OK, so let’s suss out the details of what we are dealing with now that it’s running in my office. It’s my tank now and all these “challenges” the old owner created are now mine to resolve.
- What I Purchased
- Waterbox AIO (All In One) 20Gal Tank
- Used Cheap Heater
- Used Cheap Powerhead
- Kessil A80 Tuna Blue Light
- Kessil Controller
- Algae Covered Rock
- No Sand (Threw it out)
- Mandarin Dragonet (Not Captive Bred)
- Frozen Food (For the Clown Fish)
- So, let’s list out all the stuff I am going to have to deal with and let’s start addressing them from the top.
- Algae Issue
- Water is FILTHY and Yellow
- Need to be able to test the water
- Need a clean-up crew
- Filtration Media (Filter Floss/Filter Sock)
- No Backup Heater (I cannot trust this heater and need backup)
- Need Tank Cover
- Need sand
- Need to aquascape
- Reliable Powerhead
- Pods to keep Mandarin alive until I can figure out a plan of action
Water Change: Off to my LFS we go. I decide that a 5 gal water change to start is a good idea. Should help me get my parameters in line and once I can test to see where I am at I can go from there. I purchase a bucket of Saltwater and a bucket of RODI water. I notice that my LFS has a sticker with its logo on it. I ask for one and slap it on the saltwater bucket. Now I know that the bucket with the LFS sticker on it is saltwater. Easy visual reminder. This should help with my first two issues. Algae issue and filthy water.
Now it’s time to start dropping some coin: Granted, I got a KILLER deal on this Waterbox AIO with a Kessil light, but now that I am at my LFS I need a lot of stuff steer this ship. I spend about $300 on Pods, testing kits (Nitrate, Phosphate, Calcium, Alkalinity). I purchase some filter floss to polish the water along with some live sand and cement to help with the aquascape.
Clean-Up Crew: I am sure everyone has an opinion on this, but I wanted to start slow and I wanted to focus on the Algae issue I was having in this tank. So, I purchased conservatively knowing that I could always buy more.
- 6 Trochus Snails
- 1 Emerald Crab
- 3 Dwarf Red Tip Hermit Crabs
I now have the basics, but I am still climbing without a net. I need a cover for this tank and a reliable heater that I can add to the tank to run as a backup, but I want to do some research and I assume I can risk it in the short term.
Maintenance Day 1: I need to snap into action and I have a lot of stuff that I need to get done. First, I grab an unused toothbrush from under the sink and give the rock another solid scrub. The water looked even worse now, but that’s why I did it before the water change. Once I scrubbed the rock and did the water change and added the pods I just let everyone inside the tank rest. I added the filter floss and kinda let everything run. These fish have been through a lot and my plan was to do a little every day until most of the stuff that I needed to do inside the tank was done.
Maintenance Day 2: The Mandarin is eating pods and the clown is still alive. Algae looks better but the rock work is still a mess. I take tank measurements and make myself a cardboard template so I know the length, width, and hight I can aquascape the rock work and have it fit into the tank like a glove. Once I have that template I take a roll of blue painters tape and tape off a visible border on the edge of the template so that I have some space to clean the glass. I pull all the rocks out of the tank (killing a lot of the pod population I am sure) and put them in a bucket. and I construct an arch using aquarium cement. I created my arch as a solid piece with two solid feet. I wanted it to be able to stand up on its own so it would never be able to tip over or shift. I put it back into the tank carefully and let everyone and myself relax for the day.
Maintenance Day 3: It’s time to add sand. I was honestly a little worried about this because I did not want to kill anything in the tank. I know that fish will get out of the way, but I could see myself easily burying something. I could have taken everything out of the tank and put them in a bucket, but I figured they would be far less stressed if I just slowly added sand to the front two corners of the tank. I cleared the front two corners of the tank in advance and then just poured in the sand. It seemed to work like a champ. It took about 6 hours for the tank to be clear enough that I could see and count all my livestock. Once I could do that I just pushed the sand around and got it distributed.
Finally, I have a tank that has sand, is aquascaped and I can keep my hands out of for a while. It was a bit of a journey from buying a tank on Craigslist, but I did it. I got it set up in my office and it’s looking really nice. I am proud of the work I put in and I have already learned a ton. This is very different from my last tank experience. I know I don’t know much… but I know enough to feel confident in what I have done so far and these two fish are still alive and seem to be doing well. Now, I just need to focus on some redundant equipment for the tank and keeping this Mandarin Dragonet alive, but that’s a post for another day.