On the FAQ II, we had identified the various problems and a couple of related issues that are commonly encountered in maintaining saltwater tanks. On this page, we would like to discuss a few methods that can keep the problems under control which can be very handy.

Why is it so difficult for me to maintain my tank?

If the above question has come across your mind, you are probably asking the wrong question to begin with. It is very likely because you had misunderstood what we mean by maintaining a tank. "The saltwater aquarium hobby is so attractive, yet so expensive." Well, this is not exactly true because even if you have all the fancy equipments like us, you still need to maintain your tank(s) regularly. The saltwater aquarium hobby is indeed a very serious hobby because a wonderful tank does not happen automatically once you have plugged in all the filters and skimmers. It requires your time and work to keep it. In fact, we have seen too many people who are very happy about their tanks in the beginning and give up the hobby after half a year. It is very important for the beginners to understand this point: the saltwater aquarium hobby requires you to spend sometime on cleaning up your tank and your filters and testing your water, etc.
The key that you must remember whenever you feel being lazy in maintaining your tank is that all of the problems that you read about on the FAQ II show up again in the a couple of weeks (depending on how well your system works). The key to maintain is to keep every thing under control. Of course, if you do not know the quality of the water, you cannot do that. So the biggest part of maintaining a tank is testing the chemical levels in your water. Now you can see that why the above question is the wrong question to ask. First, it is not difficult. But you must understand that maintaining a saltwater tank is not about eliminating the algaes problem or pH problem once and for all. It requires constant monitoring of your own tank. Second, if you do not put any effort in maintaining your tank, meaning not to measure your chemical levels and not to do the corresponding changes on a regular basis, you do not stand a chance to maintain your tank.
So the first thing that you should get so far from this page is to remember that maintaining a successful tank requires you spending time on your tank on a regular basis. If you do that, you have half of the key to maintain a wonderful tank.

Why do you need some one who knows more than you to guide you along?

If you have been reading books on saltwater aquariums and this web site, you should know the appropriate pH levels, ammonia levels, and all. Those information is handy and it is a must-have. However, with only those information, you can still have problems with maintaining your tank. This is because the books only tell you what you should not do. But in real life, what should not happen happens quite frequently. What actually happens in our shop is customers walking in and saying that they have algae problems. If you have been reading articles on this web site, you should know that algae problems can be triggered by a low salinity level, a low pH level, or a bad lighting system, just to name a few. This agrees with your books. But knowing this does not solve the problem. Which one is it?
So this is why you need some one who has been around long enough. This is where your books fail to give you any information and this is when your tank is actually having problems. To be able to identify the real causes of your problem requires experience. The only reason for us to be able to identify the causes is because we had screwed up so many times before you. (So we know how and, possibly, why you did it.) So the other half of the key in maintaining your tank is to look for some one who has experience and really knows what he is talking about. Once you have found one, stick to him. Why stick to him? Simply because he knows every thing about your tank. He knows if the fish is sick or not. He knows what kind of equipments and more importantly the quality of the equipments that you have. The diagnosis does not work well if the person has too many unknowns to play with.
So there you go. You have just learnt all the tricks that you will need in maintaining a tank. Let's look at some more products that may be handy in regular maintainance.

Phosphate Test Kit

On the left is a picture of a Phosphate test kit from SALIFERT. You can see the 2 chemical solutions that you will need to do the test. The general testing procedure is very easy. Add the required amount of your water into the plastic container (the top one) and mix it with the chemicals. Wait for the water to change its color and match the result with the color chart shown.
What we want to show you here is that as you can see it is very difficult to tell your result when you try to match the water sample with the color chart provided. This is the major drawback of this and many other similar kinds of test strips. First, they are complicated to use. Second, it is difficult for you to tell the result of the test by matching the colors of your result and the color chart. This can really damage the the accuracy of your test.

Phosphate Remover

As you have probably known, silicate and phosphate are chemicals that will show up in your initial water tests when you just set up your tank.
Let us review about Phosphate brieftly here. What is it? Why do you want to remove it? Phosophate is simply one of the nutrients that are set free in the decomposition of plants, and other dead micro-organisms. What is different between Phosphate from Silicate is that there is always a pool of phosphate present in your tank. The interesting thing is that the pool of phosphate is inversely related to the pH level in the tank. That is, more phosphate molecules are released if the pH level is lower than before. Since phosphate is an essential nutrient to algaes, any extra phosphate in your tank leads to an uncontrolled growth of algaes.
If you have an effective protein skimmer, the excess phosphate can be removed as one of the nutrients by the skimmer. This is because phosphate usually combines with other chemcials when it is dissolved in the water. However, if the pH level has not been set such as in the case of setting up a new tank, the 2 phosphate remover products can be quite handy.

MERLIN Fluidized Bed Bio - Filter

On the left is a picture of the MERLIN (Fluidized Bed) bio filter that is working in our invertebrate tanks. We have also introduced this product in More Bio Filteration. Let us take a closer look at it here.
As you can see the bio-filter is quite easy to install. All you need to do is to connect the inlet (the middle and higher blue hose) to a power head. In our case, there is also a pre-filter connected to the power head in order to keep any mechanical waste from entering the power head and destroying it.
The water enters the bio-filter by first going through the middle plastic pipe, which directs the water to flow to the bottom of the chamber first. The water then enters the chamber that actually contains the filter media. Once the water has entered the chamber, the filter media is lift up by the water pressure and the fluidized bed is formed. Outside of the chamber, there is a sticker showing the water levels that your fluidized bed should be. It is better to adjust the level to be within the range. Just under the inlet blue hose, you can see the knobs that can do the adjustment for you. The adjustment can be made by turning the bigger knob and then the smaller knob (for fine adjustment).
Maintaining your MERLIN bio-filter is also straight forward. The filter media should be added once a while since running the filter constantly can have some of the (really) fine filter media getting away from the chamber and entering to your tank. However, this is not the main concern in maintaining this filter.

What is more important is that as time goes by, there will be algaes formed on the surface of the chamber. This calls for the maintainance need. You need to shut off the filter first and clean the chamber. If you think it is needed, you can replace the media at the same time. In fact, the filter that you see here was just cleaned before the photo was taken. But you can still see the algae attached near the bottom of the chamber (the little red suraface area).
To ensure that your filter is working at its peak efficiency, there are two other external factors that you need to check also. Do you need to clean the pre-filter? Is my power head providing enough power for the filter? Are you having a hard time for the fluidized bed to stay at a level that you have set a few days ago? Are you having a hard time to adjust the level to the minimum recommended level? Do you need to keep the inlet open to its maximum level at all times in order to reach the minimum level? If one or more of this answers is yes, then your power head is not strong enough for the filter and you may consider getting a one-level up power head to optimize the filter's performance.
In fact, choosing the right power head for this and other similar bio-filter is critical to the fluidizied bio-filter. This is because we always want a constant water flow into the chamber. Recall that a bio-filter provides the living conditions for the bacteria needed in the 2nd step of the bio chemical decomposition process. This type of bacteria is aerobic in nature. They need oxygen and food. The constant water flow can ensure the availability of the oxygen and food to the bacteria. In other words, if you have purachased this or a similar fluidized bed filter, but forget to get a power head that can support the water flow required, you are wasting your filter. All you need to do is to get a power head that is strong enough to do the job, so there is no need to get a really expensive one. But do remember this point if you are using or thinking of getting a bio-filter.

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