It could also be that the DI resin was bad. I decided to replace every stage of the filter and the corals began to recover after that. 

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Remember when I said that I hadn't dipped my corals? Can you guess what happened? We all know that there are some nasty critters that come in on corals frags, but it seems to always happen to someone else. I didn't take it as seriously as I should have and took for granted that local frags would be pest free. What came in on my frags were Red Planaria Flatworms. The worms themselves don't eat corals and I was lucky that it wasn't something worse. However, if left unchecked they will smother corals and they release toxins when they die. I would recommend checking out the coral dipping guide on the forums for more information on how you can avoid all of this mess.

The worms look very much like red algae as they begin to cover the rocks.

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They can also be mistaken for cyanobacteria while on the sand.

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It's not until they're on the glass that you can really tell what you're looking at. Unfortunately, by then the population is quite high and they become difficult to eradicate. 

 

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I began treatment with manual removal over the course of five consecutive weeks. I fashioned a hose (shown below) and siphoned as many worms as I could find into a filter bag that was located in the sump. By siphoning the worms into the filter bag, I could work indefinitely without stopping to dump buckets of water. At the end of each round I would clean the sock and allow it to dry out. It was pretty gross! :o

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As you can see from the sock, there were a ton of worms pulled out every time. Sometimes if I would work too long, then the worms would wiggle their way through the filter sock and make a run (swim?) for it.

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Here is a great picture displaying the toxin that is produced by the worms when they die. It's very toxic to fish, but can be removed with activated carbon. 

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I believed that I had removed enough of the worms by the end of the fifth week that I could safely use chemicals to terminate the rest of the infestation. I bought a box of Salifert Flatworm Exit to treat the tank. The instructions say to dose the tank in intervals, but I had read online that it was best to dose all at once. It's also recommended to have fresh activated carbon ready to remove any toxins released by the worms. I administered the medication and continued manual removal while it was working. After just five minutes I could tell that the worms were dying! The carbon was added to the system after one hour of medication. I also did a water change the next day; mostly because it was almost midnight by the time I gave up removing worm carcasses. The video below shows exactly how many worms there were. Keep in mind this was after five weeks of manual removal!

 

As you may have guessed, the tank was thrown into a cycle for several weeks as everything that died began to decompose. I got lucky and haven't seen a worm since the initial treatment! Many people aren't so lucky and have to treat more than once to remove the pests. With all of the excess nutrients, GHA quickly took over and that was the next hurdle to pass. All of this because I didn't take five minutes to dip the corals! If you aren't dipping, then I suggest you start. Oh look, a coral dipping guide!

Full Tank Shot 4-9-17.JPG

 

The gravity of this experience left me in shock and I decided to post a guide How to Remove Red Planaria Flatworms for others dealing with the same issue. 

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Glad to see you back and active again Sascha! It's a long and hard road to getting pests and issues worked out, but it's worth it in the long run. I have to say that the water in our part of town has caused many of us head aches and mysterious coral death. I find that if my filters aren't replaced within 6 months, even though TDS reads 0, corals start to decline in health. Not sure what they put in our water, but it's something potent enough to make it through DI resin and damage coral. Keep up the hard work and persistence! It will be worth it.

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Jebao, what can you say? Some of them last for years and others don't last a month. My WP-40's worked perfectly for three years before going out and I decided to replace them with the Jebao Crossflow CP-40. It's basically a knock-off of the Maxspect Gyre pumps. I purchased the first pair of pumps from Fish Street, which turned into a fisco! I will never use Fish Street again and I recommend doing your research before you do as well. You can read more about that incident in my review here.

Choosing the Crossflow pumps turned into another giant disaster and left me without circulation pumps for a few days while replacements were on the way. The main issue revolves around two design flaws. The controller has a built in safety mechanism that prevents the pump from operating if any resistance is felt on the impeller. A red light appears shortly after the pump is turned on and the controller must be reset before it will attempt to turn the impeller again. The second flaw is in the fitting of the impeller housing. The poor fitting makes it near impossible to clean and service the pump without triggering the safety mechanism. I spent more time trying to get these things to work than any other purchase that I've ever made! In the end I had to return them for a refund. You can read more details about the Jebao Crossflow CP-40 here

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My last post about what has transpired up until now is about quarantine. I've been keeping freshwater aquariums since 1992 and saltwater exclusively since 2001. Up until three years ago I had never quarantined any new purchases. I don't know if I've been lucky all of these years or the quality of aquarium fish has gone down. Maybe it's the shady practices at the wholesaler level has lead to the rise of diseases. Either way, you simply can't survive in this hobby without quarantine any longer. If you want to read more about quarantine practices, then this article will get you started.

In August 2017 my tank was looking pretty good and I decided to purchase some fish from the local LFS. I decided on 3 Yellow Tangs, a Naso Tang, and a Yellow Eye Kole Tang to quarantine at the same time. The 30 gallon aquarium already had two chromis that were doing well and weekly water changes were ensuring good water quality. It's been my practice to observe first and treat if the fish show signs of disease. All of these fish looked great and I had no idea that one of them was hiding something nasty...

 

The fish developed what I believe to be Marine Velvet and I began treatment with Paraguard. This treatment was recommended to me by the LFS, but didn't appear to have any effect on the disease and I have since stopped using this medication. One by one each fish was removed using a pair of tongs. Even though it was a disaster, at least it happened in the observation tank and a larger problem was averted (or so I thought). Everything up until now had gone to plan. After all, preventing disasters is the reason that we quarantine in the first place! All of the equipment was cleaned with fresh water, the tank was drained and allowed to dry. A few days later one of the corals had fallen in the main display. I took those same tongs and picked up the fallen coral. Can you guess what came next? A short time later all of the fish broke out with Marine Velvet and most died before I could catch them for treatment. It's not enough to simply have a quarantine tank. You also need sound husbandry practices that you follow every time. This is a lesson that I hope to only learn one time.

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40 minutes ago, Gig 'em @ NDstructible said:

Glad to see you back and active again Sascha! It's a long and hard road to getting pests and issues worked out, but it's worth it in the long run. I have to say that the water in our part of town has caused many of us head aches and mysterious coral death. I find that if my filters aren't replaced within 6 months, even though TDS reads 0, corals start to decline in health. Not sure what they put in our water, but it's something potent enough to make it through DI resin and damage coral. Keep up the hard work and persistence! It will be worth it.

Which filters are you replacing? It's been a year since I replaced my filters and membrane and I was planning to proactively replace them at the end of the month. I've been buying the RODI kit at BRS for $18 on Black Friday and the membrane is about $25 on Amazon. It's a small price to pay once a year if I need to.

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The build so far has been a little depressing, but you can't have a reboot without first having a shut down! Hopefully, someone will learn something from my mistakes and that will make the typing worth it. The next posts will be more optimistic as I start to plan the rebuild. Hopefully there won't be any major issues and we can start stocking! ^_^

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Edited by Sascha D.
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13 minutes ago, Sascha D. said:

Which filters are you replacing? It's been a year since I replaced my filters and membrane and I was planning to proactively replace them at the end of the month. I've been buying the RODI kit at BRS for $18 on Black Friday and the membrane is about $25 on Amazon. It's a small price to pay once a year if I need to.

I replace the RO carbon blocks and sediment filter every 6 months or sooner. The membranes I try and replace every 2-3 years. DI resin as soon as it starts to change color. Recently my carbon blocks reached their 6 month age and I filtered one last time. Suddenly my corals are struggling with no apparent reason, all parameters have been stable and in acceptable range. I changed out my RO filters and the DI resin and filtered a new batch of water. I have done 35 gallons of water changes already and tips of my acros have stopped looking so unhealthy. Still haven't identified what it is in this area of Austin, but I know I have to be very proactive in keeping up with my filter changes or things go downhill fast.

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Right now I'm going through about 20 gallons a week in top-off water and doing one 50g water change a month. At this level of usage my DI resin starts changing color after 11 months. Do you notice dirt on your pre-filter? I notice it on my home pre-filter but the RODI filter always looks the same.

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Man... I’ve shared the new found QT experience over the last year and a half.

Very similar experience! I started in 2010 and never QT’d fish or coral. Until after my Brook fiasco last year. Since then, I’ve had Brook once, Velvet twice, and ich always. This is from Live Aquaria, and Sea Dwelling, so no one is immune.

I’ve ditched pretty much all of the crazy medications I was reccomended by several other fish stores and pretty much only use CP, Copper Power, Prazipro, Metroplex, Furan 2, and Kanaplex now. Reef2Reef has been a great go to for QT info and troubleshooting!


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1 hour ago, Juiceman said:

I’ve ditched pretty much all of the crazy medications I was reccomended by several other fish stores and pretty much only use CP, Copper Power, Prazipro, Metroplex, Furan 2, and Kanaplex now. Reef2Reef has been a great go to for QT info and troubleshooting!


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That's a great list Juiceman!  I use those and I think they are a perfect all around toolkit

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Wow Sascha, I had wondered what was going on w/ your tank as we got our build threads going around the same time.  We also both had disease issues from not QTing - I lost my entire tank to Brook.  Glad to see you back at it w/ a vengeance!   

Just read the review (dude - that's the longest, most in-depth review that wasn't an Amazon spoof!) and am not surprised.  Just looking at the Glass Cages website was enough for me to cross them off my list of potential builders.  That stand made me nervous for you from the instant I saw it as well.  

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Man... I’ve shared the new found QT experience over the last year and a half.

Very similar experience! I started in 2010 and never QT’d fish or coral. Until after my Brook fiasco last year. Since then, I’ve had Brook once, Velvet twice, and ich always. This is from Live Aquaria, and Sea Dwelling, so no one is immune.

I’ve ditched pretty much all of the crazy medications I was reccomended by several other fish stores and pretty much only use CP, Copper Power, Prazipro, Metroplex, Furan 2, and Kanaplex now. Reef2Reef has been a great go to for QT info and troubleshooting!


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Sorry to hear about. It's been a tough year for fish. Thanks for the medication tip! I went through a whole bottle of Paraguard and it didn't cure anything it says on the bottle. I also tried Rid Ich Plus but every fish I've treated with that medication had died within a week. With a 100% failure rate I've completely stopped using it.

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3 hours ago, BobcatReefer said:

Wow Sascha, I had wondered what was going on w/ your tank as we got our build threads going around the same time.  We also both had disease issues from not QTing - I lost my entire tank to Brook.  Glad to see you back at it w/ a vengeance!   

Just read the review (dude - that's the longest, most in-depth review that wasn't an Amazon spoof!) and am not surprised.  Just looking at the Glass Cages website was enough for me to cross them off my list of potential builders.  That stand made me nervous for you from the instant I saw it as well.  

Thanks for the compliment! I've been writing reviews on many of my purchases over the last two years. It's long past time to build a website and buy a domain. I know some beginner HTML and CSS, but I need to find some kind of software that will help out. I'm going to treat this tank like a brand new purchase. There doesn't appear to be any obstacles that can't be overcome and I believe it can be salvaged. Hopefully 2018 brings us both success! 

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8 minutes ago, Sascha D. said:

It's long past time to build a website and buy a domain. I know some beginner HTML and CSS, but I need to find some kind of software that will help out.

A coupla options. Maybe do a "Word Press" site. Kinda blogish. There are also a ton of web site templates out there that people have designed. All free and mod-able, if ya kinda know what you are doing. Search for ones that are "adaptive" or "responsive" . Ya want it to look good on pads, phones and computers, even if they are using a windoze browser.

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