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My Nano Reef Part Two

Last Updated: 5/31/08

I ordered four dwarf hermits of four species and six snails of three species for my tank on 5/3/08. They arrived on 5/6/08. They sent two extra hermit crabs and one extra snail. I got two dwarf zebra hermit crabs, two scarlet reef hermit crabs, one dwarf blue leg hermit crabs, one dwarf yellow tip hermit crab, three Cerith snails, 2 Nassarius Vibex snails, and 2 Margarita snails. They were tiny which was good. I took one gallon from the tank and dripped it into the combined bags (about 0.5 gallons) over more than an hour. During that time, the crabs were very active, and the Nassarius snails had their breathing tubes flailing around. The Margarita snails were stuck to the bag when I opened it so I gently removed them. I do not think I hurt them. After acclimation and having replaced the one gallon with newly made up water (I have a stir plate, stir bar, and air stone running to make it), I put the snails and crabs into the tank. The Nassarius snails stuck their feet out and kind of flailed like in agony and fell onto their backs. The Margarita snails and Cerith snails stayed tightly sealed in their shells (I never saw the Cerith snails' feet out of the shell). By morning, none of the snails had moved. The Margaritas and Ceriths were still shut. The Nassarius were upside down with their feet out. I picked them up and touched them and go no response. They were definitely dead. The very active dwarf zebra hermit crabs later worked on eating the Nassarius snails (which is good that they served some purpose).

I called the store. The man told me that the reason the snails died was too low a salinity. I told him 1.022 specific gravity but after I hung up, I tested, it was actually 1.023. I thought that was good as the Instant Ocean and hydrometers say to have 1.020 to 1.024 so I averaged that to 1.202. The man said it should be 1.023 minimum and up to 1.025. I brought it up to 1.024. I have never lost any freshwater animals instantly like that. Next time, I will have to acclimate the bags separately and for a longer time. I also have to bring up the pH and alkalinity in the mean time while waiting some more.

There are lots of diatoms growing now. The hermit crabs seem to prefer being on the bottom and not the live rock. I have some photos of the snails up on their own page. The crabs alone make the tank exciting now.

I ran out of time today to add in more information about the water change I did today and test results and some other stuff. I will add it next week I hope. I need to make a table for water chemistry results. I want to add in some things I have learned as I go along so others might learn from my mistakes. When I did the water change today, I turned over the Margarita snails. Their innards have started to come out now. I will leave them for the crabs to eat and maybe move in to like they did already with the Nassarius snails.

Ok, from the water change on 5/10/08. I used the Instant Ocean reef salt this time. I put 316 g of salt in 2.5 gallons. I put in 2 g of buffer (mostly sodium bicarbonate) which was the dose recommended for my entire tank, not just the 2.5 gallons. I put in 3 mL of supplement and two drops of tap water conditioner (for any heavy metals; I have well water so no chlorine or chloramine). I ended up only changing out two gallons with the new water because the new water was so much higher in pH and alkalinity from the buffer.

The salinity of the tank was 1.0245 in the tank before the change which was perfect. It was only 1.0238 in the make-up water but I let that slide since it was high in the tank. A few hours after the water change, the tank's specific gravity read 1.0235 which of course, is not possible (being lower than either of the previous readings). I have ordered a refractometer as the hydrometers read something different every time!

The tank temperature was 77 degrees F (good). The pH should be 8.1 to 8.4. It was 8.0 in the tank (7.8 by dip stick test; I got new dipping test strips for fast checking of parameters). The make-up water which had a full tank dose of buffer had a pH of 8.6 (8.8 by dip stick test). A few hours after the water change, the pH was 8.2 which is perfect (but only 7.8 by dip stick test). I was worried the change might harm the hermit crabs but they did fine.

The alkalinity should be 150 to 200 ppm. The tank was 175 ppm (183 by dip stick) before the water change. The make-up water was 350 ppm (300 by dip stick). I was surprised it was so high.

The calcium in the tank was only 300 ppm and should be 412 to 450 ppm. I did not test the make-up water. I have ordered some salt meant for reverse osmosis (RO) water that says it brings the calcium to 450 ppm. Since my well water is so soft (too soft to even register hardness on test kits!), that salt should work well. Since my water is not RO water though, I will probably mix that salt mix with the reef mix to use up both.

I got a new magnesium test kit but it is hard to read. It should be 1286 to 1320 ppm or so. I got around 1100 ppm magnesium.

Ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate remained at zero.

When I took out the 2 gallons from the tank, I noted the depth. The water depth went down 26% which means based solely on that measurement, the tank would be 7.8 gallons (less than my adjusted 9 gallons from last time but this does not include the one gallon sump/filter, still far from 12 gallons). So, this was a 22 to 25% water change. Once I go back to 2.5 gallon weekly, that will be 28 to 32% weekly or about a third.

I made a table for myself to fill out with the water tests to make things easier. I may have to start a table on my web site but HTML tables are a lot harder than Lotus tables!

After almost a few weeks in the tank, the hermit crabs have started to clear some white patches. The scarlet reef hermit crabs seem to be more nocturnal, coming on to the live rock at night and staying in the shadows during the day. The zebra hermit crabs have calmed down and are not always zipping around the tank anymore.

I made up 2.5 gallons of saltwater on 5/17/08 for a water change. I got some Red Sea salt mix for reverse osmosis (or very soft water like I have). I mixed 2/3 of that (213 g) and 1/3 as Reef Crystals (from Instant Ocean, 107 g) in to 2.5 gallons. The Red Sea mix is supposed to give perfect water without any additions and 450 ppm calcium. I also added in 3 mL of Microbe-Lift reef supplement, a pinch of buffer, and a few drops of dechlorinator (for any heavy metals).

I now have a refractometer which is killer on my eyes but is supposed to be more accurate. The specific gravity of the tank was 1.0236 by hydrometer (easier to read) and 1.024 by refractometer (which has itty bitty gradations). The specific gravity of the make up water was 1.0245 by hydrometer and 1.024 by refractometer. Just right! The pH of the tank was 8.3 and the make up water was 8.2. Good again! The alkalinity of the tank was 175 ppm (perfect) and the make up water was only 150 ppm (so much for that mix making perfect water, and that was with some buffer added). The tank temperature was 76 degrees F. Ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate were all zero. So far, so good!

Then, I got to calcium. The tank had 285 ppm, down from last week despite adding "Purple Up" with calcium every two days. The make up water was only 360 ppm! Remember, that mix was supposed to give 450 ppm. Of course, I only used 2/3 of that salt mix (since I have to use up the other salt which is probably better in some ways anyway). I did not test magnesium this time (short on time) but I did use a new test kit, phosphate. Ut oh! The tank had 2.5 ppm phosphate (should be <0.05 ppm). I tested the make up water and got 1 ppm. It looks like I need to by some phosphate removing stuff ASAP. We have a phosphate crystal thing hooked to our well system although my father often lets it go dry. That could be at least a partial reason for the phosphate. It is 2.5 times higher in the tank though which would indicate overfeeding. I only put in 1 shrimp pellet each day for the crabs so I am not sure why the phosphate is going up.

This time, I remembered to mark and measure the tank after 2.5 gallons came out. I turned out to be 8.2 cm down the 27 cm deep tank which would indicate that the tank is 8.2 gallons, and I am doing 30% water changes weekly.

I ordered a RO system to purify the water on 5/19/08 because I do not know if the phosphate, silica, and/or copper in the well water are causing problems. This is getting more expensive by the minute! I got the Mighty Mite RO unit here: Air, Water, and Ice

On 5/19/08, the phosphate level was <0.5 ppm in the well water, 2.5 ppm in the 8 gallon tank, and also 2.5 ppm in my 50 gallon freshwater aquarium I tested.

On 5/20/08, my biggest zebra hermit crab died. He had molted (the skin was next to him). I do not know if the other crabs got him when he was vulnerable, or something else went wrong due to the water chemistry.

On 5/21/08, I got my first saltwater fish and corals as well as more snails. I got a regular Ocellaris clownfish and a black and white one from Australia. You can read more about them on my clownfish page. I got four corals. You can read more about them on my coral page. I got seven snails. I got two Cerith snails, 2 Nassarius snails, 2 Margarita snails, and 1 bumblebee snail from Mr. Coral (not shipped this time). This time, I floated all the bags about 30 minutes. Then, I drip acclimated over two hours! I then put the animals in the tank. The snails died instantly (a Cerith snail magically came back to life three days later to just die again that day). The corals showed no sign of life but one fully opened within a few days while two others were partially open. The fish did fine.

So much has gone wrong. I should never have gotten in to saltwater! I knew it was too hard for a dummy like me! I am out of time again to work on my web site (an hour a week is not enough!) so I will refer you to my ramblings in the nano tank forum where you can see what a total loser I am when it comes to this stuff. What I was supposed to write here ended up there. I am beyond mad that I can no longer work on my web site however worthless it may be.

When I was out on 5/21/08, I also got some PhosGuard by Seachem (white balls) since my PhosBan by Two Little Fishies had yet to arrive (it came 5/24/08, and I put that in instead the next day). I put the phosphate remover in a mesh bag in the filter. Mr. Coral also sold me some "Coral Frenzy" to feed the corals. Too bad the corals are barely alive!

After a day with the PhosGuard, the phosphate in the reef tank went down to 1 ppm (from 2.5 ppm). I put in a second batch.

I made my first batch of RO (reverse osmosis) water on 5/23/08 which I added salt to on 5/24/08 and changed out 2.5 gallons. I copied this from the forum since I am short on time.
Here are the test results for the water in the tank (before the change, first value) and the make up water (second value). I used dry/wet chemical tests unless it is noted it was a dipstick test:
Temperature: 77 degrees F for both (I got the genius idea to put a heater in the bucket with the stirring saltwater)
Salinity - 1.023 and 1.024 by both hydrometer and refractometer
pH - unsure (see below) and 8.2 (maybe). I need to buy a pH meter.
Alkalinity - 150 ppm (but 300 ppm by dip stick?) and 150 ppm
Nitrite - 0 by dipstick
Nitrate - 0 by dipstick
Calcium - 345 and 360 (despite using a mix that claims 450 ppm when used with RO water)
Phosphate - 0.5 (down from 2.5 after two rounds of white phosphate remover) and 0 (none in the make up water).

On 5/24/08, I took out the two dead Margarita snails. I rinsed out the dead Cerith snail (it was hanging out). The back-to-life Cerith snail has not moved since the day before. The two Nassarius snails were already eaten by the hermit crabs. The bumble bee snail is still tightly closed.

On 5/24/08 after dark, I saw a bristleworm on the glass! It saw me and swim to the live rock. Good or bad? I do not know yet. Some bristleworms are predators while others just eat debris and such.

As of when I am posting this on-line, all the snails are dead (95% sure that two of them are, 100% on the rest), and only one coral is "happy." The fish and crabs are fine though. I am going to try to make RO saltwater twice a week for about three weeks. Then, I may try one more time with the snails and corals but I cannot keep killing them. I am hoping the problem was something in the well water, and yet, the freshwater animals do fine. Right next to the saltwater tank is my 20 gallon freshwater tank with about 1000 trumpet snails.

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