I'm new around here. I was sent over here from reefcentral where they were helping troubleshoot my tank crash.
I have two FOWLR tanks. I have a 55 gallon that I've had 6 yrs and a 36 gallon that I've had about 3 years, but started by moving sand, LR, and fish over from the 55 gallon. I don't particularly ever want a reef tank, I'm quite happy with FOWLR. I'm a mom of a toddler, two dogs, two budgies, and I'm in professional school, so not a lot of extra time or money, but we do enjoy our tanks and want to keep them healthy.
First my still healthy tank: 55 gallon FOWLR, uses hang on the back filters (aqueon), has one black and white clown (mature), one regular clown (juvenile), two blue/green chromis, and one pale pink dotty back (at least I think that is what it is). Lots of corraline growth and mostly crabs for clean up crew. Small amount of red algae and I've noticed a small number of aiptasia in the tank coming up. Tank gets fed a small amount twice per day, which all gets eaten within 1-2 minutes.
36 gallon tank had 1 clown (my first fish from 5.5 yrs ago) and two damsels. Hang on the back filter (aqueon). It had a LOT of turf grass algae and a lot of aiptasia. For the aiptasia, we've tried peppermint shrimp (got eaten), Aiptasia X (works, but comes back), Berghia nudibranches (ate a few, laid eggs, and disappeared) and have honestly just given up. The clown has been looking a bit down recently (resting on the rocks, but still getting food). I did a large water change on Sunday (the 55 gallon just got topped off). When I went to bed, fish were fine. When I woke on Monday, all three fish were dead and all the bristle worms were out (not normal for when I normally wake up). I did my normal change but I was down to the bottom of the bucket of salt and I wasn't aware that you have to mix the salt once it is lower. I also added Top Fin bacteria supplement (it seemed a good idea at the time, but I know now it was stupid stupid stupid). Still not sure exactly what caused the crash, but have some likely candidates. I have seen crabs alive and moving around in there.
I know I have some husbandry changes I need to make. I've been getting longer between top offs (3-5 weeks) and water changes (6-10 weeks doing 1/4 to 1/3 tank change). I've been using tap water paired with Instant Ocean salt mix and Stress Coat Marine with Aqua Vitro eight.four (obviously, no Instant Ocean if I'm just topping off). I had been adding trace minerals, and aqua vitro calcium, ions, and fuel with the water changes. I know it wasn't necessary, but I thought it helped the corraline. I've been told to nix that since there is no coral. The tank is at specific gravity 1.023 to 1.024. Temps in both tanks range 78-82 (usually 80, I'm aware now it should be 78-80 and higher is bad), it was at 78 in the crashed tank. I had some test strips but hadn't been using them. I did test after the tank crashed. Ammonia (between 0.0 and 0.5), pH (8.0), nitrite was up around 5 ppm, nitrate was around 160 ppm, general hardness was 120-180 ppm (mg/L) and the carbonate hardness was around 180 ppm (mg/L). When I made a batch of water from the salt mix yesterday the general hardness was 120-180 ppm (mg/L) and the carbonate hardness was around 180 ppm (mg/L).
I'm trying to sort through what are necessary changes and what are nice-to-make changes.
Here's what's been recommended.
1. Get a RO/DI. This one was recommended: http://www.amazon.com/Aquatic-Life-Reverse-Osmosis-50-Gallon/dp/B00DOG63OY/ref=sr_1_1?s=pet-supplies&ie=UTF8&qid=1425316118&sr=1-1&keywords=rodi+water+filter+system
2. Get a water chem test. API was recommended. Something to measure Cal, Kh, NO2, and NO3.
3. The bacteria supplement has been thrown out. Should I throw out the salt left in the bucket or get a new bucket and dump half in and mix thoroughly?
4. Get some powerheads (4 for the 55 gallon, 2 for the 36 gallon). These were recommended: http://www.amazon.com/SunSun-Wavemaker-Powerhead-Aquarium-Circulation/dp/B008E8K4G0
5. ATO? Not sure if this is needed? Not sure what it is/how it works.
6. Algae scrubber? Not sure if this is needed? Not sure what it is/how it works.
7. GFO reactor? Not sure if this is needed? Not sure what it is/how it works.
8. Protein skimmer? Not sure if this is needed? Not sure what it is/how it works.
One person recommended getting a purple mushroom as a canary in the coal mine, but that seems like an expensive canary. Maybe I'm looking at the wrong thing though.
While the tank is fish-less and cycling, I'm going to try and get the green turf algae under control. Manual removal, lights off, and maybe H2O2? Plus water changes, water changes, water changes, and monitor the nitrates/nitrites.
The crashed tank. My other one is prettier, but I don't have any tank pics of it handy.