Re-aquascaping nightmare!!!!!! Nearly killed all my fish!!!!!

Eleni18

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So....yesterday was a true nightmare!!! I decided to re-aquascape my running 300 liter reef tank. I read all the posts here as to how I should do this and organized myself real well- or so I thought....

I knew from all you wonderful people here that I should do this carefully, trying to stir the sand as little as possible.So... I transferred all my corals -nothing special, just a few zoas, a candy cane, an euphyllia, , a xenia, a recordea and a few mushrooms to a separate tub with some water from the tank and a small powerhead. I turned off the pumps and skimmer, emptied about 50 liters of water so that I could immediately do a water change after I was finished, in order to minimize any bad effects I may have caused, and started transferring pieces of live rock to another tub full of tank water. So far so good.

I then moved the base rocks as gently as I could, but obviously not gently enough. I used epoxy putty to try and glue rocks together, but they started toppling over and blowing black clouds of nastiness from the sand. At some point, I realized I could barely see inside the tank, the water was so murky. I decided to do the water change there and then and just as I was mixing the first bucket, I saw my blue tang crashing to the bottom of the tank, not moving at all, with all the other fish swimming frantically around it. So much for anyone still believing that animals have no intellect or feelings. Anyway, panicking, I added 60 liters of fresh water to the tank, put some carbon in the filter, started up the skimmer and proceded to finish my rock work as fast as possible. Meanwhile, a small clown had joined the blue tang at the bottom of the tank, barely moving their fins. I tested for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, everything was normal. The water was so murky, I could barely see the shadow of my new aquascape through it. I was sure they were dead or dying and the the rest of the fish would soon follow. I had probably stirred up a black cloud of bacterial nastiness with dire consequences.

I spend the rest of the day and evening looking at my very very slowly clearing tank and my two fish lying at the bottom. Strange as it may seem, the rest of the fish, two more clowns, two damsels,a pyjama fish and a mandarin seemed fine. And as by miracle, by midnight, my blue tang and the small clown started showing increasing signs of life and movement. By morning, all the fish were alive but as I am writing this post, the tank is still not crystal clear......Lesson learned. No more aquascaping with the fish inside the tank. It really is too risky and almost impossible to do this without stirring up things...Phheewwwww!!!!!
 
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Eleni18

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Was the black nastiness hydrogen sulfate?
I really don't know! How can you tell? The funny thing is nothing showed in the tests! All parameters were OK and the water a murky brownish black mess and the fish dying!
 
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chizerbunoi

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I only thought that because you said blackness and a cloud. Fish start acting that way. Sand trapped under rocks can also cause it.

Could have been from the amount of epoxy used?
 
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Eleni18

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I only thought that because you said blackness and a cloud. Fish start acting that way. Sand trapped under rocks can also cause it.

Could have been from the amount of epoxy used?
No, not the epoxy. Wasn't more than a tube of aqua forest putty, so reef safe. But the sand trapped under the rocks was really black and fouls smelling
 
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flsalty

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Just some thoughts that are obviously not going to help you now, but may help people in the future.

A sandbed that shallow should be cleaned regularly. At 3-4 cm it is mostly there for looks. You won't hurt anything by cleaning it. If yours is that bad start cleaning little sections at a time or remove it all and give it a good rinse.

When attempting to do something like this where you think you'll be stirring up a lot of stuff, remove water after you stir the stuff up, not before. That way you are taking out some of the nasties instead of just diluting what's in there.

If it was hydrogen sulfide you would have smelled it. It sounds like your fish were deprived of oxygen which makes sense if the water was so murky you could barely see through it.

Glad your fish made it through.
 

brandon429

why did you put a reef in that
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What benefit is the sandbed in this tank

what ways can the sandbed be designed going forward to allow for safe cleaning and aquascaping?
I've invited sandbed specialists to offer ideas to prevent future loss
 
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Krully

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The epoxy probably didn't help. I once used the Tunze epoxy to glue some corals but couldn't manage to do what I wanted, spent so long tweaking and releasing epoxy in the tank the water got cloudy and I could tell my clowns were having trouble breathing, all corals retracted etc... Lucky for me I could transfer the clowns to another tank I just set up waiting to transfer it to my father's house, they stayed there for the night and went back to my tank after that.

Needless to say I don't go ham on epoxy anymore.
 
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Eleni18

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The epoxy probably didn't help. I once used the Tunze epoxy to glue some corals but couldn't manage to do what I wanted, spent so long tweaking and releasing epoxy in the tank the water got cloudy and I could tell my clowns were having trouble breathing, all corals retracted etc... Lucky for me I could transfer the clowns to another tank I just set up waiting to transfer it to my father's house, they stayed there for the night and went back to my tank after that.

Needless to say I don't go ham on epoxy anymore.
Yes, the same with me....It was the first time I tried gluing rocks with epoxy and I guess that didn;t help with lack of oxygen either
 

brandon429

why did you put a reef in that
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hey can you update pics/curious how it is now. pics will show castings laying around the tank on the upper portions of the sandbed if any/particulates etc just curious.

We have been having lots of sandbed discussions lately, and the risk factors are almost never conveyed in those threads. sometimes we need to see the examples where challenge happens to at least balance out care options, sandbed clouding after install has affected many
 
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Eleni18

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hey can you update pics/curious how it is now. pics will show castings laying around the tank on the upper portions of the sandbed if any/particulates etc just curious.

We have been having lots of sandbed discussions lately, and the risk factors are almost never conveyed in those threads. sometimes we need to see the examples where challenge happens to at least balance out care options, sandbed clouding after install has affected many
Sure, I just took these on my iphone, not good, I am in the process of changing the light fixture so I will try to post more tomorrow

dory1.jpg dort2.jpg dort3.jpg
 

brandon429

why did you put a reef in that
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Thank you for sure for the updates they're looking ok, that the fish are swimming down low indicates to me no more gill burning/issues with excreting ammonia caused by free ammonia storm=passed

(free ammonia when not quickly lethal amounts typically manifests with fish up top, seeking highest dissolved oxygen levels, due to inability to excrete ammonia via the gills and reduced ability to respire)

thats a large tank, must be really hard to work in you did well in saving the ones you did!
 
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Eleni18

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Thank you for sure for the updates they're looking ok, that the fish are swimming down low indicates to me no more gill burning/issues with excreting ammonia caused by free ammonia storm=passed

(free ammonia when not quickly lethal amounts typically manifests with fish up top, seeking highest dissolved oxygen levels, due to inability to excrete ammonia via the gills and reduced ability to respire)

thats a large tank, must be really hard to work in you did well in saving the ones you did!
Thank you so much! It was really scary!
 

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