Kill brown water with UV

After 20 years in the reef keeping hobby, I was about to call it quits.  My 90 gallon reef tank, setup since 2000, was giving me a problem that I couldn’t fix.  The problem you ask, was brown water.  Water so brown that I couldn’t see my fish unless they swam near the front glass and I wasn’t sure if my rock was still in the tank.

A little history first

Around February of this year, I replaced the single Current USA Orbit Marine IC pro light with two VIPARSPECTRA 165 watt led fixtures.  My corals basically stopped growing after I installed the Current USA light and a single Current USA light wasn’t enough for a 24 inch tall tank.  Even though it looked great, I needed something brighter.

The VIPARSPECTRA’s are much brighter in comparison and I was getting ready to start adding corals again around April but I noticed an increase of brown algae growth that looked much like cyano.  I didn’t think too much about it but it started to get progressively worse as time went on and around June the water was brown after the first couple hours that the lights were on. 

Water changes didn’t fix it

Around the second week of August, I started changing water.  I would normally change around six gallons at a time in the past but this time, I did an 18 gallon water change.  The water looked better the next day for about six hours but then it started to turn brown again.  Thinking that the water change might have helped, the following weekend I did another 18 gallon water change but it only a lasted a couple hours after the lights came on the next day.  The third week, I did one more 18 gallon change and the next day the tank water was brown after about an hour when the lights came on and it got progressively worse over the following week. 

I am guessing that the nutrients in the clean salt water was feeding what ever was causing the brown water.  I couldn’t do more than an 18 gallon water change with my current setup and I concerned that anything bigger might cause issues for my 20 year old clown fish and my 11 year old powder blue tang.

Then the (UV) light bulb came on

Many years ago, not long after I started this tank, I installed a UV sterilizer.  I didn’t have a problem at the time when I installed it but I was all about the technology back then.  After a couple years of using it, I took it off because I wasn’t able to clean the sleeve inside.  I cannot say that it helped or not but I didn’t really think much about it for many years since then.  

I started looking on the reef keeping forums for brown water in salt water tanks and saw a couple comments about some others suggesting a UV sterilizer to battle brown water.  I didn’t want to buy a new unit just going on a hunch but since there were at least a couple other people suggesting it, I ordered a unit from Amazon.  

The unit I ordered was a 15 watt Aqua Ultraviolet Advantage 2000+.  I was a little disappointed when it arrived because I realized that I paid $130 for a little plastic tube with a power supply and bulb but I had to give it a chance or send it back and consider my exit plan from the hobby. 

It wasn’t the easiest to plumb in my already tight stand and sump but with $20 in vinyl tubing, a Maxi Jet 1200 and some various plumbing parts, I installed it last night.  I didn’t expect to see any improvement in the few hours that my lights were still on but I was hoping that I would see some improvement in a few days to a couple weeks.  

What a difference a day makes

Today, when the lights came on, the water looked better than it has over the last few months but I was waiting for it to turn.  My wife told me, that about two hours after the lights come on is when the water would change to brown.  Today, after four hours, the water was not brown.  After six hours, it was still not brown and as I type this, after nine hours, the water is still not brown. 

I never would have thought that within 24 hours, the UV would have worked enough to allow me to see in my tank after months of brown water.  I am not sure how well it will work long term but it’s looking better after only one day. Needless to say, I am pretty impressed and I will update this post to see if it keeps the brown water away.

Brown water on 9/02/18

Could hardly see my fish

not brown water

24 hours after UV on 9/03/18





Don’t let a power outage kill your reef aquarium

Here in the midwest, I am not a stranger to power outages.  From thunderstorms, to tornadoes, to the electric company just not doing their job, to solar flares that threaten our power grids, I have had many power outages over the years since I have been keeping my aquariums.

Many years ago, around the summer of 1998, I lost a couple corals after an extended power outage and because of that I purchased a portable generator.  The generator worked well for the power outages that followed but it is not the easiest unit to use and for short outages, under eight hours, the time to get it hooked up and working isn’t worth it.

I was searching for a simple solution that I could easily hook up, didn’t need gas, has enough power to run a single pump in my aquarium for at least eight hours and didn’t cost a lot of money.

Sometimes simple is better

I had purchased a portable 12 volt auto battery starter a few years ago that is used to jump start cars and power small 12 volt devices.  This unit has a 12 volt receptacle for connecting the devices.  The unit that I use is at least six years old now and it is a Husky brand 400 amp battery jump starter.  There is a new unit available from Stanley Tools at Lowes but it is only a 300 amp (not an affiliate link) unit which may or may not be an issue and I assume would not have as much runtime as my device and you should make sure that you can return it if it doesn’t work for you.

I also use a Husky brand 175 watt power inverter which is no longer available but there is a 180 watt (not an affiliate link) unit from Energizer that looks similar to mine.  This unit plugs into the 12 volt receptacle on the jump starter and it has a single 120 volt outlet.  The pump plugs into the 120 volt outlet on the inverter.  There’s no need to do any type of special wiring, you just plug it in and it works.

 This is not an automatic backup that turns on when the power goes out but if you have someone at home, they can hook it up in a matter of minutes without any other skills than plugging the pump into the inverter.

It keeps the water flowing

I am using a fairly large Tunze pump which yields just over eight hours of run time with the above setup.  I had to use this setup recently after a large storm took out my power for just over six hours.

I have tested this same setup with my Mag 9 pump but it makes the pump chatter and I didn’t want to damage it.  I am assume that the Mag pump draws more than 175 watts so that might be the cause of the chatter.  The Tunze pump is silent until the battery runs down and it will start to make a slight chatter.  Just make sure to choose a pump of a lower wattage than what the power inverter outputs.

It haven’t tried this setup with a heater because I am guessing that the 200 watt heater I am using would drain the battery really fast.  I am going to test this out in the near future to see if it works and I will update this article once I have more information.

Low cost solution to short term reef aquarium saving power

The parts that I listed above cost about $110 USD from Lowes and I would assume that you might be able to find them online for less.  This seems like a small price to pay to save our fish and corals and the many thousands of dollars that many of us have invested in our aquariums.

Leave me a comment below if you use this type of setup and how it works for you.

Spectrapure RO/DI parts are impressive

In my last post, I mentioned that it was time to replace the RO/DI parts in my Kent Marine 60gpd HI-S unit.  I ordered the replacement parts direct from Spectrapure which consisted of a 90 gallon per day RO membrane, a high capacity color changing DI cartridge, a sediment prefilter, a carbon block prefilter and a new 90gpd flow restrictor.

Needless to say, I am very impressed at the performance.  The flow is much faster and the amount of waste water is at least 50% less than before.  Another extra plus is, I would have spent over $170 on the same Kent Marine parts so I ended up saving $50.

The water coming out of the of the new setup is showing 000 on my TDS meter with all the parts installed and even before I installed the new DI filter, my TDS was at 003.

Overall I am very happy with this purchase and plan on using Spectrapure RO/DI parts again when I have to replace them.

Time to replace the RO/DI parts

I have been having a recent battle with cyano and then I realized that I haven’t replace my membrane or DI cartridge in many years.  I cannot recall if it was 2008 or 2010 but either way, it have been too long.

When I tested the water coming out of my Kent Marine Hi-S unit about two months ago, my TDS meter was showing 003 ppm and just the other day, it is showing 054 ppm.  Even though it is not too high, I have a feeling that it might be contributing to my cyano problem.

There is good news and bad news but mostly good.  When looking for replacement parts I found that the prices for the Kent Marine membrane and filters went up a lot since the last time I bought them.  The good part is, I stumbled upon the Spectrapure website and found better replacement parts for almost half the price.  The other good news is, I am upgrading my membrane from a 60gpd unit to a 90gpd unit by replacing the flow restrictor for $5.00.

My parts should be here next Wednesday and after I have them running for a while, I will tell you how they are working out.


Water change, skimmer cleaning and time to rearrange the corals

I am now having space issues, as in not enough space, in my aquarium with my soft corals and today I rearranged my largest soft corals to the right side and put everything else on in the middle and to the left.  I am not sure if I like the new layout but it seems that the corals are enjoying the new location and being closer to the lights.

I also moved more Tunze power heads to the left side of the tank to get some more floor on the back of the glass to hopefully make the cyano leave.  I didn’t have time to attack the aiptasia and it might be a while before I get to it.

I did the normal water change and skimmer cleaning like past weeks and spent some extra time with the turkey baster.  I am still dealing with the a little cyano.

90 gallon after moving the corals around


Water change, skimmer cleaning and not much else

Nothing much to report this week.  I did a quick water change and cleaned the skimmer today and because it was 11:30 pm, I didn’t have time to feed the aiptasia their last meal but hopefully, I will have more time next week.

Also, all the aiptasia that blasted with Joe’s Juice is back.  They look a little smaller but they are still there.

Water change, new coral, new actinic T5 blub and more about Joe’s Juice

Water change Wednesday….

I think I am going to call Wednesday “water change Wednesday” from now on. Although I have changed water on other days, it seems that Wednesday is the day but I digress…..

I did the normal 5 gallon water change and cleaned the skimmer, which is starting to pull less and less out each week. I know the skimmer is clean and the water level is the same but between the water changes and keeping it clean, I am guessing there is less to skim. I might go a for a wetter skimmate but even now, it has gone from dark brown to light brown over the last month.

Be a turkey….

I did notice that using the turkey baster on the live rock last keep the cyanobacteria at bay for almost 7 days. There was a light coating of cyano on the top, middle rock near the back but not as much as the week before when I didn’t use the turkey baster.

I know that many of you are wondering if Joe’s Juice did any better this week. The answer is yes and no. Out of the 25 aiptasia that I fed last week, there are maybe 12 left and of those 12 they are much smaller. It seems that Joe’s Juice needs to be fed to the aiptasia at least twice or maybe three times. I will have a picture up today or over the next few days to show the progress. I did feed a larger amount the second time than the first so that could also be a reason why more of the aiptasia seem to be gone.

Aiptasia after using Joe's Juice twice.

I plan on trying kalkwasser paste and or the lemon juice concoction but I am a little leary of the lemon juice.

New hammer coral and let there be light….

I also added a new hammer coral frag from AQUAPROS that looks really good.

Hammer coral frag from Aquapros

I switched out one of my ATI Blue+ T5 tubes for an ATI Actinic with hopes that the hammer could have a little more fluorescence, which at first glance it seems to have worked.

Water change and Joe’s Juice part 2

Another 5 gallon water change, cleaned skimmer and overflow teeth.  I also used the turkey baster to stir up the crud on the live rock and also to deal with some cyano.

I tried Joe’s Juice again on the same rock as before.   As you can see below, most of them except for the three at the bottom are in the rock but I will not know if it worked until tomorrow.  More to come…

Aptasia 021313

Aptasia after the second application of Joe’s Juice

2/9/2013 – 90 gallon reef tank

Here is a full tank picture of my 90 gallon taken on 2/9/2013.  I recently upgraded my bulbs from Aquatic Life T5’s to ATI T5’s.  The new bulbs look so much better to me.  More details t0 come about my bulb upgrade in the near future.

90 gallon full tank picture

90 gallon full tank picture taken on 2/9/13.

Aiptasia verses Joe’s Juice after three days

I was hopeful that Joe’s Juice would have terminated these nasty little buggers but it looks like, after one try, Aptasia = 1 joes’ juice = 0.


Aiptasia after using Joe Juice. Bummer, I was hoping it would have worked.

I am going to try Joe’s Juice a second time to give it a chance to redeem itself.  There is one on the far bottom left that looks unhealthy now but it is still alive for now.