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richmckee

Newbie, about to give up

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Hey everyone,

 

Forgive the length of my post, just wanted to convey as much info as possible.

 

I picked up a tank about 3 months ago because I really liked the salt water aquariums that my friend had and figured he'd be able to help me with problems since he LOVES the hobby. I went all out when I first started thinking that this was a manageable hobby considering my diligence at other hobbies (mushroom cultivation, botany, etc.).

 

My setup consists of: 60 gallon cube with 20 gallon sump, 250 W Metal Halide, Eco-plus 1056 pump, BubbleMax PS2500 protein skimmer, Purigen "ultimate filtration" water polisher, filter sock for the pump and 1" transparent vinyl return tubes.

 

I started with cycled water, bacterially active sand, and cycled rock. Additionally, I put a TON of "special blend" in at the recommendation of the store clerk at the beginning and generous amounts of it on a 2x weekly basis.

 

I bought 3 fish at first (clown trigger, blenny, and clown tang) and 4 more at a half off sale about 2 weeks later (grouper, naso tang, wrass, and something else). These 7 lasted about 2 weeks and died I assumed because of a warm tank (83 degrees). I had the water tested at a store and they found ZERO problems after performing a number of tests; they told me I could buy another fish that day.

 

I decided to let the tank cycle a few more weeks and to more strictly control the temp by using the light as a heater. It should be noted that the light is on/off at random times during the day and night based solely on the need for heat (no consistent light cycle). I am also a nazi about cleaning out the protein skimmer 1-2 times a day. I clean the filter sock every few days. I perform a 5 gallon water change every 2 weeks.

 

 

I bought a bunch of corals and they all seem very healthy and thought this was a good sign. I picked up another fish (clown tang). A week later I picked up a blenny and a coral beauty. A few weeks later I bought my favorite fish ever, a blue spotted jawfish. At first I fed the fish every 4-5 days but then ramped it up to every other day (a nickel sized chunk of Prime Reef).

 

Every fish listed in the last paragraph died after about 3 weeks in the tank, respectively (except the coral beauty). I just dug my jawfish's body out of his tomb and that alone was frustrating enough to want to give up the hobby entirely. I freaking loved that fish.

 

I literally bought 4 smaller fish on the way home tonight only to find the jawfish dead. I would have not purchased these had I known about the his death. So I guess I will watch these fish slowly die and hopefully figure out what is killing them once they're dead.

 

I have spent a ton of money because I really enjoy the finished product, but this is ridiculous; I have real bills to pay and don't like renting fish at an average rate of 40 bucks a week.

 

I don't know what I am doing wrong, but I can't keep pouring time, energy, and money into something that doesn't work. If anyone has any input I'd greatly appreciate it, because right now I'm feeling like Forrest Gump in a lying contest (clueless).

 

P.S. If anyone wants any of the aforementioned equipment in my setup, it might be available for dirt cheap in about a month.

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Quick word of advice, if you have fish in the tank, get them out and take them to a LFS, I'd suggest Nick's RoseCity Aquarium and trade them in for store credit.

 

You've got a good sized tank, but you have to be very careful about the fish you put in there, this isn't like freshwater where you can have a ton of fish in a tank, especially fish like tangs, they need 6' or longer tanks to really thrive, a 60g cube, and I am speaking from experience here, is just not enough tank for them.

 

Now after you get the fish out of the tank, let it sit, with no fish, no corals, no nothing but water changes and maintenance for 4 weeks or so, that should give your tank a chance to fully cycle, without a full cycle, you're just going to keep losing fish. While you are waiting for your tank to fully cycle, pick up your own test kits, so you don't have to rely on the fish store to test for you. There really is no way to shorten a cycle, it's much better to just let it do it's thing, it might take more time, but, and again, speaking from experience, it's better to let it take it's time, as it will give you a chance to study up on the hobby more.

 

You're going to need test kits, that's a must have item, if you are planning on keeping corals, you're going to need a Calcium, Alkalinity, Nitrate, Nitrite, Ammonia and PH kits, I would recommend either Salifert or Elos kits, if you can afford them, there's another brand, it starts with an M, the name is escaping me right now, but they are the absolute best on the market, but, they're spendy, the Salifert an Elos kits are the next tier down, still spendy, but well worth the money.

 

Next, get your lights on a regular schedule, I'd recommend 8 hours a day with that MH you have. Get your heater set, I personally keep mine at 76 degrees and my tank stays stable at that temp. 83 is not that high of a temp, mine has stayed that high before, during the summer, for weeks on end. Having the lights coming on and off at various intervals is not only bad for the fixture, but also extremely bad for the fish and corals, it will confuse them and stress them out, which leads to them getting sick and dieing.

 

As for corals, please, wait at least, yes, at least, 6 months before adding corals to your tank, corals need a well established tank, that is nice and healthy with stable water parameters to thrive and survive. If you want a clam, definitely wait that 6 months, it will help your checkbook an wallet in the long run, trust me LOL. With a standard 60g cube, you're going to want to look at keeping fish that max out at roughly 5" max in size when full grown, which means no tangs or triggers, and definitely no groupers. The panther grouper, which I'm going to assume is the one you had, seems like all the Petco's an what not seem to carry them, get HUGE and will eat everything that will fit in their mouth, really really bad idea to put them in a reef tank, especially one as small as a 60g cube.

 

I know you said you started with cycled rock an live sand and what not, still, you're going to have a cycle, the standard cycle can last anywhere from 3 days to 6 full weeks, and in a new tank, well, when I set up my first tank, I went through 3 separate cycles in a 6 week period, so it's always better to wait to be sure the tank is fully cycled.

 

If you have any further questions, don't hesitate to shoot me a private message, and hopefully some of our more expert reefers, such as grassi(Alex), reefnjunkie(Brad), Reefit(Robert) or Emerald or tanktop(Beth n Kim) plus the multitude of others will chime in with their opinions as well. We have a pretty good group here that will do their best to get you on the right track. The biggest thing with this hobby, pretty much the key to everything in the saltwater reef keeping hobby, is patience, things take time, and while it's a pain to sit and look at an empty tank that has nothing but sand and rock in it, it's well worth it to take that time.

 

If I can think of anything else I'll post again, or if you have any specific questions, let me know and if I can't answer it myself, I know without a doubt that one of our other members on here will gladly answer it for you.

 

Sorry you've had such a crappy entrance into the hobby, but trust me, with time and proper research and teaching, you'll be well on your way.

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Oh, an the biggest thing you've done wrong, and take no offense at this, because all of us have done it at one point or another in this hobby, is moving too fast. Nothing in this hobby moves fast, unless it's the fish in the tank LOL. If you take your time and let your tank get fully cycled and go slow about adding fish, which it's best to add 1-2 fish at a time every couple of weeks, once the tank is ready for it, then you should be ok, but, over-stocking is very very easy to do. Trust me, I speak from experience on this, it's never fun losing fish man.

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Thanks for the reply,

 

One thing of note. Here is an abbreviated timeline of my cycling

 

December 11 - purchase and setup.

 

Jan 2 - Everything died for the first time

 

5 weeks of nothing but corals (corals looking great - even now)

 

February 5 - New group of fish added

 

Feb 21 - Tang/Blenny died but I thought my giant hermit crab hunted them down due to strong circumstantial evidence

 

Today - Blue spotter died for no apparent reason (after hermit removed)

 

The only confusion I have about your recommendation is that I cycled for almost 2 months before I added the last group of fish. Also, my corals (zoanthids and several other types) are doing GREAT. There is visible new growth on every non-fish item in the tank. Are you saying that I need to let the tank be absent of fish completely in order for a new cycle to begin?

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If it's been that long, then there is something else going on. Take a sample of your water, if you don't have your own test kits, in to Nick's RoseCity and have him test it for you. Sounds like you have another issue if the fish keep dieing like that. Get your lights on a set schedule, it's extremely beneficient to do that, and we'll see if we can't figure out what else is going on that's causing all of your fish to die like that.

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Just a little clarity, I'm going through my own issues right now with our system, since the first of the year, we've lost almost 400 dollars worth of fish, I've figured out what the culprit is, and with the changes I want to make to the system, I'm going to kill my system and start it completely over, so I know where you're coming from, trust me.

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Are you buying all these fish at the same store?

Sounds like you might have marine velvet. A silent killer. And with adding that many fish into that small of space probably caused them stress and stress is a bad thing in this hobby. Let your tank run as is for atleast 4 weeks to allow it to run its course. If you still have fish that are alive they will have to be watched closely!

 

Do some research before you start buying fish again. As stated you can not load a SW tank with fish like you can a FW tank. So you need to choose your favorite four SMALLER fish and that should be thee MAX for your populaton. And buy them one at a time as you can not add 3+ fish into a SW tank of that size at once with a water quality issue.

 

Try not to get too discouraged....... keep learning and make better decisions in the future and you should be able to enjoy the hobby just like you wanted too in the first place!

 

 

AND BTW WELCOME!

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When you let your tank lie dormant for 5 weeks or whatever, chances are that there wasn't enough "fuel" (ammonia) to keep the cycle that you started going. IMHO I would follow the advice given and start over with a full cycle of at least 4 weeks with a piece of shrimp, pure ammonia or any of the number of often creative ways to start and keep a cycle going. The equitment that you listed sounds like it will more than support this tank. I can understand how you might have gotten mixed up in thinking that starting with used water, cured live rock ect. translated into the kind of benifits you would see in a freshwater system. Starting a saltwater tank with "live" water/sand and cured rock has benifits but not on the same scale as freshwater. Mostly to help speed up cycling and for diversity of organisims. The verry first thing we all have to deal with which I think kind of bonds us all is we all had to spend a bunch of money and time to get a tank and equitment all set up and "ready" to go just to let it sit there for a month. Its not easy but completely manditory. I think you should give it another try. Good luck Thanks Harold

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OK heres a couple things. you want to buy some fish that help break in your tank... like blue green chromis they are cheep. the next thing is YOU FEED YOUR FISH EVERY DAY. water temp should be a little lower like 80 deg. your lights around 8 hr then off for 16 hr. if you bought the fish from a local store then let us know so we can stay away form that store. they should have never sold you those fish for a new setup tank. and should never sold you a grouper at all. most grouper grow 16-40 inch. and will eat your other fish. dont give up. just ask you can save your self alot of money and frustration.

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Welcome Rich.

 

First of all if there is one thing that I can say to you with over 20+ years in the hobby is slow down. Saltwater tanks can not be rushed and if you try to you will not be happy. It sounds to me that you have bought decent equipment so you are off on the right track. I will have to tell you that the problems you are having are not all your fault. I am going to put some of the blame on the store that sold you the fish and did not do their due diligence and help you make wise decisions(being that you are new in the hobby, you are relying on them to help you make a wise choice.)

 

I have a few questions and maybe suggestions for you.

 

1. Do you have a heater in the tank other than relying on the light for heat? If not get a heater and regarless get the light on a consistent schedule of about 8hr on and 16 hr off. The exact time really doesn't matter, just choose a cycle that allows you to enjoy the tank.

 

2. How much live rock did you add to the tank? I know you had mentioned adding cycled LR to the tank but did not say how much.

 

3. In the beginning you weren't feeding nearly enough. You had mentioned every 4-5 days, not nearly enough especially since you had a tang/tangs.

 

4. Never add more than one fish at a time in a 60g tank unless you are adding maybe a smaller pair of fish like clownfish. Any addition of fish to a small system is going to take some time for the biological system to adjust and adding to many fish a one time is going to cause the tank to cycle. Some of the fish you are mentioning are pretty sensitive and topped off with adding to many in a small environment along with a small cycle and not enough feeding leads to problems.

 

That is enough for now. Slow down and ask questions. There are a lot of very experienced hobbyists here locally that are more than willing to help you out. The club also hosts monthly meetings, try to attend some of them if you can. It will get you a chance to meet people, ask questions, and see other tanks.

 

Dave

 

P.S. If you decide to sell your tank put me in line. I'm thinking about downsizing to a 60g cube :)

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I am sure there will be plenty of people that can lend some advise-I see quite a few things myself that seemed like "flags" to me as to where a different route should have been taken.

 

The first one that just screams out at me is do not go back to that store that you bought everything. If the person giving advise and selling you the fish you listed, I promise they have their heads stuffed in a deep dark place and have no business giving advise. The mix of fish you posted "might" be ok in 180 gallon or larger but no way a 60 gallon cube, and thats not to mention the corals, as well as the time line, light cycle, feeding, etc-not bashing you if it reads that way, you were given ROTTEN information and that store sounds like they were zero help

 

Your friend needs to lend a little more help if they are a succesful reefer and I am not talking the medicinal kind (laugh)

 

If you want to get things straightened out this place can help, dont throw in the towel.

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When you let your tank lie dormant for 5 weeks or whatever' date=' chances are that there wasn't enough "fuel" (ammonia) to keep the cycle that you started going. IMHO I would follow the advice given and start over with a full cycle of at least 4 weeks with a piece of shrimp, pure ammonia or any of the number of often creative ways to start and keep a cycle going. The equipment that you listed sounds like it will more than support this tank. I can understand how you might have gotten mixed up in thinking that starting with used water, cured live rock ect. translated into the kind of benefits you would see in a freshwater system. Starting a saltwater tank with "live" water/sand and cured rock has benefits but not on the same scale as freshwater. Mostly to help speed up cycling and for diversity of organisms. The very first thing we all have to deal with which I think kind of bonds us all is we all had to spend a bunch of money and time to get a tank and equipment all set up and "ready" to go just to let it sit there for a month. Its not easy but completely mandatory. I think you should give it another try. Good luck Thanks Harold[/quote']

 

Just what I was thinking! Gotta have a source of ammonia to keep the sand and rock alive, otherwise bacteria will die off and when put fish back in there will be a cycle. Also don't clean your skimmer so much, skimmers usually take a day or two after cleaning to get back in the grouve and start doing there job, so by cleaning every day your not letting it do it's job. Do you have any pic's to show us? How many lbs of rock do you have? Was the tank Set up when you went to see it? if not, how was the sand and rock stored? Oh and yes, I know when ya first get started you are in a hurry to get it looking like your friends, but you gotta SLOW DOWN, once you get the tank setup, and before ya get livestock, while the tank is cycling, or adjusting, and while that is happening you need to get on google and investigate the things you want to put into your tank, basically learn the can and cants for a 60 gallon qube, learn about test kits, learn about the CYCLE that your tank is going through and why each step dose what it dose. On that subject, here's a little info, lets say you have one fish and it is creating X amount of ammonia, there will only be enough bacteria present to take care of that one fish, then when you add another fish, depending on size and such you basically double the "Bio-load" or ammonia being given to the tank, so there will be a new smaller cycle while the bacteria grows to the point that it can take care of the ammonia load. There is only enough surface area for X amount of bacteria to live so if you add to many fish there wont be enough room for the needed bacteria to grow to be able to handle the amount of ammonia fish are producing and bad things start to happen.

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Welcome on board!

I think you got a lot of good advices already.

I'll give you 2 more:

1) Don't give up. All your efforts will pay back.

2) Get a bigger tank. I can see you love fishes, so soon or later you will need to upgrade.

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I am said friend. Pretty sure he was dealing with marine velvet. I guess the question at hand is should he take the fish to be treated or purchase something like a UV filter. I just learned about this disease yesterday and after reading up on symptoms, I think that is definitely why I lost a few of my long time fish recently too. Not blaming a store imparticular, but I think the wholesaler was the cause of the problem and a few fish stores shop there. I just heard mention of velvet in some other post and also a few people losing alot of fish quickly all points to Velvet. As far as the fish selection they have all been pretty small in size, and we always had a larger tank to put them in if they got too big. Maybe he did jump a little fast in the beginning but it was based on someone elses advice with starting with cycled everything. It made sense to me because it seemed like just a tank move in my eyes. Anyways thanks for all the advice we'll see if we can't get this straightened out and keep him going.

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I'll try to keep this as simple as possible. A couple things I saw that you could change:

 

1. 83F temperature- Try to get this lower at least to 80F, if not 76-78F. Possible install some cheap smart fans to blow across and out of the canopy if you have one. Keep the lids off your tank. If you have some jumpers (like jaw fishes) get some cheap egg-crate and cut to fit.

 

2. Feed your fish more often- I personally feed my fish every day, not heavily, but a nice light feeding. Keep in my mind some fish need more than others. However, as long as the fish don't have pitted stomachs you could possibly get away with every other day if you wanted just depends on what fish you have.

 

3. Make sure the fish you are getting are compatible. That is a huge one.

 

4. If you've just had quite a few fish die in your tank consider waiting for about a week or two before you add anymore fish. It's really a good idea considering you're using a sock filter system in a 60+20Gallon reef tank.

 

5. Fix the lighting schedule. Put it on for at least 8 hours straight as long as it doesn't cook your tank. If it does, you might consider finding something with less heat output and is still compatible with your corals as well. Exploring the other options I listed above should help with that.

 

6. Try other fish shops. Never rely on one single location for fish especially if you're having bad results. Mix it up, find other shops that sell fish and try them out. If you still are having problems after fixing the above five things I would definitely consider trying another place.

 

7. The mystery problem: Without every single bit of information about your tank their could always be other problems. However, I feel that the above information will give you much better results than you have currently been having.

 

-Ricky Soutas Jr.

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I am said friend. Pretty sure he was dealing with marine velvet. I guess the question at hand is should he take the fish to be treated or purchase something like a UV filter. I just learned about this disease yesterday and after reading up on symptoms' date=' I think that is definitely why I lost a few of my long time fish recently too. Not blaming a store imparticular, but I think the wholesaler was the cause of the problem and a few fish stores shop there. I just heard mention of velvet in some other post and also a few people losing alot of fish quickly all points to Velvet. As far as the fish selection they have all been pretty small in size, and we always had a larger tank to put them in if they got too big. Maybe he did jump a little fast in the beginning but it was based on someone elses advice with starting with cycled everything. It made sense to me because it seemed like just a tank move in my eyes. Anyways thanks for all the advice we'll see if we can't get this straightened out and keep him going.[/quote']

 

Couple of comments here. First of all he probably doesn't have any business buying fish from a wholesaler since he doesn't have the experience to look for healthy specimens and also most likely doesn't have a business license to be there in the first place. Secondly he may or may not have acclimated said fish properly or QT/medicate them. Third even if he did start with established rock and sand and addition of that many fish in that small of a system is going to cycle to and extent no matter what. I am not so sure of the velvet. It seems to have popped up a lot lately and I think is being used as a scapegoat. It is not that common. Anyway it appears he has learned a valuable lesson. Now let's slow him down a little and make this an enjoyable hobby that we all like :)

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whoaaaa nellie!

 

slow er down.

 

Reef tanks aren't like the internet, faster is worse. Kind of a backwards mentality towards todays world.

 

Pleases don't take this the wrong way, but if you are feeling the urge to get out, well, sometimes it's best to trust your instincts. Of course we all love our tanks and would love to see you have one as well...but not at the risk of you losing your sanity, thousands of dollars, fish lives, etc.. For me, some reef keepers are friends, but i don't have any friends that are reefkeepers...another way to say this would be that I don't encourage my friends to take up this hobby...for so many reasons. Cheers to ya!

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Some great advise from everyone, All I can add is...an adapted quote from the movie Friday...

 

 

You win some.....You Lose some.....But You Live......You live to Reef Another Day!

 

Keep your chin up, its a challenging hobby, I know personally, I have been there, got the T-Shirt, and will probably visit again....But don't let it get you down, makes some adjustments, tweek a few things,.......

 

....Keep....Moving...Forward (LAfishguys...Jim Stime...lol)

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Good news! Nothing died in the last 12 hours!

 

A few things of note that have been misinterpreted and/or details that need further clarification:

 

My temperature has not been above 80 degrees or below 72 since the initial die-off. I am using the light as the exclusive heater but am, reluctantly, pouring more money into a controller/heater combo.

 

I was using about 40-50 pounds of rock from 2 different sources (friend and store). I have reduced this amount to 15 pounds or so because it's easier to remove carcasses with less rock and the fish can't hide when they do survive.

 

The tank was BRAND new, sand purchased from store.

 

Every fish has come from the same store except the newest additions last night (was thinking this might be a good idea to diversify). I did NOT buy from a wholesaler. The plan was to buy a bunch of awesome, smaller fish and grow them into a larger 150+ gallon when I have a more permanent residence. Hence the grouper, tang, etc. which I knew would get larger, but was told I'd be good for a year or so by the store. The second addition of fish was staggered (maybe not enough) over the course of about 2 weeks. I also use a drip line to acclimate most fish for about 30 minutes prior to addition (should I wait longer?).

 

Small and large is a relative term, I consider small to be less than 3 inches (that's what she said! sorry couldn't resist). All of the fish I have added have been small.

 

I can't put TOO much blame on the store; I'm a big boy and knew I was pushing the limits the first time around despite reassurances....stores are in business to sell things (buyer beware). The second time around after I thought I was being patient was the REALLY vexing experience.

 

I have never had a freshwater tank so there's no need to compare the two. I assumed that when I first started I would spend twice as much time and money as I initially thought based on experience with other biological projects, but am more in the 5x range. I realize that the following question has an indefinite answer, but is it realistic to put in 20 minutes of daily maintenance and 2-3 hours once per week? I'm looking to get an estimate on time investment because if this is going to be 45 minutes every day and one 6 hour day per week I can't handle that for a measly 60 gallon.

 

Thanks everyone for your help, I greatly appreciate the enthusiasm and tips!

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My temperature has not been above 80 degrees or below 72 since the initial die-off. I am using the light as the exclusive heater but am, reluctantly, pouring more money into a controller/heater combo.

 

That is still a pretty big temperature swing. I don't know that a controller and heater is really necessary?? A nice heater should more than do the trick.

 

I was using about 40-50 pounds of rock from 2 different sources (friend and store). I have reduced this amount to 15 pounds or so because it's easier to remove carcasses with less rock and the fish can't hide when they do survive.

 

One thing to consider is that your live rock is a considerable part of your biological filtration. When you remove it you are also removing your ability to filter and process the waste from the fish.

 

I did NOT buy from a wholesaler.

 

Sorry it was posted that you had. Fish coming in and out of a wholesaler sometimes need extra TLC from their journey from the wild and sometimes even with everything else perfect they still will not survive.

 

I realize that the following question has an indefinite answer, but is it realistic to put in 20 minutes of daily maintenance and 2-3 hours once per week? I'm looking to get an estimate on time investment because if this is going to be 45 minutes every day and one 6 hour day per week I can't handle that for a measly 60 gallon.

 

20 minutes daily and a couple hours a week should be more than enough to have a healthy 60 cube. The latter amount should not be necessary.

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I mess with look at mess with look at play with clean my tank all the time.I love my fish,coral and everything about this hobby.If you don't have

the time or patience then its probably not the hobby for you.Good luck if you do decide to stick it out.

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Yeah, that's one of the reasons I'm so frustrated. I look forward to coming home and checking on the fish and corals and want it to be a successful experience. Just gets to me when I try so hard to keep up and fail. I was mostly asking about the maintenance question to see if I was putting in enough time and to see if I can keep up when I get busy with work.

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If you are willing to put in the time you asked about you should have plenty to look at. It should be a really nice looking tank once you get it back up and stable :) Do you have any pictures of the setup?

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Just to add, 30days is usually not long enough time for a cycle, usually it takes a month and a half to two months for a complete cycle and then with a 60gal tank the max fish would be maybe 5 fish under 3" when adult. As everyone else mentioned, you have to go slow in this obsession err hobby

 

good luck

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