Archive | September, 2012

Water Quality Testing TJ’s Cycling 30 Gallon Saltwater Aquarium

The saltwater aquarium that I have been setting up is going through the cycling process. During this period, it is important to test water quality for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH. Here, I share a few pictures, and a few aquarium tips about testing the water quality of a tropical fish tank.

While a new aquarium is going through a nitrogen cycle, a spike in ammonia levels is the first change that should be noticed. Next, the ammonia levels start to recede and gives way to a spike in nitrite. Finally, the nitrite levels recede and a spike in nitrates occurs. This process occurs in both freshwater and saltwater aquariums. To hear all about the nitrogen cycle in new aquariums, take a listen to Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 011.

There are several test kits to choose from. I chose to use an API Saltwater Master Test Kit.

API Saltwater Master Test Kit unopened and off the shelf

This test kit contains tests for pH, Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate. These are the most important water quality parameters to test for in a cycling aquarium. The API Saltwater Master Test Kit uses liquid reagents to turn vials of aquarium water colors for comparison to a color scale. All of the necessary reagents, vials, instructions, and color scales are provided in the test kit.

API Saltwater Master Test Kit Color Scale Card

Of course, when anything that is going to be used in your aquarium water is first opened it should always be rinsed off with tap water. Then, prior to performing any tests, the vials to be used should be rinsed with the water to be tested.

Water Quality Test 3 Weeks into Cycling Saltwater Aquarium

These are the results of the water quality test that I performed after my saltwater tank had been cycling for about 3 weeks. Of course, I’d like the ammonia levels to be at 0 parts per million (ppm). However, I had just added some fish food to the tank a couple days prior in order to allow it to decompose. When held under a better light and against the white background of the color scale, the color was somewhere between 0 and 0.25 ppm.

The nitrates were at 0 ppm, and the nitrates look like they were around 10 ppm. At this point, there were some light brown diatoms growing in the tank, and these water parameters are almost exactly what was expected.

With the diatoms growing in the aquarium, and the water quality looking suitable it was time to start adding some livestock that will help keep the tank clean. Yes, it was time to start stocking with an aquarium cleaner crew. Stay tuned at Aquarium Tip Tank to find out how stocking the tank with some cleaners went!

How are the water parameters in your aquarium doing? Perform a test, and leave some comments below!


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Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 012 | Diatoms and New Tank Syndrome: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 012

My 30 gallon saltwater tank is almost done with the initial nitrogen cycle, but a brown film has started to coat my live sand and live rock. This is a diatom bloom and what many aquarium hobbyists call New Tank Syndrome. In this Aquarium Tip Tank podcast I share some aquarium tips for dealing with a diatom bloom. I also share some information about what diatoms are, where they come from, and why they decide to coat a tropical fish tank.

I wanted to be able to show you some of these diatoms that are growing in my fish tank. I’ve included a few pictures below.

Light Brown Diatoms on Live Rock and on Live Sand

At this point I also have a few small spots on the live rock with some green algae and some light purple coraline algae. Hopefully, you can see both of those in the picture below.

Spots of Green and Purple Coraline Algae growing on Live Rock

I also mentioned in the podcast that I would include the picture that Ryan Howells shared with me. He has a fairly new nano aquarium with a mated pair of clownfish that have laid some eggs! Here is the picture that he sent me of his tank!

Ryan Howells’ Nano Aquarium with a Mated Pair of Clownfish

Ryan’s tank looks like it is working out to be a nice little marine aquarium! He recently contacted me and told me that he was just finishing up the cycling process of his tank. It looks like he’s got a little more than that! There’s a nice colony of coraline algae, and of course, his mated pair of clownfish!

I had stated on many previous podcasts that I would give listeners a shout out if they decided to get in touch with me, let me know about an aquarium breakthrough, and send me a picture of their tank. I’m a man of my word! Keep sending your fish tank breakthroughs and updates.

Have a diatom bloom in your fish tank? Leave comments below!


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Unpacking the Koralia Evolution 550gph Movement and Circulation Aquarium Pump by Hydor

If you’re a frequent visitor here at Aquarium Tip Tank you probably know that I am in the process of setting up a 30 gallon saltwater aquarium. Actually, you’ve probably already seen pictures of the Koralia Evolution water circulation pump set up in this fish tank. However, I’m not quite sure that I’ve actually showed you the pump itself and explained who it is made by, why it is necessary, and how it works. I figured it is about time to share that information with you!

First, lets talk a little bit about water circulation in an aquarium. Good water circulation is important in a home aquarium for three main reasons. Water circulation provides a means of food delivery, waste removal, and the provision of oxygen.

In order to adequately disperse and deliver the food that is fed in a broadcast manner to the livestock of your aquarium, water must be circulated around the entire fish tank and to all corners of the aquarium. This is especially important when dealing with sessile invertebrates. After all, they don’t really move. Of course, you can dose individual corals with food filled syringes, but corals and their symbiotic zooxanthellae algae also grab the tiny particles of plankton and nutrients that are floating in the water. In order to make sure that the food an nutrient rich water passes close enough to the sessile invertebrates to feed, good water circulation is necessary.

Not only does circulating water deliver food and nutrients to all parts of a fish tank, but it also picks up and removes waste particles that have been left behind. The oceans have waves, currents, and tides that are constantly creating water circulation that removes waste. In an aquarium, water circulation must be created in order to pick those waste particles up and off of the corals, rocks, sand, and decorations. Proper water circulation will then help bring those waste particles to the inlet of the filtration system so that they can be removed from the aquarium water.

Finally, water circulation in a home aquarium helps with oxygenation of the water. Water does not have the ability to hold as much oxygen as air does. The warmer the water gets, the less oxygen it can hold and warm saltwater holds the least amount of oxygen. If water in a fish tank were left stagnant, only the water in the top water column of the tank would be in contact with the air for oxygenation. Good water movement will constantly circulate all of the water to the air/water interface, allowing gas exchange and proper oxygenation for all of the water in the tank.

Okay. Now that we know why proper water circulation is important in a home aquarium its about time I show you some pictures of how I’m moving the water around my 30 gallon reef tank.

The Koralia Evolution 550gph Movement and Circulation Pump Revealed

Koralia Evolution 550gph ready to be opened!

Most manufacturers show flow rates and recommended tank sizes for their pumps. As shown below, Hydor provides a chart on the back of their Koralia Evolution Movement and Circulation pumps.

A very general rule of thumb that is used when it comes to flow rates is that water circulation should be at a flow rate equal to ten times the net water volume of the tank for soft corals. For example, I’m putting this pump in a 30 gallon tank. Therefore, the flow rate for water circulation should be at least 300 gallons per hour (gph) if keeping soft corals. For hard corals, a flow rate equal to 30 times the net water volume of the tank can be used. Therefore, for hard corals, the general rule of thumb states that I would need 900 gph of water circulation.

I’m currently only putting one Koralia Evolution 550 gph Movement and Circulation pump into the tank, and that should work for right now. When I decide to put hard corals into the tank I may need to add another pump for a total of 1100 gph from power heads. However, some water circulation is also produced by filter returns and protein skimmers and another power head may not be necessary. That is a decision for future TJ to make.

Flow Rate Chart on back of Koralia Evolution box.

The Koralia Evolution 550gph in its box.

Koralia Evolution 550gph Movement and Circulation Pump out of the box!

Koralia Evolution 550gph Movement and Circulation Pump by Hydor in the Fish Tank!

Shown above is the Koralia Evolution 550gph pump by Hydor mounted to the side of my tank. Currently, the pump is actually closer to the top of the tank. The top of the tank just seemed like a better spot for the power head once the live sand, live rock, and saltwater were all in place. The location near the top of the tank also helps create some waves and turbulence at the air/water interface to help with oxygenation.

How do you circulate the water in your aquarium? Leave comments below.


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Setting Up TJ’s 30 Gallon Saltwater Aquarium

Yes, it has been about 3 weeks since I’ve actually had this saltwater fish tank set up and cycling. However, I wanted to make sure that I put together a decent video showing all of the steps that I took in order to set up this saltwater aquarium. I went over all of the steps of setting up a home aquarium in Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 010, and the process of cycling a tank in Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 011.

Shown below, is the video of how I used all of these steps to go ahead and set up my 30 gallon saltwater aquarium. I had all of my saltwater made, and all of my live rock, live sand, and aquarium equipment set up and ready to go.

I also made a time-lapse video of the water going from cloudy to clear and you can see that in the video below. I admit, it is a video of a blue-ish purple cloudy tank. However, we want to show you everything that we can here at Aquarium Tip Tank so we figured we’d go ahead and take some pictures over the 3 hour period that it took for the water to clear up.

I started taking pictures as soon as all of the live rock, live sand, and saltwater were in the fish tank and all of the equipment was up and running. A picture was taken every 6 seconds for a period of 3 hours. Each picture is a frame in the video and the video was put together at 30 frames per second.

The API Nexx Canister Filtration system was running at this time. It seemed to be working great during this time period. However, shortly after the water was cleared up is when I realized that the filtration system was leaking again. I immediately turned the API Nexx Canister Filter off, took it off my tank and sent another email to RENA. Of course, I will keep everybody updated on what happens with the filter.

Luckily, I don’t really need a filtration system set up in order to cycle the tank. I do have good water flow and water movement because I have a Hydor Koralia Evolution 550 Aquarium Circulation Pump up and running. Therefore, the water will still move well around the tank. Gas exchange will still occur between the top of the water and the air in my house. The fish food and pieces of krill that I add to the tank will still decompose, and ammonia will be formed. Then, the beneficial nitrobactors will take over and the aquarium will go through its cycling process.

A filter is not absolutely necessary for this process. A sump and/or refugium is the best way to filter a marine reef aquarium. However, I don’t have enough room under my fairly small 30 gallon aquarium to put a sump. The good thing is that I do have a whole lot of live rock, and live sand for biological filtration. I will also add a protein skimmer to help with filtration. I will also make sure that the cycling process is complete and that the water conditions are constant and pristine before adding any livestock.

I hope you enjoyed the videos! The tank has been set up for 3 weeks and is going through the nitrogen cycle process. Keep checking back at Aquarium Tip Tank to follow the progress of this tank!

How is your fish tank coming along? Leave comments below!


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How To Make Saltwater for a Small Marine Aquarium

Yes, this one is pretty simple. However, there are a lot of people that shy away from starting a saltwater aquarium when they realize that they have to somehow make, or acquire, actual saltwater to fill their fish tanks with. In reality, mixing up some saltwater takes less time than running water through an RODI filtration system to get purified water. Some people don’t want to take the time to use an RODI filter, but we recommend an RODI filter to purify all of your water for any type of fish tank that you have, be it freshwater or saltwater.

Once you have your canisters of RODI purified water, it really only takes a few minutes to measure your salt mix, pour it into the purified water, mix, and test for specific gravity and salinity using a hydrometer or refractometer. I use Instant Ocean Reef Crystals Reef Salt and literally just follow the directions on the back of the bag. Below, I’ve included a video about how I mix my saltwater.

In the end, it ends up that it takes almost exactly 2.5 cups of salt mix for me to make a 5 gallon bucket of saltwater. These days, I go ahead and put 2 cups straight into my RODI purified water, mix up the salt, do a quick specific gravity and salinity test, and add another 0.5 cup of Instant Ocean Reef Crystals Reef Salt. Obviously, I’m still starting out on the low end of specific gravity and salinity when I only have 2 cups of reef salt in a 5 gallon bucket of water. Personally,  I just like to test, and make sure that everything is mixing correctly.

So what do you do if you have a larger tank and you need to make more than 5 gallons of saltwater at a time? There are a few options here. One is to have several 5 gallon buckets of water. For example, if you have a 100 gallon home aquarium, you would need 20 gallons of saltwater to perform a 25% water change. You would need to make 4, 5 gallon buckets of saltwater and make sure that the water conditions all matched.

Maybe you have a 20 gallon container for your saltwater. Hopefully it has wheels. Just fill it up with RODI purified water and add 1o cups of Instant Ocean Reef Crystals Reef Salt.  You may want to start with 9 cups, do some specific gravity and salinity tests, and add more salt mix until you get to the correct water conditions. Try this the first couple of times and you may end up finding out that you’re adding that 10th cup of salt mix every time you go to make a 20 gallon container of saltwater.

Whatever way you decide to make your saltwater, and whatever type of salt mix you choose to use, it really isn’t very difficult to mix up some saltwater. Just follow the directions on the salt mix container, and remember to do a few quick checks of your water conditions while your making your saltwater.

Most salt mixes state that the saltwater you make with them can be used immediately. This is true, and some people do this without any detrimental effects to their saltwater tank. However, I like to let my saltwater sit for a little while before placing it into the tank. I like to make sure that all of the salt and all of the beneficial trace elements, and vitamins are properly dissolved in the water. This also allows the saltwater to have some time for gas exchange and oxygenation before pouring it into the tank. If you let your saltwater sit in a container for several days, make sure that you test the water conditions one more time before pouring it into your tank just to make sure that none of those water conditions changed unexpectedly.

How do you make your saltwater? What salt mix do you use? Leave comments below.


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