You will get Internet info that is right, wrong and even dangerous. You don’t know how the information you are reading was obtained.

Just for the record, I used to be a research chemist in organic chemistry at the University of Rochester then at Eastman Kodak.  Later I tutored math and chemistry at Portland State for 11 years.  The Information I offer is from 19 years of experience, observation, and actual experiments I have done in my shop. I test every product I sell.  I’ve actually dumped things down the drain because they were worthless.

I hope my information helps you and I’m willing to listen to all your comments.
Please feel free to email me.


I’ve heard dozens of recommendations.

The easiest way to keep your water quality excellent is a water change.

You can safely do up to 90% except when

1.  Your salinity is more than +/- 0.002 than the new saltwater you are using.
TO ADJUST IF YOUR SALT IS LOW: Top-off with new saltwater as it evaporates OR dissolve a cup of salt in warm DI water and add 1/4 cup at a time allowing 20 minutes for equilibration before retesting.  We will calibrate your hydrometer free. Most plastic type are wrong and refractometers can be wrong. Pico tanks – scale amounts down.
TO ADJUST IF TO HIGH: Add new DI water or if necessary, remove saltwater and replace with DI water.

2. Your temperature is +/- 5 degrees Fahrenheit (or +/- 2 degrees Celsius (centigrade))
TO ADJUST: Let it warm slowly or use a heater OR be patient if too hot. Open all doors and turn out lights to help cooling.  75 Degrees is great. Please read my page on Why No Heaters

3. Your alkalinity and/or pH.
TO ADJUST IF TOO LOW: We recommend using Sea Chem brand. Their Reef Buffer raises pH and alkalinity. Their Reef Builder raises only alkalinity.  DO NOT FOLLOW DIRECTIONS.  Mix a teaspoon in 1 cup warm water and add 1/4 cup amounts every hour until pH=8.4 and alkalinity is high. There are several measurement units for alkalinity, use your judgement or bring in a water sample.
TO ADJUST IF TOO HIGH:  If either is too high, be patient it will self adjust.  You’re probably using an additive.

4. You are changing salt brands.
TO ADJUST: Start with 10% water changes a couple times then 20% two times, followed by 50% to 90% thereafter.

Corals and rock can be out of water 25-30 minutes.


You can’t over-filter a tank.

Filters need to be changed regularly.

FILTER SOCKS/FELT/SPONGE every 2 or 3 days minimum.

They do not need to be completely dirty.  Any organic material caught in a filter will continue to break down and pollute the aquarium.  Filters are NOT biological.  Also don’t use Bio-Balls, crushed gravel, live rock chunks in your filter / sump. The biological is all over the inside of your tank everywhere water touches.


You can’t skim too much but skimmers can’t be 100% effective either.

The most important aspect of a protein skimmer is the size of the bubbles.  With the water flowing through the skimmer, slowly add air until the water looks milky white.  If you don’t have an adjustment valve, I’ll give you one.  Tiny bubbles are better than big ones.  Once in a while the air line will need to be cleaned.  Heat up a cup of DI water and put the air tube in the water and suck it up.
Skimmer cups should not use a small drain line. If a skimmer goes crazy it will flood the floor.
Clean your pump every 4 or 5 months. This can make a Hugh difference.


 The most neglected thing in an aquarium.

If your pump(s) quit working you are in trouble.  Every 4 months remove the impeller from each and every type of pump or powerhead.  Clean out the cavity with Q-Tips using fresh water.  If they’re really bad, white vinegar works well and no need to worry if it gets in the tank.  If there are O Rings or gaskets, they can be coated with 100% silicone that doesn’t harden.  Do not use Vaseline, it destroys the rubber.
If you bring your pump into the shop I’ll help you.


 Fish are supposed to be longer than they are wide.

Every other day is average for most fish.  Use frozen brine shrimp or mysid shrimp.  Stay away from prepared mixtures. Too much is wasted.
To feed your fish, thaw a portion of food in water in a glass.  Swirl the food around and pour a little food in your tank.  Let them eat.  Swirl and feed again.  If food hits the bottom you’re over feeding.  Discard the extra.   See Feeding Fish & Inverts


 The smartest thing around – it has many degrees.

We sell and use lab thermometers in the shop. They never fail and give accurate results every time.  Electronic models give false readings when the battery gets week. Other small thermometers vary and are difficult to read.  Aquarium temperatures from 72 to 78 are the best. Temps can get much higher or lower without a problem as long as they return to normal within a couple hours.


 Things don’t last forever.

Carbon is amazing stuff.  We use coconut carbon, actually made from coconut shells.  After it’s processed, individual cells are burst open to provide an amazing surface area.  3 grams (1 teaspoon) has the surface area of a football field.  1 pound has 125 acres of area or 5,445,000 sq feet.  So when you put it in your filter system it is extremely efficient but after 2 weeks it is used up.  Be sure to shake the bag such that all of the carbon is exposed and used.   The most noticeable thing it does is to remove colored components.  Water is crystal clear after carbon does it’s job.  If you don’t have a skimmer, definitely use carbon
Other types of media need to be addressed individually.


 Don’t trust any of them right out of the package.

The only definitive way to know what your salt concentration is to use a certified laboratory hydrometer. They are glass, about 14 inches long and float. We offer a combination set of a hydrometer with 0.001 units and a 250 ml plastic cylinder. Dip or fill the cylinder with saltwater almost to the top. Float the hydrometer. When it stops bobbing up and down, you look across the water at the top of the meniscus to get an accurate reading. Use that water to calibrate plastic hydrometers and refractometers.   For more information see hydrometers and refractometers

When reading a hydrometer the first rule is to read horizontaly across the water.


It is common to read at the water level for liquids less dense than water (<1.000}and at the top of the meniscus for liquids more dense than water (>1.000).  Saltwater  should be 1.023 to 1.024.

Most website’s recommend reading at the water level which is incorrect .

The meniscus happens because of water‘s surface tension

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