Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Marine diary chapter six

Blue Green Chromis, Chromis virdis
Blue Green Chromis, Chromis virdis

With the addition of the new fish, my tank was starting to gain in character. The green chromis were active little fish and would take great delight in finding the tiniest little cracks that they could fit in! Unfortunately, one of them insisted in attempting to explore the inside of one of the power heads. It wedged itself in a small opening that I didn't realize was big enough for a fish to get into and couldn't get out again. Saddened by this lose, I set up to find a way to prevent such an accident from occurring again. At first I used a plastic screen cover to secure to the intake of the power head, however I quickly found that the fine plastic screen quickly became clogged from the hair algae and other fine debris particles fairly quickly! Although it was interesting to see how much stuff was floating around the tank, cleaning the intake on a daily basis got to be an unwanted chore in fairly quick order!

While looking for a better solution for the problem, I found that there were intake baskets available for the power heads that I had in my tank. They weren't overly expensive so I picked a couple up and put them on the intake ports of the power heads. Satisfied that my tank had become a little more secure of the inhabitants, I went and purchased a couple more Green Chromis so I could have a nice small school of fish in the tank.

With the school of green chromis came an overwhelming desire to figure out why I was having so many problems with hair algae in the tank. I had went to the library to see if I could find anything out, however there didn't seem to be a whole lot of information regarding hair algae. Every source I could find gave three main things that it needed to thrive; light, nitrates and phosphates. I kept going over this small list of things needed and kept hitting a blank wall.
First thing on the list I pondered for a while was the lighting. I had read that as fluorescent lights get old, the spectrum shifts more towards the red, which the hair algae thrive on. I had just set up the tank and the lights on it were only a couple months old, so the spectrum shouldn't have shifted enough so fast to cause this frustrating outbreak in my tank. However, there was always the possibility that there was something wrong with the bulbs right? I decided that this was going to be the first thing I tackled in the tank, so I bought two brand new bulbs and installed them in the tank. I didn't really expect overnight results and a miraculous recovery but, impatient as I am, I anticipated at least some sort of improvement within a week or two. (Well maybe I gave it a little less time then that but who's counting?)

After a few days however, I got a fairly clear indicator that the light spectrum wasn't really the problem or at least not the only problem! With the introduction of the new fish and a bit of time, I found that the hair algae was growing faster then ever! Thus I jumped to the next items on the list for what the stuff needed to grow, nitrates!

I figured that with the introduction of more food to the system, I was introducing more organic matter that end up as nitrates. So, continuing with my determined systematic approach to the problem and attempted to find out if excessive nitrates were the cause. I tested the water for ammonia (because I added a so many new fish at once), nitrite and nitrates. I expected there to be some sort of change in the parameters since there was a larger bio-load, however, everything had still remained constant! So, to sum this up, I had a higher bio-load, added more food and no change in nitrates? The nitrate levels should have been rising a little faster between water changes. Finally, now I felt like I was getting somewhere! Now, I wasn't exactly certain what to conclude from the lack of rise or fall in the nitrate levels, but at least I had something to work with!

So, instead of the readable nitrate levels in my tank rising, I was getting a vigorous increase in hair algae growth. This meant that the readings the nitrate readings I was getting didn't truly reflect what my tank was producing. In essence I had way more nitrates then is healthy for the tank and the hair algae was actually doing me a favour by helping keep the nitrates low in the tank! NO, please say it's not true! The stuff is ugly!)

So, figuring that I had a nitrate problem that I couldn't measure I was left with the task of attempting to reduce nitrates in the tank. The only thing that I knew to do was to reduce the amount I fed the fish and to keep doing water changes. Considering that I had this problem before I had added the new fish and I was doing regular water changes I didn't think this would solve the problem. I went back to the LFS to get some advice from Jake. He advised me that I should try growing some other types of macro algae that would compete with the hair algae for the nitrates. This would introduce a nicer looking more manageable type of algae to the tank and one that some types of fish such as yellow tangs would eat. I considered this and thought that it really couldn't hurt to try, so I asked where to get the macro algae and what kind to get. It was suggested that I get some caulerpa but here was a major stumping block!

Neither of the LFS's I frequented sold Marco algae! I was told to ask a friend for some from their tanks! What? If I had a friend who had a Marine tank, I would have already picked their brains and wouldn't have had to go to the LFS for as much information as I needed! So, I had the problem of finding some macro algae for my tank and no one sells it! For the next couple weeks I set out trying to find a way to get some caulerpa into my tank. I even considered having some shipped to me from the West coast, but was informed that the macro algae that grows in cold water wouldn't be able to survive in my tank!

While browsing a new shipment of live rock that came into the one of the LFS's I noticed a couple small patches of green stuff that looked like the grape caulerpa that I had seen in one of the books I had! I was excited beyond imagining and demanded that piece immediately! I hadn't realized the size this rock would turn out to be and the cost considerably lightened my bank account but at least I was going to be bringing home some macro algae so the cost was well worth it!

Now I was left with a slight problem. I had a 10lb piece of uncured live rock and a newly matured tank where I didn't want to upset the balance by added such a large piece of uncured material that could cause my tank to go into a cycle again!

I really wanted that small bit of caulerpa in my tank to start using up some of the nitrates, so I decided to break a piece of the rock off and put the rest of the rock in a bucket filled with newly made saltwater and an air pump! Now all I had to do was wait some more and see if this did the trick!

Michelle's Marine Diary
By Michelle Stuart

Chapter - one:
Making a start.

Chapter - two:
Finally set up,

Chapter - three:
Cycling the tank,

Chapter - four:
Oh no, algae.

Chapter - five:
The importance of acclimatizing

*Chapter - six:
Making some adjustments

Chapter - seven:
The rocks are alive

Chapter - eight:
They're just sleeping!!!

Chapter - nine:
Just one more fish

Chapter - ten:
Pure water

Chapter - eleven:
War is declared

Chapter - twelve:
The art of skimming