Common problems with a marine tank

Taking the mayhem out of marine fish keeping

Common problems with a marine tank

Potential Problems you will probably encounter


Once you have gone thtough the trials and tribulations of sorting out your new marine aquarium you find yourself sitting back and admiring your handywork. The rock is pristine, the sand is white, the water is clear and all is the perfect example of a watery, tropical paradise.


What could possibly go wrong, well pretty much everything. Of all the variations of fish keeping out there you will probably encounter more issues with marine reef keeping than with anything else, why? Well because to put it simply there is so much that can go wrong.






Green hair algae


Parameter swings



Everyone who ventures into the world of marine fish keeping will, at some time or another, encounter problems. For the lucky few these problems are resolved in a matter of weeks, for others they can continue for months. Remember a marine tank is like a mini ecosystem and is just as delicately balanced. Nothing good is achieved in a marine fish tank fast and the same applies to problems. If you encounter a problem and try and fix it too quickly the chances are you will just be causing another one.


The above issues are the most common problems regularly encountered by all marine reef keepers at some time or another, sometimes singly but sometimes tanks seem to lead from one problem to the other to the other. You may sometimes hear the phrases 'new tank syndrome' but you can also get old tank syndrome.


New tank syndrome is a stage everyone's tank with go through during the set up phase and is usually all the different elements coming together and balancing out. If you refer back to the parameters page you will see that there are literally hundreds of different elements that make up the water and rocks in a marine tank and these need to be balanced. The balance is thrown when trying to establish a brand new tank.


The rocks are probably going through a cycle, the water is fresh and hasn't matured and you new sparkly sand is probably leaching out silicates and all sorts of wonderful, potentially problem causing elements.


Whilst your tank and its associated chemicals are going through the process of balancing themselves out and the rock is going through it's cycling process (see here) you will start to encounter all sorts of unsightly nasties and it won't be long before your watery, tropical paradise can turn into a rainbow of unwanter algaes and general horribleness.


The subjects covered here are those commonly encountered when setting up a new tank but you will also encounter them, from time to time, even when your marine tank has been established for a while.


The first one listed, cyano, is identified as a red, silky looking algae that often manifests itself as a deep red carpet on the sand, dino is a horrible brown snotty looking thing that often starts on the sand then spreads over rocks and corals. Green hair algae can be a reocurring problem that is usually an indication the nutrient levels are too high in the tank.


Hopefully the most common problems and solutions are covered here but I will add to this page as this website develops.

Helpful tips


Problems Problems


If you plan your new marine tank carefully and do your research you may be able to reduce the amount of problems you encounter


If you do start to encounter things like algae or cyanobacteria don't panic and start throwing 'miracle cures' into your tank without being sure of the cause of the problem in the first place

Problems - in a nutshell

Many problems can be encountered during the start up phase of your marine aquarium, many are solved easily but might take some time

Always try to get to the root cause of the problem rather than treating the symptoms

Remember that marine fish and reef keeping involves a lot of chemistry, it helps to understand the interactions of all these elements in order to successfully solve some of the problems

Cyanobacteria is commonly encountered an almost all marine aquariiums and can quickly take over the tank, it is identified as a red, vevelty carpet that often receeds after lights out only to return with a vengence the following day

Diatoms and dinoflagillates are an ugly, snotty brown algae that can be associated with excess

silca in the system

Green hair algae is common, particularly in new set ups or systems where the nutrient load is high, this looks like a 'fluff'y' carpet which can quickly take over your tank if not dealt with quickly