Saturday, December 29, 2007

New Toys!

Well...everything is doing pretty well aside from some algae. The side walls are a little ugly, and i'm getting some cyano/assorted disgustingness in the sandbed, but overall the livestock is doing well. All the coralline on the sides has bleached out as well after moving it home for christmas break, but the color is starting to come back...just in time for me to move it back to school in a couple of weeks (poor clowns!)

So I did a little shopping today...hehe. Slightly over $100 in new toys for the aquarium. First thing's first, some new cleaners! 6 Nassarius snails and two small blue legged hermits (well...maybe only one, the other might be an empty shell...oh well.)

And now to the real toys, I'm really excited about these. An AquaClear 50 and a Hydor Koralia Nano!

I'm really excited about how small this pump I think it's a lot more attractive than the MJ900 I currently have in there and the GPH is about the same (The Koralia might be more, even.)

I'm leaving town in a couple of days, so I'm not sure if I want to put either the filter or the pump into the tank right before I leave for fear that the changes will freak things out, but I may do it just because I can't resist the urge to play...hehe

I may end up removing the MJ900 from the tank and using it for something else...the AC50 runs about 200gph through it, and the Koralia Nano is about 240gph, which should be plenty in a 12 gallon (perhaps a little much?) In any case I doubt I'll need the MaxiJet anymore (Unless I were to set it up on a wave timer with the Koralia...) The snails and crab(s) will remain in Quarantine till I get back from Texas on the 11th, so I figure that's plenty of time to make sure they're all doing okay and to kill any leftover parasites or whatever that might be clinging to the shells. I know the odds are quite small, but in a 12 gallon tank it's better to be a little over cautious I think.

Anyways, that's the news...any ideas as to what I should do with the flow? I've been thinking about putting the Koralia on the same timer as the lights to simulate calmer nighttime seas, what are your thoughts on that?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Hyposalinity: A "Basic" Overview

First thing's first...what IS hyposalinity?

Let's break the word down a bit, just to get a better understanding of what we're really talking about. Hypo, a prefix that means "Less than normal," and Salinity, which of course refers to the amount of salt dissolved in the water. So, there you have it, very simplified, Hyposalinity Treatment is putting fish in a tank where the salinity (I prefer to measure is Specific Gravity) is lower than natural sea water by a significant margin.

What do I need?

Let's get a little deeper in depth, now. Scientifically speaking, in order for Hyposalinity to be an effective course of treatment a few crucial things need to happen.
  1. A quarantine/hospital tank needs to be set up. (This is true for all treatments...never treat/medicate your display, especially if you have inverts of any kind.)
  2. The specific gravity must be maintained at 1.009.
  3. Water quality absolutely must be maintained.
  4. Fish in treatment need to eat nutritious foods regularly, several times a day is best.
We'll start with the first problem. In a perfect world, everyone would already have a quarantine tank, and they'd use it for every new addition. In reality, this is definitely not true. For small fish, a 10 or 15 gallon tank is plenty for quarantine purposes. It doesn't need to be anything fancy, I use a standard 10g tank from a discount store. From here, the needs are fairly simple. A basic filter (the sponge filters work really nicely if you can keep a sponge seeding in an established tank or sump in case of emergency.) is needed to maintain water quality. Again, I use a basic model from a discount store. I also recommend picking up some replacement filter media for it, as you're likely to have your fish in QT for quite a while. Lighting is not explicitly necessary, but again, I purchased a cheap clip-on lamp and some screw-in daylight compact fluorescent bulbs from the discount store. As a final touch, I would recommend buying a sheet of "egg crate" style light diffuser from a local building supply store, this will prevent jumpy fish from finding themselves on your carpet while still allowing plenty of gas exchange. Some assorted other things that would come in handy for this Quarantine/Hospital tank are just a separate set of aquarium tools. Things like siphons, nets, scrubbers, etc. should NEVER be used in your main tank once they're used for the Quarantine. Keep them straight, label them, color code them, whatever, just don't cross the streams!

As for the tank itself, I really like to cover three sides of it with a dark material. I have access to black butcher-block paper for free, so I used that rather than trying to fuss with painting. In my opinion, this makes the fish feel more secure, so that they don't get stressed out by activity happening on all sides of their tank. Also, it makes it a bit easier to observe the fish if they're on a neutral background. And, while you're at it, provide your fish some places to hide. A variety of PVC pipe fittings of different shapes and diameters is plenty, just be sure to clean them of any production residues (scrubbing them down with a clean towel in tap water is plenty). It may be helpful to tape some white paper on the bottom side of the tank, so that it's easier to spot waste when you're siphoning gunk out (Which you'll be doing a lot me.) That takes care of facilities...just be sure you've got a steady supply of quality water on hand (RO/DI from your own unit is best, but for those in apartments and dorms, even the RO water that most grocery stores sell is leaps and bounds better than your tap water.)

On to number two: the specific gravity. If you're still using a swing-arm hydrometer, or even a "lab grade" floating hydrometer, do yourself and your fish a favor and spring for a portable refractometer. Portable Refractometers are easy to use, don't wear out, get clogged up with salt residue, and give accurate readings. When you get it, be sure to check its calibration by measuring a few drops of pure RO water. If it doesn't read 1.000, most models have a small screw driver with which you can calibrate it. If you have a local fish store that you trust, they may have a more exact type of refractometer that you can check yours against, as well.

Why 1.009? A little science is needed to understand this, so bear with me. If my research is correct, the internal specific gravity that marine fish maintain is about 1.008, so in order for their osmoregulatory systems to keep functioning properly, the water around them needs to be a bit higher than their internals. They can tolerate lower for short periods of time (i.e. Freshwater Dip treatments), but it's very stressful and I don't recommend these "Freshwater Dips" as a treatment for anything. Often when fish are afflicted by a parasite that would be killed by a freshwater dip, the production of their slime coat is increased in an effort to fight it off on their own, which would double serve to protect a good number of the parasites long enough to survive the dip, and thus it would only yield temporary relief. Further, in many studies conducted on the subject, it's found that parasites such as Cryptocaryon irritans ("Marine Ich") are capable of adjusting to levels higher than 1.009, while at 1.009 the tomonts (the encysted, reproductive stage of the parasite) will burst from osmotic shock, killing them and breaking the life cycle of the parasite. This is how Hyposalinity works as a treatment.

Water quality can be really difficult to maintain in a quarantine tank, which makes our work a lot harder. A seeded sponge filter can be a big help, but for those who don't have one on hand the lack of established bacteria can cause some headaches. In the first several weeks, you may need to do several small water changes a day. If your fish aren't eating well, it's important to siphon out all uneaten food within 20 to 30 minutes, and if they are you'll need to siphon out their waste at least once a day. This can add up to a lot of small water changes, so keep some water mixing at all times to avoid being caught high and dry.

And lastly, feeding. This can be a struggle, as sick fish sometimes just won't eat what you've got on hand. Many people swear by garlic additives, and commercial supplement additives such as Selcon, but never having used either I can't vouch for them in any way. It's worth a shot if you want to try it out, but in my experience finding acceptable foods that you haven't tried previously can be enough to get fish eating again. I started with Formula 1 flakes, and when I discovered my fish weren't eating I went looking around at the local fish stores for other options. Following suggestions from some ReefCentral members, I purchased some frozen cyclopeeze and frozen Mysis shrimp. I attempted feeding one of each of these foods once a day, and eventually it was the Cyclopeeze that got them eating. The particles are quite small, so you may find it helpful to turn off any pumps while feeding it, but be absolutely certain to turn it back on. A forgetful aquarist has been the demise of many a creature. In the end, getting sick fish to eat is half of the battle. They can hardly fight off an infection if they've got no energy.

The thread on where I got a lot of help when my own fish were sick:
A great resource, also where I got a lot of information for this post:

How To: Hyposalinity

How do I carry out Hyposalinity Treatment?

It can seem daunting, but it's relatively simple if you've got the right equipment. Your initial goal is to get down to SG 1.009 over the course of about 36 hours. This needs to happen slowly to avoid osmotic shock, but needs to happen before the fish succumbs to the parasite. Doing water changes with RO water is the fastest and safest way to do this, but you need to monitor the specific gravity along the way. Start with a 15% or 20% water change. This should bring your SG down from about 1.025 to roughly 1.020. Do it again 12, 24, and 36 hours later, with the fourth water change bringing the SG to roughly 1.010. After you get here, it's best to give it several hours before making the final adjustments to 1.009. did it. You're treating with Hyposalinity.

Now that you're there, keep an eye on your pH. Hyposalinity can have ill effects on pH and you should check it at least once a day and adjust as necessary. Also, be sure to top off evaporation regularly to keep your SG stable at 1.009. You'll need to keep it at 1.009 for four to six weeks, or at LEAST four weeks after the last signs of the parasite. In addition, your display tank needs to be fallow (no fish in it...inverts are fine, but NO VERTEBRATES.) for at least 30 days to ensure that there are no parasites left in any of the various stages of its life cycle around to cause problems once the fish go back in the tank.

At the end of treatment, raise your specific gravity back up to natural levels SLOWLY! Bring it up over the course of several days. My preferred method is to top off evaporation with natural strength saltwater, as well as performing water changes with it. As you get closer to the desired point, you'll need to use hypersaline water for the last little boost up to natural SG (1.025-1.027, with 1.0264 being ideal).

All that's left to do is transfer your fish back to the display tank! Congratulations! Be sure to acclimate them to your tank, as conditions are different and you don't want to shock your fish with any of your parameters after all this hard work! Hopefully now you'll quarantine any new arrivals and reduce the risks of future outbreaks.

Links:The thread on where I got a lot of help when my own fish were sick: great resource, also where I got a lot of information for this post: