...and as it turns out in my tank too.
For possibly the first time ever I was actually happy that my son stayed up late gaming. He woke me at 2.30am on Saturday night to tell me that a tank alarm was activated. I jumped out of bed faster than you can say Jack Robinson and hustled downstairs. I discovered that the water temperature was low. I normally keep it at 24.9 to 25.1 but on this occasion it had dropped to 24.2. Fortunately I have a back up heater but (apparently) it's not beefy enough on it's own to maintain the temperature on frosty nights. I fitted a spare heater (one normally reserved for the water change bucket) and waited to make sure that the temp was going up again and not down.
When I got up Sunday morning I checked the temperature controller which worked fine, but the titanium heater was dead as a dodo. I changed the fuse in case the old one had blown but it made no difference, it's not even a year old yet either. I thought these things were supposed to be more reliable, unlucky I guess.
I am thankful that my son realised that there was a problem with the tank. It could have been far worse had I not been a; running a temperature controller with an alarm, b; running a back up heater and c; had an emergency spare.
Sod's law states that if something can go wrong it will and at the worst possible time too.
When we arrived back from our trip to the USA naturally the first thing I did was to check on the tank. Everything was present and correct but some of the SPS corals looked a tiny bit off. It was nothing major, they just looked a little bit paler than usual and had less polyp extension. So instead of beginning the depressing chore of filling the washing machine with dirty holiday clothes, I reached instead for the test kits. KH is always the first parameter I check and the result immediately showed me the source of the 'issue', the level had dropped to 3.35dKH! What the.....?!! According to the ICP sample I took on the day before we left the level was 7.12dKH (just 10 days previously). The reason for this drop, as I quickly discovered, was a doser malfunction, the head that dispenses solution B (alkalinity) was no longer working. According to data from GHL there should have been 337ml left in the dosing container but in actuality there was 930ml. A quick calculation showed me that the head had stopped working 8 days ago, the day after we had left. Oddly that made me feel a little better, I would have felt much worse if it had stopped working before we went away and I'd simply not noticed.
So began the slow process of raising the alkalinity back up to a safe level once more. I switched the dosing of B over to head no.4 whilst the issue of the faulty one was addressed. It's the first time I have had any issue with this doser in over 1.5 years of use so I was a little nervous of taking it apart but I needn't have worried. As soon as the blue plastic cap was removed it was obvious what the problem was, a tiny piece of the cap had snapped off and jammed the rollers (the offending piece is shown to the left of the screws in the photo below).
Once the bit was removed using a pair of tweezers, the rollers were free to move once again and amazingly the motor still worked, I had fully expected it to have burnt out after the rollers got jammed. All that was required to get it functional again was a new plastic cap, phew!
I have since discovered that GHL considers the cap and rollers to be wearable parts and need to be replaced annually. The rollers should also be cleaned every 3 months as well which I hadn't been aware of. Oops!
Over a period of 10 days the KH was gradually increased back to normal levels and I nervously watched for signs of stress in the corals. It's been 3 weeks so far and nothing looks worse, no stripping of corals as of yet so fingers crossed I've managed to get away with the momentarily blip in the alkalinity dosing schedule.
I fully expected an item of equipment would fail at some point, I just never expected it to happen quite so soon. My Deltec skimmer stopped working last Wednesday after 1 year, 1 month and 15 days of use. I have to admit that I'm disappointed that the pump failed after what seems like a relatively short space of time. As soon as I realised there was a problem I called D&D aquarium solution direct for assistance. They were extremely helpful and diagnosed that a new stator/controller was required and promised to ship one out as soon as possible. Which is really excellent service, thank you so much Tony!
To my ears the Deltec skimmer makes very little noise when working but when it was off I really did notice a difference, the room seemed a lot quieter. In addition to the noise the tank pH dropped quite considerably, below 8 on the first night and every night the skimmer was off which it hasn't done for a long, long time. I didn't realise a skimmer had that much impact on tank pH to be honest. I decided to run an airline into the sump to aid water movement and oxygenation but I really don't think it made a blind bit of difference, it certainly made me feel better though.
If there is one thing I really hate about reef-keeping it's equipment failure, it's something I cannot control. My tank may be small but the welfare of my livestock is very important to me and when things go wrong I worry. When the replacement parts had not arrived after two days I started to think about alternative skimmer options. It was now Friday and most likely the postman would not deliver on the weekend so I was looking at the following week before the tank would be skimmed again. If I had a spare skimmer pump ready to go then there'd have been no worries but I hadn't had the foresight to be that prepared. I do have a spare return pump sat in the cupboard but sadly no skimmer pump. After much thought I decided to purchase another skimmer, am I crazy? Well yes but everyone knows that already.
I ordered an Ultra-reef Akula 160 skimmer which my husband kindly picked up from the shop on the way home from work for me. First impressions, this skimmer is built like a tank! It's extremely robust and heavy, it feels like a really solid bit of kit in fact the Deltec seems a bit flimsy in comparison. However unlike the Deltec it doesn't come with a UK plug, grrr! So a bit of rewiring was required before use. It's a little bit wider at the base than the Deltec so required a shuffle round of other equipment to squeeze it into the sump. I did fear a one point that I might have to cut down one of the Siporax baskets to accommodate it but fortunately it was not required in the end. The unit is quiet running but it does produce a little more noise in the form of "bubble hissing'.
Overnight a lovely thick foam formed in the skimmer body but it had not reached the top of the cup and overflowed as I hadn't managed to dial the water level in properly before I went to bed. Hopefully it will settle fully in the next couple of days and pull out some really stinky brown waste. The signs are very promising and there's certainly excellent bubble production by the Sicce pump.
And here we are 3 days later it's pulling out some brown liquid and the pH of the tank has risen back up to normal again (8.2-8.3ish) so I can relax once more. The Deltec pump parts have also arrived and it's all ready to go again, I think I am going to keep it as a spare in the event of an issue with the Ultra-reef. Well you just never know....
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!