• When is it time to "Call a friend"?

    If your tank is heading south fast, and the livestock is melting before your eyes, your precious fish gasping and your adrenalin is rushing, you need to call a friend. I'm not talking about those "emergencies" like "there's red stuff all over my sandbed and I can't stand it." I'm talking about a tank full of livestock that suddenly looks 100% different than what you see all the time.

    We turn to the forums for help with our various aquarium-related problems, and often find a few helpful tips within minutes or hours of searching. We often recommend just that, because so much of this hobby has been well-documented over the past decade, with questions answered often and repeatedly. However, even the most experienced hobbyist needs to remain humble and ask for help when something goes wrong. You may think that's unnecessary, but there's a reason why surgeons don't operate on their loved ones. Your emotions are clouding your judgement, and your compassion is impeding some synapses.

    A few years ago on a totally common day of non-interesting tank duties, my reef suddenly looked very very wrong. All the LPS corals sucked their polyps in hard, and I mean hard to the point that their skeletal heads were protruding through the flesh like razors. I checked my controller for the latest data and performed a bunch of water tests, and inspected everything for what could be amiss. Even pumps were pulled apart to verify the magnets were sound, and not split open with a gash of rusty-metal-pollutant. Nothing made sense, so I called a friend. He was local, and knew my setup. I told him to just start asking me questions, going down the list of possibilities. Of course his first question was "What did you pour into your tank today, any kind of additive?" which I assured him I had not. Nothing had happened that day that was unique or out of my norm. He asked about 10 more questions, and I kept providing him with detail to mull over. Finally he asked "Did you dose any Vitamin-C to your tank today?" and that's when I realized I had. it was such a non-event in my mind that I didn't even remember doing it. He asked how much, and I told him two teaspoons mixed in a cup of RO/DI water. There had been some documentation that Vitamin-C can help zoanthids improve when they are a little wilted, but what I'd completely forgotten was that this is something you have to dose very gradually over weeks of time. What I had done was overdosed my tank in one event, dropping the oxygen level in the tank drastically. Armed with that knowledge, I was able to hook up a huge airstone in front of a Vortech pump to blast the reef with air. I brought in a huge fan to blow fresh air at the tank from outdoors, and removed the collection cup to let the skimmer overflow with bubbles like a volcano in the sump. A few hours later, my reef recovered from my mistake.

    A few days ago, a friend texted me that her tank had been crashing for at least two days, and she was doing all she could to stop the damage. My reply was "Call me." We talked for about 30 minutes, and I tried to help her determine the cause, throwing as many possibilities at her that I could muster. We hung up and I was still racking my brain for overlooked possibilities. The fish seemed fine, but the corals were definitely suffering. I'd told her to double check the Metal Halide bulbs to see if the outer jacket was cracked or broken, leaking UV into the tank. The next day, I wrote her a text asking for the latest news, and she told me it was awful. The bulbs were fine. That's when I remembered last year there was a bad batch of Kent Carbon that went to market, and many incidents reported coral loss, including the local fish store near my home. She checked and called Kent to confirm that her batch was within that targeted recall. It appears to be the cause. She recently had treated her tank for flatworms, and at the end of the treatment she ran the required carbon to absorb the chemical, but in this case the carbon contained a pollutant that was harmful to the organisms in her tank. Now that the cause has been established, corrections can be made. (Recall reference)

    Here are some before and after pictures. First, a setup to be proud of. This system was carefully and methodically designed with the best choices in equipment, and every precaution was put in place to avoid any potential parasites from getting into the system. Quarantine, dips, careful observation, even dry rock - it was as safe as could be for the best possible way to run a successful reef.

    After the carbon incident.

    Sadly, an all-too-familiar scene for this author.

    It's rarely good news when you need to bring out both barrels - or more.

    Frogspawn sprawled out and healthy.

    After. See all the white skeleton showing? Tissue has peeled off, exposing that area very recently.

    Candycane and Trumpet corals, before and after.

    Duncans, before and after.

    Wellsophyllia, before and after

    Never ever be too proud or too embarrassed to ask for help from your fellow hobbyists. With social media merely a few keystrokes away, use the power of the collective mind to find the cause (as well as the solution) to what your tank is suffering from, so your hard work can be salvaged. Watching your dreams melt away in front of your eyes is very discouraging, so never hesitate to ask for help as soon as you can. It will save you money, time, and your pets.

    Call a friend. Join your local club. Find a person you can trust to give you good advice in an emergency, and get their phone number saved in your phone. And most importantly, use it.