Blog

Hanna Salinity Pen Repeat Calibration Error Fix Trick

Troubleshooting tip:

If your hanna salinity pen fails to calibrate 3-5 different satchets and keeps getting ERR… the issue might be the battery!

I found that out the hard way after some googling. I never thought it was the battery because the battery percentage was still showing 90 to 95%.

I knew things were wonky when all of a sudden while mixing salt water it kept saying the specific gravity was 1.013 or 1.00 instead of 1.033 when I was trying to dilute it.

So the next time you’re having problems calibrating, try that! 🙂

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Second time’s the charm?

Last Sunday, I finally felt ready enough to set up the nano tank again. I threw out all the old sand, rescaped it and cycled it.

It took a long time for me to feel confident enough about owning a tank again after being so discouraged with the number of livestock that died after Ida. But, I have a good feeling about this second go around. 🙂

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Little Shrimp, But My BIG Mistake

Recently, I picked up a Yasha Hase goby!

I was on the fence about getting a goby because a lot of them are just not my favorite in terms of appearance, but this one really appealed to me. And, I also didn’t want to spend the $$ on Dracula gobies which also have a unique coloration but not as unique finning. Currently, the YHG is still under two inches long, and I have not been able to determine whether it’s old enough to be sexed. I’ll give it a few more months, and then see if I can bring in another of the opposite sex to get them to pair. I could have bought a bonded pair on LiveAquaria’s Diver Den, but I’m trying not to use LA too much. I find that price after shipping is just not very fair or favorable.

Since certain gobies and pistol shrimps are known to form a symbiotic relationship, I decided to pair it with the Randall’s pistol shrimp which has similar coloration to the YHG. But when I called around, none of the shops in my area had any! I checked online also, and while the shrimp itself is cheap <30$, overnight shipping would immediately triple it in price. No point in paying overnight shipping for just the shrimp when I have nothing else to order with it.

I placed a call to my LFS (shoutout to Aquatic Sealife, they’re always so accommodating), and they placed an order for pistol shrimps.

I received word a couple days ago that they had received shipment. So I drove there as soon as I could once my schedule allowed it, which happened to be the 24th! To my luck, they did receive at least one Randall’s pistol shrimp!

Randall’s Pistol Shrimp (alpheus randalli)

Very colorful, very eye catching and also very tiny! This little guy was less than an inch long. But, I was excited nonetheless to be able to get one so quickly given that other people were also having difficulty sourcing them.

I acclimated him, and it was time to let him loose into the tank.

But then that’s when the BIG MISTAKE on my part happened.

I never thought to turn off the powerheads in my tank because none of my other shrimp were this small. Whelp…

Imagine my horror when I release the pistol shrimp into my tank, and he immediately gets sucked by the Nero 3. I manage to get him off, but I see one of his claws floating through the water. I panic smashed all my neros off, and watched horrified as the traumatized shrimp tried to swim his way in the tank to a safe spot. Eventually he did find the small rock cave that my blenny used to use and took up residence there.

Honestly, it was such a traumatizing oh sh*t moment for me. I had never turned off my powerheads prior to today for introducing new inverts and fish, and it was truly a lesson from hell on doing it.

It’s been a few days since that incident, and my shrimp hasn’t made much of an appearance. However, I know he’s still alive because the sand in the area keeps moving and shifting daily. I’m hoping that my YHG finds it soon and that they will pair up, and all the trauma will be the past.

From what I saw it looks like the snapping claw is what came off. Based on what I read, the non-snapping claw will transform into a snapping claw and the other claw will grow back in a few months. So, he should be fine going forward.

But man, I really think letting him into the DT without turning off the powerheads was once of the worst mistakes I’ve made in a while. I don’t think I’ve felt my heart rate and blood pressure sky rocket quite like that in a while.

I just figured it was worth sharing so that you guys don’t make this simple mistake either and safe yourself some panic!

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Lose One, Win One

Ugh, I think one of the worst things about this hobby is losing fish.

And when I say lose fish, it’s a pretty vague term because in reef tanks there’s two types of losing fish. The first one is seeing your livestock visibly dead and needing to be fished out, and the second one is just fish is gone. No body, no appearance, just a complete disappearance.

I honestly think the second type of loss is the worst because there’s no way to confirm whether the fish is gone or not without ripping out all the rock, and then it becomes an entire endeavor. And yet, that’s the first kind of fish loss I experienced in this reef tank of mine.

When I buy fish, there’s a certain amount of planning and thought that goes into it. It’s not just about buying a fish that looks good but also finding one that will fit into your aquarium without causing aggression or overstocking. Knowing that my fish tank has a 33g display volume and is only 2 feet long, I wouldn’t add a fish that gets longer than 6 inches or needs a tank larger than 30 gallons (like a tang).

It also means that given those constraints, I’m extremely limited in the type of fish I can add to my tank which also meet my personal fancy.

That said, I spent a good month or so researching what kind of wrasse would work with my tank type because wrasses are so popular in reef tanks but many of them also require more than 60 gallons minimum. Eventually, I settled on the possum wrasse over the pink streaked and six line due to their appearance and personality.

After looking around, I managed to find a store in North Carolina that had a white banded possum available. I paid for overnight shipping, had it delivered.

White Banded Possum Wrasse

I loved it ever since I first laid eyes on it. It has a striking appearance, but it also has a cuteness to it with its giant eyes. But, the fish I received was actually really stressed, and I had a sinking feeling that the fish wasn’t going to make it. From the moment I took out the bag from the box, I saw that the fish was floating on its side towards the top, and if it moved, it would move towards the bottom of the bag and float in a 45 degree angle with its tail floating up top.

I went ahead and tried to acclimate it in a box, but I could tell it was still stressed out. Given how cryptid these guys are, many people suggested not trying to acclimate them into a box and just letting them loose into the display. So I did, and I watched the fish disappear into my big rock work. That was the last time I saw that fish. It’s been over two weeks, and I still have not seen this fish come out again, even at night.

I’m pretty sure the fish is gone. I’ve read that sometimes people find or see a fish that disappeared months ago for the first time again, but I’m not very hopeful with this fish given how stressed it was when I first received it.

I’m actually very upset to have my first fish loss with this tank; that it was with this possum wrasse no less. It was a hassle trying to procure it, and I have nothing to show for it now. So, obviously, the only thing I can do now is just to get another possum wrasse. But, what if there are no more white banded possum wrasses available?

So, I settled for the yellow banded possum wrasse this time. Yes, I say settled because honestly I think the white banded possum looks the best and there weren’t anymore of those or the Tanakas available. So, I only had the option of the yellow banded. Considering even the yellow banded possums are fairly rare in terms of availability, I went ahead and purchased it.

So, I placed my order (with a different vendor who had it in stock), but I really didn’t have high hopes for this one either. Luckily, the odds were in my favor this time.

The yellow banded possum wrasse I received was more lively in the bag. I went ahead and acclimated it in my tank for a couple hours to make sure it wasn’t too weak to swim in the flow and let it loose in the display tank. And, instead of immediately gunning for the rocks, it floated around and took its time taking in its new surroundings.

Yellow Banded Possum Wrasse

Its been about 5 days since I’ve added the second possum wrasse, and I’ve seen him swimming around every morning pecking at pods. He has a curious way of swimming, almost like he propels himself through the water instead of swimming side to side.

I’ve grown to appreciate his personality because he doesn’t seem as shy as most possums. He really only seems camera shy, and I’m glad to at least have one success story with a possum wrasse since there are people who seem to have no success with them at all. It’s almost like this second wrasse was a complete redemption fish sent by the fish gods who took pity on me regarding my terrible first experience.

If you don’t have a possum wrasse, I highly recommend it. They can be weirdly fun to watch. I’m hoping to get a better macro lens soon so that I can take some real photos of my fish.

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Equipment

RODI Queen

After setting up my RODI system to my booster pump, I can officially call myself a RODI QUEEN. Just kidding.

I’m definitely not as experienced as some reefers are with them, but I definitely feel more confident with troubleshooting and understanding how they’re set up after today. I feel confident enough to be able to troubleshoot my system, take apart, and put together my RODI setup for any kind of move.

Back in March, I purchased the Spectrapure Aquarium Starter RODI system. But I didn’t get to hook it up until May, which was when my Waterbox aquarium actually arrived. There was a lot of internal debate at first on whether I should even purchase a RODI system or just buy water from my LFS store. But, a couple things eventually swung me into the field of buying my own RODI and mixing my own water, which were:

  1. I would be in control of my water quality (TDS meter + salt of my choice)
  2. I wouldn’t have to carry gallons of water up the stairs every week
  3. I don’t pay for the water at my apartment

That said, I had a couple issues with my RODI system from the beginning.

The first it was low pressure, I was getting about 40-50 PSI while it was hooked up to my shower head. Low pressure is a pretty common issue, so I knew the only solution to that was to purchase and install a booster pump. But, the second problem was that my product line always had a TDS of 4-10 no matter how long I ran it. A RODI system putting out product water with a TDS greater than 0 is the same thing as not having a RODI system when you consider the purpose behind installing such a system.

At first, I assumed it was because my pressure was too low and it was affecting my rejection rates.

So, I decided to order the Aquatic Life Smart Buddie after some research because not only would it increase my pressure but it would also auto flush my system. For someone who gets overwhelmed easily, it seemed like the perfect system to help me increase the efficacy of my RODI system while also doing some basic RODI system “maintenance”.

Well, it arrived about a week later and after unboxing it, I got overwhelmed after reading the manual and seeing all the connection ports and labels in the front. So, it was left sitting on my living room floor under the chaise while I worked the nerve to sit down one day and get it done.

That day finally came today.

My tank was overdue for a water change by two weeks; the water was starting to smell. I didn’t want to write a paper for school. There was no other day than today to get it done.

So, I pulled up my Spectrapure RODI manual and the AquaticLife Smart Buddie manual and got to work. After a solid 45 minutes, I had it all plumbed up. And, to top it off, the only minor mistake I made at first was accidentally switching the pre-membrane and membrane supply line positions which gave me an amazing pressure of 0 PSI. As soon as that error was rectified, I turned on the booster, my pressures were immediately reading 80-85 PSI…. BUT my product line was still reading 4 TDS at the lowest.

So, I did what any reasonable person would do, and I took the entire RODI system and the booster connection lines out to check each piece by piece.

Spectrapure RODI plumbed into AquaticLife Smart Buddie Booster Pump System

For those of you that are curious, my tubing connection colors do not match what’s listed on the front of the Smart Buddie booster pump because I was reusing the tubes from my RODI system and going off what I knew. Which is Black – Supply, Yellow – Waste, and Blue – Product. The red tubing came with the booster pump, and it was the only one I used when I needed extra tubing to connect the pre-membrane and membrane supply because it was the only color already not being used.

Anyways, upon taking a close look at my RODI system, I eventually found out that my RODI system DID NOT HAVE A DI CARTRIDGE. It had a freaking Granulated Activated Carbon Block Filter where the DI cartridge was supposed to be. No wonder my TDS was always high, the filter was putting out carbon any time I was making water, and this entire time my RODI was really just functioning as a fancy $300 RO system.

No DI, just Carbon here

Luckily I had a DI cartridge to put in because I had ordered some from the Marine Depot liquidation sale, but it blew my mind that this mistake had been the entire cause of my RODI TDS struggles. If I hadn’t taken apart the whole thing and checked every label, I wouldn’t have known.

I’ve reached out to Spectrapure to see if they can send me an extra DI cartridge for this, but today was truly a lesson in checking every component to make sure things are as they should be.

So if you’re struggling with your RODI system, it’s probably you. But, on the off chance that it’s not, check every component.

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Review

Innovative Marine AuqaShield 10 Watt UV Sterilizer Water Clarifier [Universal] Product Review

Disclaimer: I am not sponsored by Innovative Marine, nor did I receive a free version of this product or any other kind of compensation for a review. I paid for this item with my own money, and I am sharing my own unbiased experience.

Everyone has read about UV sterilizers; they’re definitely not a new piece of equipment in the hobby. They’re also not a mandatory piece of equipment unlike a return pump or a highly recommended piece of equipment like a skimmer or a powerhead. But, they definitely have their place, enough so, that people who can afford them usually get them.

I definitely didn’t intend on adding a UV sterilizer when I first planned my tank. But, it turned out to be a really good piece of equipment for my tank and I want to share my experience with it. I want to reiterate that a UV sterilizer is not required for a tank, but there are some definite benefits to having one.

Before purchasing, I did a lot of research into the types of UV sterilizers that were available for nano tanks before ordering the Innovative Marine AuqaShield 10w UV sterilizer. The most frequently mentioned ones I found were the Coralife BioCube Mini UltraViolet Sterilizer, JBJ NanoZapp 3W Inline UV Sterilizer, and the Aqua Ultraviolet 8W Advantage 2000 UV Sterilizer.

After a lot of thinking, I chose not to go with the Coralife and the JBJ because I didn’t want to cut my return plumbing line to fit in a UV sterilizer. It was just something I wanted to avoid even if it was a simple modification. I wanted a UV sterilizer that I could easily remove without having to make major changes or adjustments to my tank. With that, I also chose not to go with the Aqua Ultraviolet 8W because it was a HOB style. HOB is not a problem for some people, but it’s just an additional risk for a water leak for me. Many people probably don’t care about a little water on the floor, for someone such as myself with only carpet flooring, even a small leak would be a nightmare. Not to mention, the Aqua UV 8W would also require me to purchase an additional pump for intake which would raise the overall cost of it when it’s already the most expensive option at $168.00 whereas the JBJ is more economically priced at $46.00. The Coralife would be in the middle pricing wise at $89.99 retail, but currently listed at Amazon for $60.71 (as of 6/27).

So, with all things in consideration, I decided to go with the IM AuqaShield. I’ve attached the product photo from IM’s website because I forgot to take photos of my own box before my husband tossed it.

Image © Innovative Marine
Innovative Marine AuqaShield 10 watt UV sterilizer and box

A little about the IM Auqashield, it is a 10 watt UV sterilizer. It is designed to sit in an AIO compartment, and therefore is fairly compact. Unlike the other Auqashield products (9 watt and 11 watt UV sterilizers) which were designed to sit in Innovative Marine’s own AIO style tanks in the overflow compartment relying on passive flow through, the 10 watt is a “universal” model designed to work in ANY tank. The 10 watt UV sterilizer has an acrylic screw on ring that can be used to hang the sterilizer to the edge of the tank or sump wall; or if your tank is short enough, it can just sit in the compartment without the use of holder at all.

The 10 watt version also has the additional advantage of an adjustable intake pump that attaches to the bottom of the UV sterilizer. By design, the pump forces water to flow up from the bottom into the inner UV lamp container and come out through the top into UV sleeve holder. It also has 2 ways to adjust the flow of water through the sterilizer: on the side of the intake pump there’s an adjustable slider for rate and the UV bulb container in the tube can be turned to adjust flow (clockwise -> more flow, counterclockwise -> less flow).

Image © Innovative Marine
Image displaying adjustable slider on intake pump, and adjustable turn UV lamp sliding sleeve design

In fact the IM AuqaShield features and specs sheet of the 10 watt model states that minimum flow should be used for parasite eradication while maximum flow should be used for water clarification. This is a huge benefit over the passive overflow models which are dependent on the tank’s return pump rate for determining rate of flow through the UV lamp.

The only drawback is that this sterilizer requires two outlets, one for the UV lamp itself and a second for the intake pump unlike the passive flow through or inline models which only require one outlet.

The IM AuqaShield is extremely easy to set up. I was able to assemble it together in less than 10 seconds and have it running in my tank. But simplicity aside, you must be wondering how much does it cost and does it actually work?

Well, it retails at $99.99 and that’s definitely on the higher end of nano UV sterilizer options. Replacement UV bulbs retail for $29.99, but I haven’t found information on how frequently they should be replaced so I’m not sure how the long term costs of this sterilizer will run.

That said, I found this product to be extremely effective. And, I’ve attached photos of the UV sterilizer at work in my own tank for proof.

5/19/2021, Day 1

Here was my tank on the first day with water. You can see it at maximum clarity for comparison.

And here was my tank one month later with a horrible bacterial bloom that was ongoing for over a week and a half even with 3 large water changes.

6/18/2021, Day 30 Frontal View
6/18/2021, Day 30 Side View

It was so bad that you couldn’t see through the other side on a tank that was only 24 inches long.

Unfortunately, I don’t have as many timed progress photos as I would like since I worked during this period. But, I have some progress photos. You can tell that visibility has already improved greatly after some hours.

6/23/2021, Day 35 Frontal View – 30 hours with UV
6/23/2021, Day 35 Side View – 30 hours with UV

And, this was my tank as of Friday, completely clear.

6/25/2021, Day 37 – 84 hours with UV

It probably took closer to 72 hours for my water to clear up, I just did not get an opportunity to take a photo closer to that time. It probably could have cleared up faster if I had dialed the AuqaShield up to the fastest flow rate, but I wanted to go slow to avoid making any changes or mistakes in the tank that may make my situation worse than beyond just cloudy water. Since I have no prior experience with UV sterilizers, I figured better safe than sorry. If anything, my usage is proof that the UV sterilizer can be set to the lowest setting for parasite eradication and still prove to be just as good at clarification when the product is set to maximum flow. It just takes longer for the water to clear up.

Overall, I’m very pleased with this product. I’ll definitely keep it in and leave it dialed to the lowest rate for parasite protection going forward as I lack the physical space for a quarantine tank.

I would recommend this product to friends, and I think it deserves a solid four and a half stars. I docked half a point on availability; the product was completely sold out through online retailers and I had to reach out to a LFS in Florida to get one.

Innovative Marine did however respond to my email, and they plan to have regular stock of this product again in the fall. I believe Covid-19 shut downs heavily affected their production and supply.

If you’ve tried other UV sterilizers, please share your thoughts below! If you have any questions or other comments, definitely leave those below.

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Blog, Equipment

Storm Season, But Only No Generators Allowed

Louisiana officially started hurricane season June 1st, which meant I had to plan for any kind of storm related emergencies such as power outages or potential flooding. Luckily for me, flooding isn’t as much of a concern since I’m on the second floor; but I was very much concerned about power outages. And, unfortunately, a lot of generators can’t be used in an apartment due to size, noise, and safety concerns.

So, I had to settle for the next best option. I went with a battery operated bubbler instead.

I did some research and settled on the Cobalt Aquatics Rescue Air air pump. It’s definitely more expensive than your standard battery operated bubbler at $39.99 (I purchased mine through BRS, there are multiple retailers) but there’s a good reason for the pricing. The CA Rescue Air is designed to be plugged directly to an outlet and turn on automatically when it detects a power outage. Coupled with a 24 hour long runtime battery built into the unit itself and a USB chargeable battery stick designed to provide 72 hours of runtime, it’s designed to provide up to several days worth of power should you need (hopefully you don’t!).

I felt that it was the perfect interim solution for someone such as myself who currently doesn’t have a controller system to monitor for power outages and unable to come home immediately during emergencies like storms. Since both my husband and I work in the hospital, it’s not really possible for us to just drop what we’re doing and immediately run home even if there is an outage or equipment failure. So, the best thing I can do is plan for safeties and redundancies.

Cobalt Aquatics Rescue Air

I didn’t take photos of what came in the box (I’m sorry I forgot), but it comes with the actual bubble pump, approximately 2 feet of soft air tubing, power cable, USB battery, and a bubble stone.

There is also a blue version of the Rescue Air that comes with 2 pump outputs for people who have more than one tank or an extremely large tank. I believe it costs a little more but has the same approximate battery life.

I was able to test mine out and confirmed that it was working as intended. Obviously an air bubbler is not the most amazing addition to a salt water tank, but I felt that it was worth sharing because for 40 dollars, I can have a little more peace of mind that my tank may be ok in an power outage if I can’t make it home right away.

What’s your backup for power outages and storm season? Definitely comment and share below!

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Pandemic Pickup, How I Got Into Reefing

Hello, my name is Clo.

Thank you for taking the time to read through my writings. I appreciate it. Writing has always been a hobby for me, and I’m excited to tie into my new hobby of reefing by being able to document how my first nano reef tank will progress.

I’ve always loved doing research and reading through other people’s experiences any time I pick up a new hobby, so I figured documenting this would be something fun to do as I jump head first into keeping a reef tank.

A little about me, I originally started with high-tech fresh water tanks. I had a 17 gallon tank for a couple years that was torn down when I moved back into my parent’s house to return to school for nursing. During that time, I just kept a small 5 gallon planted tank in their house that housed a betta splendens and a couple snails instead. That tank was also closed down as I graduated and moved to another city with my husband.

Aside from that, I’m currently living in New Orleans, LA. I am an intensive care nurse, and my other hobbies include fountain pens, journaling, writing and eating good food. I spend my free time drinking coffee and listening to my husband talk about the stock market. 😉

In the middle of 2020, I started entertaining the idea of putting up a fish tank again for when I move into my apartment. I loved having a fish tank, and I missed having something to look at that wasn’t just a TV or a computer screen. It was also something I wanted to share with my husband, who has never had fish tank of his own but greatly enjoyed my previous freshwater tank. At the time, I just had no idea whether I wanted to do another planted freshwater tank or finally dip my toes into a saltwater tank. Naturally, I started doing some research, and I quickly fell into a deep well of information after seeing a beautiful macroalgae tank that had been posted to Reddit. Really, that and my love of ocellaris clowns in anemones cemented my decision to start a reef tank.

Since I was between jobs, I took this time to just research a bunch about different brands, equipment, aquarium tanks, common mistakes, and what a typical first year looks like for a reef tank. In February of this year, armed with my new found knowledge, I pulled the trigger on ordering a Waterbox AIO 35.2 gallon with my shiny, new nursing money.

Ultimately due to the age and size of the apartment, coupled with being on the second floor, I settled for a <40 gallon size. Another factor that heavily affected my decision to stay at or below 40 gallons was the fact that my previous largest tank was only 17 gallons. This new tank is already double in size; I didn’t want to be overwhelmed with doing maintenance and/or water changes and the logistics involved.

At the time I placed the order for my fish tank, I was originally quoted 6-8 weeks for delivery with backorder. I found that to be false, it took over 10 weeks for delivery, and I did not receive any updates on delays from Waterbox. Any time I did call them, no one would answer and I had to leave a voicemail. That was actually really weird for me. I was really surprised about that because everyone praises Waterbox for their support and communication, and I honestly just thought that they sucked. At one point, I was questioning why I even ordered one when I could’ve gone with an Innovative Marine or Red Sea instead, but by that time it was too late to cancel or change my order.

The tank officially delivered May 7th.

It was finally scaped and flooded on May 19th!

And that’s how my initial reefing journey started!

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