Lesson’s Learned: 30 Gallon Reef Tank

30 gallon reef tankMy 30 gallon reef was my first long term experience with owning a saltwater set up. The set up was my most complicated tank I had ever had. If you want to learn more about the actual tank set up, you can read more about here. As much as I loved this tank, I always seemed to be running into problems with it, many were my own fault and could have been avoided, but they all taught me a lot.


Problem #1: Dying Chaeto

Dying ChaetoWhen I set up this tank, I wanted to have a refugium with chaeto to help remove nutrients from the tank. I also wanted it to help my pod population in my tank with hopes that it could support a mandarin. I had read how easy it was to grow chaeto so I gave it a shot. I threw it in my refugium, and much to my surprise, I watched it slowly whither away. Even stupider, I left the dying chaeto in my refugium hoping it would come back, which meant all the nutrients were released into the water. This contributed to a massive algae bloom, more on that later though.

After doing a lot of research about chaeto, I found I wasn’t the only one having trouble with it. What I eventually found was everyone that was having explosive growth was using a screw in fluorescent bulb with 6500K color temperature. I had been using 5000K and paid the price. I eventually pulled the old chaeto out and replaced it with new stuff and changed the bulb to the correct bulb. This led to explosive growth of the chaeto, which leads me to my next problem.


Problem #2: Growing Chaeto

ChaetoNormally this wouldn’t be a problem at all and would actually be a good thing because as the chaeto grows, it is removing nutrients from the water, which is the main reason to have chaeto. The problem was that I wasn’t trimming my chaeto enough. I was obsessed with having pods in my tank to the point where I didn’t want to remove chaeto because I would be removing pods in the process. The chaeto completely took over my sump and because I didn’t remove any, it wasn’t removing many nutrients because it had no where to grow. I also couldn’t rotate it so the chaeto on the bottom wouldn’t get any light and probably died off or just didn’t grow. Not to mention, it also left no room in the refugium for anything else.


Problem #3: Using tap water

I’m actually really embarrassed to admit this, but I used tap water in my reef aquarium for most of the time it was set up. It is probably the dumbest thing I could possibly have ever done to the tank. I spent so much money in equipment and livestock, and didn’t use RO/DI water. In past Eric’s defense, I actually didn’t even know RO/DI water was a thing, but I should have done more research.

Problem #4: Moving Anemone

Clownfish with anemoneAlthough it may not look like it, but anemones are capable of moving. I had a bubble tip anemone in the tank with two clownfish, which is something I always wanted. I just didn’t realize how much anemones move. One day this anemone worked it’s way up to the overflow box, and somehow ended up half inside the box and half in the tank. It was actually being sucked into the U-tube and restricting water flow, causing my tank to overflow. After I pulled the anemone out of the tube I thought for sure it would be dead. Somehow it actually survived that ordeal and lived in my tank the whole time I had it.


Problem #5: Flatworms

FlatwormsIf using tap water was the dumbest thing I ever did, not quarantining or dipping my corals is a close second. Instead of dipping my corals in something to remove any pests, I used to put my corals directly into the aquarium. Again, because of my obsession with pods, I wanted to make sure I would have enough in my system. Nowadays, I dip my corals in Flatworm eXit and then quarantine them before they ever enter my display tank.



Problem #6: Buying the Wrong Livestock

Buying the wrong livestockFlower Pot CoralAnother problem I ran into was buying the wrong livestock for my tank. I didn’t always do my research before purchasing a coral or invertebrate, although I always did for fish. This caused many issues and sadly caused some animals to perish in my tank. Lesson learned, ALWAYS research anything you buy and put in your tank. You’re responsible for that animals life and should make sure you can properly care for it before you buy it. Avoid impulse purchases. Don’t always take what the store employee tells you as 100% accurate, you should always have your own knowledge. The two corals to the left are a carnation coral and a flower pot coral and both are very difficult corals to keep and some people say impossible. I also had purchased margarita snails, lettuce nudibranches, sea cucumbers, and emerald crabs, all that I now don’t recommend for a clean up crew.


Problem #7: Hair Algae

Hair AlgaeThe bane of my existence was hair algae in my 30 gallon reef. When the chaeto died in my tank and released all the nutrients, hair algae started to grow. It was ironic that the thing I thought would help prevent hair algae caused it. That combined with using tap water and overfeeding, made the hair algae show up and stay. It took a long time to recover from the hair algae and my tank was overrun with hair algae for most of the time I had it. It actually got so bad that I had hair algae growing on the chaeto in my sump at one point. Eventually I did get the hair algae under control and eradicated, but it took a huge effort. Prevention is better than correcting an issue.


Goby with ShrimpDespite all these problems I ran into with this tank, I absolutely loved having it. There were some really cool things I did have in this tank. The number one thing I absolutely loved was having the symbiotic relationships in the reef. Besides the obvious clownfish and anemone relationship, I also really enjoyed the goby with the pistol shrimp. The goby has excellent vision but can’t dig a tunnel, and the shrimp can dig a tunnel but can’t see very well. So they pair up and have a beneficial relationship. It is really neat to see a fish and shrimp never leave each others side.


Sadly I ended up taking this reef tank down because one night water came out of the tank and hit the electrical outlets. I couldn’t figure out what happened if the tank leaked, overflowed, or something else and because I was still living in my parents house at the time, I didn’t want to risk having a fire because of my fish tank. I ended up taking the inhabitants to a local fish store and taking the tank down. It was a very sad day. It was even harder because it had been only a few months earlier that I finally won my battle against hair algae and then I had to get rid of the tank.


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