We got home from the kite festival at 10 pm on Thursday, and spent Friday getting unpacked and setting up the quarantine tank in the bathroom. Then Saturday was a quick effort to move the tang (stressful because he’s hard to catch, a tiny, panicked speed demon). Then a multi-hour detail-work effort to cut as many soft corals as possible off the other rocks before we threw them out. We kept one rock for now (the nitrifying bacteria in the rock will help keep the water safe for the tang), and I very carefully used an x-acto blade to remove dozens of mushrooms (green, blue, purple, and red). I’m hoping for a few survivors in each color, but it’s really hard to guess if they’ll make it. We tried!
No tank work on Sunday — a cousin was coming over for dinner and we didn’t want the house to smell like low tide when he arrived.
The kids and I had PTA work in the morning today, Monday, (assembling welcome packets — C mostly watched a movie and ate pretzels, but H was a HUGE help), then errands to pick up décor for the welcome bulletin board, then lunch… But at 1:20 pm, I was finally ready to start in earnest on emptying the tank. At that point, the rocks were gone in the main tank, but we still had an inch+ of sand and debris in the main tank, a deep sand bed in the refugium, two sections of rocks and debris in the deep sand bed, and 8 separate compartments that needed to be emptied by suction then drained. The clock is ticking, because the movers arrive at noon tomorrow.
You probably can’t quite tell, but this is a mix of sand, and stinging creatures (aiptasia and bristle worms). We were very careful about wearing gloves, but it was still alarming work! Plus so many buckets worth of heavy, wet sand, trucked out to a temporary holding spot in the side yard. We’ll have to throw the sand away over time — it’s too heavy to do all at once, our garbage bin would break.
And 8 hours later (minus one 45 min break for dinner), an empty tank at 9:20!! I will be so sore tomorrow. Kevin’s already sore from yesterday’s Lake Washington swim. But we did what we needed to do.
By tomorrow, with any luck, the movers will have placed the tank, stand, and refugium in the garage (we have a buyer lined up for mid-September). And the new tank will be on the new stand (but not in final position). Then we can start a week+ of wall repair and painting, before moving the new tank into position, filling it, placing rock, and finally moving the tang and corals!!
It’s still SO much work ahead, but honestly Saturday and today are the days I was dreading, and hopefully it will be MUCH easier from here on out.
After a paralyzed few weeks of back and forth (deciding whether to buy a tank to cure the new rocks, try to craigslist a tank, or just go for sturdy trash cans…. and then a second round of paralysis where to put them, in the house or in the garage…), Kevin and I finally just went and bought two extra-sturdy 35-gallon Rubbermaid trash cans last week and set them up in the garage. I don’t know why that was such a hard decision, it’s what EVERYONE does, we just hadn’t gone that route before because our first two tanks were live rock (no longer a thing, too tough environmentally on reefs). So we’re learning this new process from scratch.
Kevin cleared out the battery bank (yay! I’ve always been worried about the rusting rack of car batteries as a back up power option, we weren’t planning to bring it forward to the new tank, so this is a big deal!!), and that made room for our rock-curing set up.
I’ve been working to cement our rocks into configurations for the last few days. The E Marco 400 cement was challenging to work with (nearly impossible to reach or keep the right consistency, and hard to get it to adhere to the rock) but I finally managed over two separate cementing sessions. And then we did a family trip down to the fish store to pick up some nitrifying bacteria, and now we wait, and let the rocks cycle for a month or so. The tubs each have a heater and some blowers for circulation.
The whole point of cycling is just to build up the beneficial bacteria that will ultimately break down fish excrement. Basically, the excrement releases ammonia, which breaks down into nitrites, and the nitrites break down into nitrates (pretty rapidly, over a day or so). Too many nitrates poison the fish and corals — they’ll die, within hours to days. But a mature tank has de-nitrifying bacteria–they “eat” the nitrates. The goal here is to build up bacterial colonies in our rock so that they can keep up with the nitrates from the fish’s food/poop.
A status photo of the “fish wall” — we’ll be re-doing so much of this for the new tank.
A sneak-peak of the new tank! Can’t wait until it’s set up.