Frequently Asked Questions

Common Questions & Answers

What are some things I need to do to be successful with coral?

Start by using a better blend of salt that is designed for reef tanks for your water changes. In addition to this start using something like balance blocks or some other form of dosing that will bring maintain proper calcium and trace elements for a reef tank. When considering a particular type of coral do a little research to find out the difficulty level, light requirements and preferred water movement etc. The easiest way to find this information is to do a Google search on the name. Click on a few of the online sites selling the coral and you can quickly find out information that will allow you to know if you have the light needed and can make a suitable placement for the coral in your tank. You can have many different corals in one tank by placing them in areas that suit them. Use rocks and ledges to block flow from those needing low flow and direct power heads and returns to provide movement for those requiring stronger water flow. Low light corals can be place closer to the bottom or be shielded by ledges or in areas of the tank not directly under the brightest lights.

How many fish can I put in my 55 gallon aquarium?

This is probably not the answer you were looking for but “it depends”. There are two factors, each have many components, that determine how many fish you can have in your saltwater, or freshwater aquarium. 

The first factor is water quality. All fish produce waste that manifests in ammonia, nitrates, phosphates and other harmful chemicals. The aquariums filter system which includes chemical, mechanical and biological filterization accounts for how efficiently the system can remove the waste caused by the fish. Answering these questions can help to determine the systems capacity to process waste and maintain adequate water quality with a particular livestock load: What chemical filterization in the form of substances like phosban, carbon, resin or nitrate reduction pellets is being used on the system? Is there an efficient mechanical filter in the form of a sock, cartridge, bonded filter media or sponge to remove large and small particulates from the water? What features of the system help to increase the bio filterization of the tank, live rock, refugium sand bed, beneficial algae etc? How often are water changes being done? All of these things will help with water quality and as long as proper water quality is maintained, the fish load that can be placed in a given aquarium is based on other environmental demands of the livestock. 

These are factors to consider: Aggressive and/or territorial fish need more space than peaceful fish; Schooling fish take up less space per individual than non schooling fish; Some fish are more active in the water column and others are primarily bottom dwellers and balancing the two can help increase the possible fish load; Regardless of how many individual fish are in the tank, larger fish need a larger tank with adequate swimming room. Also take into consideration the eventual adult size of fish you are putting in the tank.

You can find compatibility and minimum tank size requirements for various fish on most online sites that sell fish. If you are going to have some aggressive fish then these generally are added last. You may start adding fish, keeping an eye on water quality and compatibility. Being patient when adding livestock helps both in terms of water quality and being able to assess the impact of each new member on the aquarium environment. Observe your tank closely and at some point you will either start to see the impact of crowding on water quality or stress of the community. 

Now for the short answer. The generally accepted rule of thumb in the marine aquarium hobby is: One inch of fish (measured from the nose to the base of the tail) per 5 gallons of system saltwater. I don’t find this general rule helpful and examples abound that do not reflect this rule.


We have a nepthea tree in our tank that is looking a little small. We have tested the water and it is great, we are just not sure what else to try. What do you recommend?

It needs to be placed in a spot with moderate to high water flow. It needs moderate light. Placed 15″ from PC or T5 should be fine. You will want to supplement the tank with trace elements and strontium and Iodine. Use a good quality reef salt and keep up with frequent water changes also ad some balance blocks, or other supplements containing balanced trace elements. Feed once or twice a week with food appropriate for filter feeders. Target feed a half hour or so after the lights go out using a turkey baster.

I just sat up my 70 gal acrylic tank and I used sugar sand as my substrate. The next morning my tank had a white film that is really hard to remove on the surface of the tank. I washed this sand before putting this into the can you tell me why this did that?

Sugar sand can be problematic at first because it is often stirred up into the water by water movement, or even livestock. Generally over time it gets more fixed and will not fluff up as much. Try to point your water movement from mid level up towards the top or across the top and use live rock to help block flow to some areas of the bottom. Turn off your pumps and use a soft sponge to gently wipe off the acrylic and leave the pumps off for 30 minutes or so. Don’t gravel vacuum your substrate. This is counterproductive in saltwater aquariums.

I think I have Flatworms on my mushrooms. What can I do to get rid of them?

The best way of controlling flatworms is through prevention. Get a good coral dip and dip all new coral before placing it in your tank. Maintain low nutrient levels in the aquarium by not overfeeding and using carbon/resin and protein skimming, along with increased water flow and a good clean up crew to help reduce the populations of these pests. 

Several species of fish and invertebrates consume flatworms. The six line wrasse is a favorite as is the Spotted Mandarin Dragonet and the Blue Velvet Nudibranch. If adding a Mandarin, make sure that you have a well established live rock population in your aquarium. Be aware that the Blue Velvet Nudibrance is very effective but has a short life span and does not tolerate changes in water chemistry. 

Fresh water dips can be effective at removing flatworms from an infected colony of coral. This dip should be less than 10 seconds. Make sure the water is dechlorinated and the same temperature and PH as your tank water. While dipping, shake the colony and many of the worms will lose their grip and fall off. 

Flatworms may be manually removed with the use of airline tubing to vacuum them off or they can be very carefully picked off with tweezers. If possible take some water out of the display tank and place the coral in another tank for this cleaning. 

Chemical treatments are available, but may have negative side effects on your tank. Generally the above techniques can be effective without resorting to chemicals.

My aquarium is up and running and I want to install a sump. How do I determine what size sump to get?

You will need to determine what shape sump you think you can get through the doors. I would suggest cutting a piece of cardboard, to various sizes until you find one that tells you what size tank you can fit in the stand. One reason people often want a large sump is because when you set a tank up with an overflow the tank will always stay full to the level of the fins on the overflow box. As water evaporates from the system, only the sumps water level goes down. The larger the sump the longer you have before needing to ad water. With wet/dry filters that are often used for fresh water, there is generally even less evaporation time because the water level is left much lower to keep the bio balls out of sitting water. There are two ways to solve this problem. The first requires a water source. A 1/4″ piece of RO filter tubing is connected to the water source (hose bib, sink pluming etc.) and in some cases an RODI filter and then it is connected to a float valve in the sump that keeps the sump at the proper level all the time. The second way works very well when there is no water source near by. A second tank or container is put under the stand as a water reservoir and a device called an auto top off unit is installed. This device consists of a very small pump that goes in the bottom of the water reservoir, a float that goes in the sump and a device that controls the water level. The ATO devise gets plugged into the power source and the small pump gets plugged into the device. When the float drops a certain amount the device is triggered to turn on the pump which fills the sump to the proper level.

I have been doing water changes since I set up my tank and the water in my tank is still cloudy.

If you only have a course sponge in your sump or filter, put some fine bonded filter medium in so the water is forced to go through it after the sponge. In addition to the benefits of reducing nitrates and phosphates, adding Chemipure to your filter will help to give you crystal clear water. Sometimes there are water born algae in tanks that you cannot see, but that makes the water a bit cloudy. If your tank has just been set up recently give it a couple more weeks then if needed you can put a small UV Sterilizer on the return line from your filter or pump. This will help clear the water.

Is there a way to detach the mushrooms off of the frags they came on and reattach them to my liverock?

The way to do this is to fasten the frag to your live rock where you would like to have mushrooms. Make sure this is a suitable spot for them. Most mushrooms prefer low to moderate light and low to moderate water flow. You can rubber band the frag to a rock if the rock is small, or you can use super glue gel. I do not recommend trying to move mushrooms from whatever they are attached to. If you want mushrooms to spread from a frag so that you can move them to other spots, make a bed of live rock rubble and set the frag on top. Then you can move the small rubble when new mushrooms attach. Unlike most coral mushrooms tend to do well with less than optimal water conditions. If you have low nitrates which you should then your mushrooms will do better if you feed them with products like Marine Snow.

How do you remove an anemone?

It the anemone is on the glass you can use a credit card to gently slide between the anemone and glass. If the anemone is on a rock you will need to point a powerhead directly at the anemone until it moves off the rock. Generally it will move sometime in the night. You may need to move the rock to another container to get the anemone off so that the anemone does not attach to another rock before you get a chance to remove it.

Will a Brown Sea hare poison my tank if he gets disturbed?

We have had hundreds of them in the shop and sold hundreds of them and never heard of a case of them secreting the dreaded red die and fouling someone’s tank. The die is actually developed from the red color of the algae some of them consume. The color of the Sea Hare itself can also change based on the color of the algae in their diet. These guys are strict vegetarians so once they have rid your tank of nuisance algae it is important to supplement their diet with seaweed and/or lettuce. Sea Hares are reef compatible and do a great job of eating hair algae. In small tanks it is a good idea to run carbon or resin in the filter to remove any toxins that may be secreted. All powerheads and pump inlets must also be protected with a sponge or screen to keep the Sea Hare from getting harmed. It is important to be aware that these slugs can get quite large, up to 12” so you may be looking for a new home for yours soon depending on the size of your tank.

What is the best volume/method for water changes?

When making water changes, most reef keepers I know tend to apply the percentage, or amount of their water changes without mention and/or taking into consideration the actual partial liquid tank volume that could be subtracted by discounting the live rock. It seems to make sense to me that the volume of each change should be based on this deduction and not the total volume which would include the LR. My question here is how do most keepers commonly do it across the industry? Is it usually necessary to make the deduction? Also, if so, what are some easy or effective methods to analyzing or counter-measuring for this deduction, i.e., maybe the use of filling buckets, rock to bucket counter-volume, etc? I would hate to tear apart all of my intricate rock design work (2-3+ days to set & build originally) so I’m hoping there might be a way that I could somehow do the deduction without having to remove the live rock or, vice verse, all of the water but…I guess it is what it is. Anyone out there have any tricky tips?
Let’s look at the reason we do water changes in the first place. The primary reason for water changes is to remove some wastes and undesirables from the water, thereby reducing the % of these in the water that remains in the tank after the water change. Depending on the components of your salt mix, water changes also help to replace some necessary components of sea water that have been depleted, but they do not negate the need to test for certain components and replenish them periodically. Now, the primary indicator of when a water change is needed is determined by the testing the nitrogen content. For reef aquariums, the suggested level is < 1.0 ppm, for FOWLR (fish only with live rock Aquarium); < 30 ppm is the suggested and acceptable level and < 0.25 ppm for Coral Reefs but not more than 5 ppm. I do not suggest water changes over 25% and I suggest you do them no more than once a week until acceptable levels of nitrates are achieved. You can estimate the water displacement of live rock, by filling a 5 gallon bucket with 3 gallons of water and then adding one pound of rock. Use the height of the bucket to estimate the displacement and multiply this by the number of pounds of rock you believe you have in your tank. Make sure to account for the water in your sump as well. If weekly water changes are done for 4 weeks and nitrate levels are still not low enough then you should consider other methods of reducing nitrates. You want to get down to doing these ¼ water changes only every 3-4 weeks. Adding Chemi Pure to your filter system will help reduce the number of water changes needed to keep nitrates under control. Using a water treatment like Amquel + when you do water changes will help to decrease nitrates more than just changing with saltwater.

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Discount Aquarium Fish & Reef

Phone: (602) 861-6728

Location: 1301 E University Dr.
Suite 128
Tempe, AZ 85281

Hours: Open Everyday 10:00AM - 6:00PM

© Copyright 2018 - Relative Wisdom, LLC


Discount Aquarium Fish & Reef

Phone: (602) 861-6728

Location: 1301 E University Dr.
Suite 128
Tempe, AZ 85281

Hours: Open Everyday 10:00AM - 6:00PM

© Copyright 2019 - Relative Wisdom, LLC