Sick Porcupine Puffer


New Member
About two months ago I purchased a tank that was up and running. This is my first experience with an aquarium, and looking back I think that I should have started from scratch.

The aquarium is 240 gallons housing two oceallaris clowns hosted to a carpet anemone, a purple tang, a blue hepatamus tang, a vlaminig tang, a sailfin tang, and a threadfin butterflyfish. There are also many hermit crabs and various snails as a cleanup crew, and a small horsehoe crab that I am probably going to give back to the LFS, but that is another story.

I have appoximately 250 lbs of live rock in the display tank, and some more in the sump. I have a small ball of cheato and a few red mangroves that I am growing in the sump/refugium, but I don't think that they are large enough to make any difference in the filtration process.

So down to the nitty gritty, I have a three part question. Initially my nitrates spiked to about 80 ppm. Unfortunately I had to go out of town for work for a week and things got out of control while I was gone. For the next two weeks I conducted about a 30 gallon water change. Eventually the nitrates dropped to about 30 ppm. I can't seem to get them any lower than that. I did a 75 gallon water change at one point, and there was no noticeable difference in the nitrate count. At first I assumed that a lot of the life in the live rock had died, and that caused the spike, but now two months later I am not sure what to do. Please let me know what I can do to get the nitrate level to a more acceptable level. About two weeks ago I started using Instant Ocean Natural Nitrate Remover and I am still not seeing a reduction.

I am also having problems with the tank pH. The level has consistently been 7.8. I have been using Kent Marine SUperbuffer-skH which the previous tank owner gave me. This doesn't seem to be doing any good. I do have 30 lbs of aragonite sand that I can add to the display tank, but I am not sure I want to do that until I get the third problem under control.....

There is a 7 inch Pocupine Puffer in the tank. A few weeks ago, right after the nitrate spike, he appears to have gone blind. A week or two after that I noticed small white spots growing on him, this obviously concerned me. I teated the entire tank with Pimafix and Melafix, which cured the white spots. He still seems to have some sort of fin rot going on, which is beginning to rot a significant portion of all his fins. What can I do to treat the fin rot, and possibly the blindness? It has been suggested to me that diet may be a part of the problem. I have been feeding the puffer fortified krill several times a week and shrimp pieces twice a week that I add vitamins to.

Please let me know if you have any suggestions, I am running out of ideas and am very worried about the puffer.


Well-Known Member
The rocks in your sump are what is causing the nitrates. It is probably clogged up in detritus.
It will be hard for me to tell you how to remove it without knowing just how much you have in there. Could you post some pictures to get a better overall view of your system?
Because you just got into the hobby and this is your first setup, I am goign to suggest tearing down this tank and starting over.
You have been through a lot, and have learned very little. Starting over and building it from the start will help you to understand what it is going to take, to keep a saltwater aquarium.
With the help of these forums, and the members here on RS, I have no doubt you will have a killer tank in no time. Well, a year or so from now anyhow ;)

The fish problem I am going to turn over to another, and move this thread to the "Fish Diseases & Treatments forum".


Well-Known Member
I assume you didn't notice or chose to not reply to my response in the other forum you posted in. However, here it is again, without the links (which you can also find in this forum)


Sorry to hear of the problems you're having. I think maybe before taking on the system it would have been better if you read and learned about marine system keeping. Not so much starting from scratch, although the slow process of putting a system together and taking a lot of time to learn is a very good way of doing it, the alternative would be a 'crash course' in the marine hobby.

Whoever is now giving you advice and/or recommendations should no longer be listened to. There have been a few errors on the things you're doing which implies whoever advice you are taking is not giving you accurate and the best advice. Unfortunately? for you, you need that 'crash course.' Fortunately? for you the information is here. Unfortunately? you've got a LOT of reading to do!

I can point out some of the problems and things you'll need to do, but the details are in the reference posts I will link to you and what I write will not replace the reading you must do. If you come across words you are not sure of or if you think you know the word, you might still want to look it up here: Glossary of FOWLR Terms Also, this is a large link of topics covered in these forums so if you see a topic you want to learn more about, read the stickies. So here goes.

A small water change makes a small change in the chemistry you're measuring. To have a big impact on a 240 gallon system that I would guess contains more than 240 gallons, you'd have to change out over 80% of the water. Large water changes should be made according to this recommendation: See stickie on How to Make a Successful Water Change

Your system doesn't seem to have any corals in it. The only sensitive (to nitrates) marine life you seem to have is the anemone. Fish can handle high amounts of nitrates (up to 100). That said, the level of nitrates is only important to that one life form, and probably not all that important. That said, a level of 30 is probably a bit high for it, but not a danger to it. To control/lower nitrates you first have to investigate where it is coming from. You have the right thought here, but not going in a good direction. I can't go into all that here, there are posts on the subject in RS forums.

The spots on the fish were likely Marine Ich. Your choice of treatment using Melafix was a waste of your time and effort. First you need to read this: Why Melafix and Pimafix Sometimes Doesn’t Work. And, since it was likely Marine Ich, this was and is the right thing to do: See sticky on Curing Fish of Marine Ich

That curing post tells you how to identify the parasite and the curing options you have. Since you didn't treat the parasite, it is still there and stressing your fish even if you don't see it. The fish must be cured of it even if they don't look like they're infected. If you read the curing link and ALL the links it leads you to, you will learn more about this parasite and why what I've written above is true.

A pH of 7.8 shows me the water quality isn't good and isn't under good control. Buffering and pH changing solutions ASSUME the water is in balance. Without more info I can't help you with what is out of balance, but you need to read this post: What is Water Quality. If you aren't doing ALL the tests indicated in that link AND balancing calcium, magnesium, and alkalinity, the water is below standard good quality. When the water is properly balance, the pH will come into the right range WITHOUT the use of corrective solutions.

The above is just the tip of what may be an iceberg of a challenge to your introduction into the hobby. There is much to learn. It's a fun hobby, but it requires patience and every hobbyist is a scientist, electrician, plumber, as well as a hobbyist!

Good luck!


Still wishing you good luck!
when fish are ill with fin rot or ich, it can be usually solved bylowering salinity and raising temperature, do not do this if you have corals though. as for the ph, get a large bottle of ph up, and follow the directions exactly. also try using ro/di water for the water changes/top off. I hope this helps and that this littl isue has not detered you from this wonderful hobby/addiction


Well-Known Member
The recommendation to raise temperature is incorrect for Marine Ich. That works for freshwater Ich.

Not sure if your post is helpful or meant to advertise. This thread is over a month old now.


Well-Known Member
when fish are ill with fin rot or ich, it can be usually solved bylowering salinity and raising temperature, do not do this if you have corals though. as for the ph, get a large bottle of ph up, and follow the directions exactly. also try using ro/di water for the water changes/top off. I hope this helps and that this littl isue has not detered you from this wonderful hobby/addiction

PH UP? This is the most absurd recommendation I have seen in a while.

I appreciate your desire to help a fellow reefer but be sure of your advice before making careless recommendations for a product you know nothing about.

The PH in this OP's system is actually the one thing that is stable from what they posted.
I would be more concerned about the nitrates in this system then the PH :grr: