Astraea Snail, Astraea tecta
The next morning when I
awoke, I went to check on the tank and turn the
lights on. I was anxious to check on the new
clownfish since I hadn't done a very good job
keeping an eye on them in their first hours in the
tank. When I turned the lights on, my heart gave a
little lurch! One of the clowns was laying sideways
on the surface of the water and the other was laying
down sideways on a rock and it looked really pale.
When I looked at the poor creatures I new they
weren't doing well and may even be dead. I was
extremely disappointed in myself for not caring for
them properly when they were first introduced and
went to get the net to remove them from the tank
before they fouled the water.
When I got back to the tank I was extremely startled to find the one that was floating on the surface had up righted itself and was swimming along perfectly normally! The one on the rock had regained a lot of its colour and was upright but still resting on the rock. I decided that I would wait a little while to see if they would somehow miraculously pull through the ordeal. Throughout the day they seemed to be adjusting well to their new home. They had staked out a little area of the tank and were interacting with the Green Chromis and Yellow-tailed Damsel in the tank. Much to my relief they were eating well and seemed to be coming around nicely! So I decided that they would live.
The next morning, when I turned the lights on once again I noticed the same thing, both the clowns looked to be on the edge of death, floating on the surface of the water or laying on the rocks. I had no idea what was wrong. Why were they acting so strange when the other tank mates weren't? Was something happening in the night that I had no idea about? I decided to keep checking on the tank during the following night to see if I could figure out what was going on. Throughout the evening and night when the lights were off, I took out a low power flashlight and looked in the tank to see if anything unusual was happening. I couldn't see anything wrong in the tank and when I looked in the tank I didn't see anything out of the ordinary.
The next day, I decided to go to the LFS to talk to Jake about the odd behaviour of my clowns. Much to my relief and chagrin, that there wasn't anything wrong with clowns. They were just sleeping! I had fish for a long time, and this is the first pair of fish I've ever seen that slept on their sides floating on the water! I wasn't impressed and everyday I saw them from that point on, I had moments of panic until they woke up! (Funny coming from someone who loves sleeping in as well!)
By this time, the Grape Caulerpa that I had introduced to the tank had started to take on a growth spurt along with the hair algae. I couldn't tell that the caulerpa was out performing the hair algae, but it was doing really well and added a bit of interest to the tank! I had
also resigned to having hair algae in the tank and the daily chore of pulling handfuls out at a time.
I continued testing the water in the tank for nitrates and decided to test the newly mixed saltwater to see what the level was there. I really didn't expect to get a nitrate reading with newly mixed saltwater and much to my surprise I had a reading of 40ppm! WOW, that was the upper limits of what I should have in the tank and the water hadn't even been in the tank yet! After so long I had finally stumbled on to something that I should have tested a long time ago! At that point I just sat down shaking my head thinking of all those months of aggravation I could have saved had I tested the newly made saltwater first! Now there were two possibilities for where the nitrates were being introduced into the tank. First was the salt mix which claimed to be nitrate and phosphate free or Secondly from the water I was using coming out of the tap. I didn't have a freshwater test kit to test for Nitrates in my tap water and the LFS was already closed by this time.
As soon as possible, I went to the LFS and
purchased a freshwater test kit for nitrates,
nitrites and ammonia. I proceeded to test the water
out of the tap and found that I was getting high
levels of nitrates (40ppm) and no ammonia, thank
goodness! Finally, I had found a huge contributing
problem in the tank. I immediately went to the water
store a few blocks away and purchased enough water
for a 50% water change. I know that I had just done
a water change the previous day and had a slight
pause for changing water out so soon however I came
to the conclusion that this was a one time large
water change for a good reason! I changed 50% of the
water in the tank and waited anxiously to see what
was going to happen in the tank.
Within one day I noticed a huge change in the amount of hair algae in the tank! I barely had any algae to pull the very next day and the grape caulerpa was still growing at the same pace it had been. Within a week the transformation in the tank was absolutely stunning! Here I stumbled onto the solution and learned a valuable lesson! There was NO way you would ever catch me using tap water in my tank again! From that point on I was using RO (Reverse osmosis) water. I started becoming a regular patron at the water store and I would go in every week and get 5 or 10Gal of water for my tank.
The hair algae cleared up in the tank and I continued testing for nitrates. Up until this point I wasn't having any problems with nitrates in the water, however I noticed that finally they were starting to climb in the tank. I had a good idea by this point that the hair algae was responsible for removing the nitrates from the water and now I only had the grape caulerpa to remove the nitrates. For some reason it wasn't doing as good of a job as the hair algae did, but I was glad I didn't have to pull the algae every day anymore! Since the caulerpa wasn't removing as much nitrates from the water as the hair algae was, I ended up doing more frequent water changes. I considered this as small price to pay in comparison to pulling fistfuls of algae every day!
Finally I was really able to sit back while watching the tank and really truly enjoy my tank with more appreciation and pride then I ever had keeping any fish! The fish I had seemed happy and they had by now gotten used to me putting my arms in the tank. They never hid on me and the clowns seemed to enjoy swimming around my hand and fingers. One even became bold enough to try to see if I was a tasty treat, but I guess he didn't like what he got and hadn't tried biting me anymore. The rocks still had a lot of dead and white space on it, but I felt confident that it would be covered in coralline algae in good time!