New To Reefing

Snails Ok But Inverts Die
I have just set up (2 weeks) a temperate marine tank, 60l. My snails are doing fine, but all the invertebates that come out of the rocks are dying. (Except, so far, 3 tiny anemones on one rock.) The little chitons have also carked it. My sandbed is pretty clean and has plenty of tiny worms. I'm using Red Sea salt at 35g/l. Still waiting for my TDS and pH meters to arrive. I seem to have good water flow and the plants are oxygenating (and some are growing).

Any ideas on what's likely to be the trouble? I'm starting to ffeel a little guilty about the 2 tiny starfish, the 2 tiny brittle stars, the 6 teensy chitons, and all those little amphis and ostras :cry.


Jul 13, 2011
Sounds typical of a new tank syndrome,btw snails can starve to death over months. TDS won’t tell you much unless you are testing RO water. Then yes it will work , as soon as you add salt it gives a huge error reading irrelevant to our needs for measuring TDS .
RO water TDS is zero
Tap water TDS is around 80 ppm which consists of 20 to 30 ppm Nitrate yap we drink fish piss !!!!! :)

pH won’t tell you much either as this is more a fresh water thing. Saying that in a good open air environment in other words open doors in your fish tank room to atmosphere, yes pH becomes relevant, a closed house/fishroom the pH will be lower than an open one due to CO2 build up
This is noticed with the cycle of night and day.

KH , Magnesium and Calcium test kits are vitally important then followered on with Iodide and Potassium.

The advice given is meant to improve your reefing skill and not in any way take away the lessons you are learning on your way to be a better biologist, fish and reefer. Enjoy the ride.
Sep 24, 2013
Palm Beach
I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the type of tank you are building is extremely challenging and even experts struggle to keep tide pool type of tanks.
It may be a good way to learn without spending too much money, but mortality and tank crashes are to be expected. If you are already feeling guilty, this may not be the past path to take.

My suggestion is to use this opportunity tank to learn the basics:
- Learn the nitrogen cycle, wait for the tank to cycle, start testing Nitrate regularly and only add live stock once it is stable and acceptable levels.
- Learn the importance of stability, specially for parameters like salinity, temperature, Nitrate, Calcium and Alkalinity.

More specifically about your tank:
- Volume: Stability is the most important thing in a marine aquarium. Unfortunately, 60l is too small, fluctuations will happen very quick, more than you can anticipate or remediate. It isn't impossible, but you are setting yourself for a challenge. 150l is the minimum volume, to be an enjoyable tank, IMO.
- Macro Algae: Opposite to freshwater plants, some marine algae are very very difficult to keep, specially the ones in tide pools. Every species has different requirements and should be considered a different animal, that requires specific research and care.
Most species are loaded with nutrients and chemicals that you don't want in a contained environment, they will leech and sometimes enough to poison everything. Also, some will die at regular interval, as part of their life-cycle, and there is nothing you can do about.

If you want to stick to 60l, try starting very slow, by doing careful research before adding anything and adding one thing at the time.

Good luck!
I was a zoologist, specialising in fish behaviour. The snails are actively cleaning the algae off the glass. All the things in my tank come from The Rock Pool at Cabbage Tree Bay, Norah Head I now have 3 tiny Indo-Pacific sergeant majors, a Cocos Frill blenny, 3 glass shrimp and a starfish still alive and apparently happy. I just brought the tank a nice clump of sargassum, which will be taken out tomorrow, and the Sergeant Majors are having a happy feeding frenzy.

Thanks for the advice re potassium etc; I will get a testing kit. The water is clear, the plants oxygenating heaviy, and some of the plants are growing. I know the tank is small, but it's what I have, and I'm a pensioner, so can't do major dollar investments. Sand bed looks good, plenty of assorted worms -- I carefully brought "live" sand from the bottom of the pool. I am now aerating far more heavily at night, which seems to be helping. I am watching the plants careffully and removing any dead bits.
All animals still alive, except for glass shrimp #3, who died and caused one of the plants to dissolve (you were n't joking about marine macroalgae being tempremental ! :) ). All dead bits now removed. Fish very enthusiastic about freeze-dried brine shimp marine mix. Cleaned filters, changed some water. I am starting to be hopeful. Tank is a little too acid; will check tomorrow and use a little baking soda if necessary. A couple of necroitic spots on the rocks -- I'm watching them closely and breaking up any bacterial blooms. So far so good.

Thanks for the advice. I don't feel very guilty about the things that died, just sorry they ended up in the tank too early. More testing stuff is on order.