Tank Journal Archive



The Next Step Is...?
Here we are. After all this time. I was looking back through some old stuff and found that I madee my first purchase toward my first marine aquarium a good 12 months before I actually bought the aquarium. Randomly enough, it was a bunch of Red Sea supplements from Reef Secrets that sat there waiting for me to use them. That was 2012. I was reading the MASA forum and looking around here and other websites as far back as 2011.

So much has happened since then.

I am in a place of uncertainty at the moment. My mental health has been fine for a while now. I feel pretty normal again which is nice. My physical health is not good though. I've finally had some breakthroughs with diagnoses and they've all come at once. I have so many doctor appointments, my "days off" are full and it's spilling into my heavily reduced work hours. I've been told to work only 15 hours a week for the time being. It was meant to increase once I felt like I was improving, but now things are just getting worse in a different way and as we learn more, choices need to be made.

I had spinal surgery last year on my lumbar spine to fix a bulged disc. The disc is fine and hasn't re-bulged, but I have been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease. I have had continual pain at the site of the surgery which should have stopped by now and the surgeon said that I would probably need a disc replacement. I could deal with that on its own, but when I went to have an MRI for the Neurologist I'd been assigned to investigate my migraines, the report has come back discussing that my brain is mostly fine. There's an artery in my brain connected in a less common way to most people but it's not a big deal. The Cervical spine however is, and this is the technical term I believe... Screwed. There are bulges at about 4 levels and osteophytes (bone spurs) poking into where the nerves run through the spine. It explains why I have been losing the feeling in various parts of my body for a while. I also have some hearing loss and tinnitus. I have had hearing tests and everything but nothing showed up as wrong. I was told my hearing is perfect... But I need subtitles on the TV to be able to hear things the rest of my family can hear perfectly.

I went to my physiotherapist and took the report along because I trust her to interpret the results accurately and with greater accuracy when discussing the treatment. She so far has diagnosed all of my other issues that I have seen her about even when doctors hadn't been able to. So she basically had a *look* cross her face. It's not good. The cervical spine is pretty packed with extra bone and is causing real problems. I had gone to see her that day because I lost the feeling down the right side of my body a couple of nights earlier and then my right arm and hand and left hand at work the day before. She figured out in about 3 seconds that it's "Thoracic Outlet Syndrome". Basically, the muscles that go between your neck and chest alongside your neck have blood vessels and/or nerves passing between them and these are being squeezed because the gaps are too small, or my muscles are tensing etc. this is leading to my losing sensation and weakness in my hands. It also causes me to become dizzy and faint.

About the only solution to any of these issues is... Surgery! My appointment with the Neurosurgeon regarding my lumbar spine was going to take forever, May in Sydney or August/September on the coast. I had chosen May but now they are fitting me in urgently next week as this report and its indications change everything.

I am a little overwhelmed by the need for surgery again and so soon. The doctor hasn't said it because I haven't seen him yet... But there is nothing else that can be done. If left to go, I will lose more control of my limbs than I already have. I have been told for so long that it was all in my head I had started to believe it. I put my symptoms down to exhaustion, medication for my depression symptoms, rushing around, being clumsy and lazy. It turns out that none of those things are truthfully the answers.

The scary part is the financial impact really. We had to make enormous adjustments to the way we dealt with money last year. I've added up roughly that I the next week I'll be spending about $500 on doctors appointments and Physio. My husband has a good job, but my income shrinking down so much lately is really taking its toll. We had just begun to save again after having to pay for last year's operation and now we're facing another, this time you have to assume it will cost a heck of a lot more. We don't have the money at all. I don't know what to do. I can't go much longer before my body gives up. Today I couldn't get out of bed to go to church, my whole right side was significantly weaker than my left and I've been having a lot of pain. I spent most of the day lying down.

I've considered whether or not to sell my aquarium. I don't want to. It's mine. It makes all of us happy and it's so relaxing. My husband and my daughter love it dearly. If I sold it, it wouldn't cover everything we'll need for the bills. It might help pay some things... But not the lot. I love my fish like I love my dog. I enjoy my corals, I used to study horticulture when I first left high school and I have a deep love for gardening and tending plants but I can't do much now due to my back. The aquarium is like an indoor garden to me. It's something I can grow and tend. The ongoing costs of the aquarium are mildly concerning in all this. I can do water changes less frequently, and if necessary even force my poor husband to collect ASW and bring it home instead of buying salt. The skimmer is shit and needs replacing. Parts of it are wearing out and I don't know how much longer it will last. I also really want to buy a new wave maker to try to fix the flow issues in the display, but the Tunzes are still going and that's good enough for now. Coral purchases are basically on hold for now. My husband made that clear enough when I had to use my aquarium budget funds on a doctor's appointment last week. I've stopped going to the hairdresser, not just because my old one killed my hair, but because the husband can't see the point of it and it saves money.

So, I don't know what to do. We have all the expenses families have and it seems that my hobby is about the last source of funds separate to our work which could help even if only a bit.

I have an appointment with the psych my work sends me to to determine my "fitness for duties" tomorrow (today now). I'll go over all this new stuff with her, because it could be a game changer.

Off to sleep... As best as I can anyhoo...


enjoy the little things
May 13, 2012
Unless you get really really tight for money I think you should keep the tank. You need things in your life right now that bring you joy, calm, and focus. Your tank looks great right now so I wouldn't worry too much about the flow etc, just let it do its thing and get yourself sorted.

Good luck with the surgery and hope they manage to fix you up.


Feb 25, 2013
First of all , good luck with the surgery.
Try not to sell it cause after you do it will cost you more to set up a new one after you regret selling.
Plus the tank looks to good to sell ;)
Its easy to say this but life is not just about dollars and cents , If you have somthing that make you and your family happy keep it!
Keep smiling and stay strong.
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Jun 25, 2012
Hey Ezza, I have disc issues as well and was considering pulling my tank down. Its almost impossible to do water changes or even clean the glass most of the time.
Wishing you all the best.


May 7, 2013
I'm sorry to hear all this hun :( Please keep strong for us and for yourself :) You have support from this whole community and it would be a terrible shame to see you let your wonderful tank go!! If it brings happiness and peace then it's worth so much more!

I hope the next few months, surgeries and all the different appointments and doctors go smoothly and you make the quickest of recoveries dear :) I'll be thinking of you through such a tough time so keep strong :)


Nov 8, 2011

sending you a big starfish hug you sent me a message seeing if we were ok after the cyclone i think you have bigger issues than we do chin up the doctors are super now a days my mate has his back done and it looked amazing on the x rays he is back doing diesel fitting again

Hugs from us :-)

Sam Parker

May 6, 2013
Hey Ezza,

sorry to hear about the situation you are in now, if there is anything we can do to help, just yell out. This hobby can be tough in a situation like this as it is a huge roller-coaster at times with many highs and lows. I totally get the serenity one can achieve just sitting and watching life in their tank. I do it far too often myself after a shit day and just lose track of time. Hard to beat it.

As for your tank, it seems clear that the best approach is to keep things simple and have things set-up as self maintained as possible. I might be able to help with this, I have knocked together a few automated things for mine over the last couple of years and am more than happy to help out with. What jobs are taking the most time or are the hardest to get around to doing? We'll focus on those first.

Secondly, you mention your skimmer is nearing replacement time. I'm happy to look out for a good deal on a skimmer for you in our local classifieds in Victoria (there have been some great used units going very cheap lately). One problem though, looking at your sump picture from another thread, you might have trouble fitting most skimmers into the current space you are using. Would you perhaps consider using the spot you currently have as a refugium for the skimmer? Would open up a lot more options that way.

Anyway - always hear if you need to chat/vent/whatever and please take my offer of basic automation seriously.



Jul 10, 2013
How crushing to hear about the reality of things when you've had multiple health professionals telling you that everything will work out! :rage:rage I'm really shitty that your surgeon didn't look at your whole spine and consider your symptoms as a sign of progression of sacro-iliac joint changes (leads to CFS flow interruptions). The chiro I've been going to tells me a lot of that progression of spurs, disc degeneration can be slowed or even halted through regular corrections and treatment (I'm a realist so am waiting for X-rays in a month to suggest improvements).

I think you should be proud to have stood up for yourself and not succumbed to the power imbalances between the health professionals and yourself. Seriously, high five :stop. Took me 10 years to figure out what was going on.

I've got a spare aquaone skimmer just like yours with the pump and all, it's all lying around in bits but I would be happy to send it up to you if yours kicks the bucket and you can't get a replacement.

Best thing I did for water changes for my back:
1. removing water- used a pump and a long acrylic hose that reached to the outside of the house. Pump water out (no lifting).
2. topping up- mix ASW water in largish container within hose distance to tank (can even be outside if you need it to). Use same pump and hose and pump water directly into tank. (no lifting). If you can get a 100L container you can save anyone having to lug those 20L containers around and change about 10% per week or fortnight.

I used a MK-II 300lph pump, I think it was $130 when I bought it new.
I spent weeks where my tank was the only remedy that helped. Keep it if you can but obviously only you know what can and cannot be managed.

Having been through some medical issues of my own, I genuinely feel your anguish, if not the physical pain. All I can say is hang in there and don't let the dark edges close in.

Hold tight to your family.


Jul 13, 2011
Keep the tank going, keep us updated and stay stubbornly strong. We love your company around here.
By now your aquarium is running itself perfectly and judging by the photo everything looks settled in.
There has been some great advice already given in the posts above.
See you around here soon.


Oh my goodness guys!!! Oh my goodness.

It's so hard to know what to say! Thankyou guys for all of your support. I really do want to keep the aquarium. I haven't done what I wanted to with it yet. It's nowhere near finished. I want to be able to see it through. We'll find out more over the next couple of weeks as far as any relevant treatment goes. I'll keep pushing on, but it's getting harder and harder. I had to have a nap after work today because I was just exhausted. I'm back to using my walking stick at times because I'm just losing my right arm and leg through the day.

@Sam Parker , I think I will take you up on your offer for automated things. The biggest job is water changes. I have an 80L tub we pop on the coffee table in front of the tank. My husband then holds buckets as I remove 60-70L. Then we use the suction hose to refill into the sump. Yes it is labour intensive. My husband hates doing it, I hate asking him because I feel guilty about having to have help for something I should be able to do on my own. I would like a way to know exactly how much I was removing that didn't involve drawing on the glass of the tank... But it might be the only way. Then maybe a powered pump would be more effective- because I'll know where to stop. I had priced a small water tank at the hardware shop and in the scheme of things it's not that expensive, but it just never really stops. And if I have to then buy pumps and things the costs just go up and up and we are going to get to a point when the next round of school fees are due where we have absolutely nothing left. If I can save money anywhere... I just have to find the ways.

I suppose the other thing I'd like to automate is top ups. I obviously had to stop lifting my 20L barrels some time ago. I can tip them over just enough to spill into a small bucket. But if I'm being cut open, even that will be hard for a while.

If I can find money for a new skimmer, of course I'd buy one and second hand or whatever would be fine. Almost anything is better than the AquaOne skimmers. Saying that, it sort of works and with the few tweaks I've done, at least I can remove some of the waste. I've been using some filter wool above the water level in the overflow to strain a lot of particulates recently to try to make up for the stuff the skimmer fails to remove. I could probably move stuff around- but if I didn't have to, then that would certainly make things easier!

@holly, I would definitely take the skimmer. Part of the problem is the pump itself is wearing out. I regularly have to tweak the impeller to get it to make bubbles. The inlet pipe from the pump is wearing out. I clean it frequently and had an enormous amount of trouble reconnecting it again last night. I ended up lubricating it with plumber's lube to ensure I could connect the pipes and keep the impeller running. It's lasted longer than i thought it would! And mate, I am extremely frustrated with the surgeon for not doing more scans or any nerve conduction studies before my operation, and for rushing us through the whole process. I don't know how a surgeon can be labelled "the best" in any field can truly be the best if he is not thorough. We are paying a lot of money to him to do the best job he can so that I can get the most out of my life. I'm turning 36 soon. I used to do gymnastics, rollerblade and run, I am a really good skiier- but I don't think I will be able to do gym, ski, run or skate again. I was told a few years ago that I have the spine of a 70 year old... I just want to be able to get to 70 without being in a wheelchair.

Thanks again everyone, you are all very important to me. I really enjoy this community. I have always felt very welcome here and think you guys are all precious. Xxx

*starfish hug* ;)

Sam Parker

May 6, 2013
@ezza - leave it with me for a couple of days, I'll sort something out for you. Got a little on at the moment, but come the weekend I'll have some time to knock together some kit from spares here that should make life easier.

As for the skimmer - if I got you something a little more traditional, would you be happy to lose the fuge? A good working skimmer would remove more nutrients than a g220 and a small fuge I'm thinking, but totally up to you.

Sounds like a rough road your on, but those roads are normally the ones that take you to the best places.



Possibly Sam, possibly. I went hardcore with the fuge simply because of my raging inability to drop the nitrates for so long. Nitrates are now about 0.2 and phosphate is up around 2. Potentially I could even just put the fuge into that compartment. The world won't end at all :)

I will be so thankful for absolutely any help and advice I can receive. Thankyou dearly.

Sam Parker

May 6, 2013
Leave it with me, I know a couple people around here that have decent skimmers sitting aside doing nothing. Might be able to steal one for a slab ;)

Agent M

Oct 21, 2011
Worth losing the fuge - in the long run it will need maintenance and its a task that takes ages & its really messy to do. Plus you'd be surprised how much more efficient some of the other options are - looks like Sam will help you get something going thats a lot easier to maintain and better on your back. Good luck with everything!