Tank temp. too low

cuttlegirl

Colossal Squid
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Registered
#1
Here is just a warning, I hope you can learn from my mistake... no, not the cuttles, my other tank.

I have a 30 gallon that my cuttles grew up in - since they weren't using it, I put a little Percula clown, a yellow watchman goby and a skunk shrimp. I haven't been paying as much attention to this tank as I should have been. The thermometer broke, and I never replaced it, I just figured that the heater was working (it was new), and it would maintain a constant temperature. I top off with fresh RO/DI water when needed, feed occasionally (my four-year-old does most of the feeding) and clean the filter.

Well, today I came down to the basement and noticed the watchman goby out in the front of the tank. She is usually very secretive, so at first I thought, "cool, I can see her," then I noticed she was lying on her side and I thought "yikes, she's dead!" Then I notice that the clownfish is also on the bottom of the tank on its side. So I rush to do a water change, thinking the water parameters must be off.

First rule of salt water aquariums, always have premade salt water on hand for emergencies... I had about 5 gallons already made, but I was hoping to do a 25% change, so I didn't have enough. But, I had just changed the cuttles water, but had not yet dumped the old water, so I used that water, thinking if it didn't hurt the cuttles, it had to be better than what the fish were in right now.

Then I stuck my hand in the tank and realized how COLD the water was. My heater had stopped working and the water was unheated, probably for at least 12 hours - since when I checked the temperature it was 57 F - yes, that's right 57 F! No wonder they were lying on their sides... and the shrimp had stopped moving.

Second rule of aquarium keeping - check on your tank every day!!! And keep extra equipment on hand.

I grabbed my extra heater, that I use to heat my premade salt water before I do water changes, and put it in the tank. I knew that it would not heat the tank fast enough to save the fish, so I took about 1/2 gallon out, put it in a glass bowl and heated it in the microwave, then dumped it back in the tank. I kept doing this until I got to 68 F - I raised it about 0.5 degrees every 5 minutes. Then I raced to the pet store and bought another heater. At 68 F. the goby perked up and was sitting in the back of the tank glaring at me and the shrimp started moving again at 68 F. However, the clownfish was under a rock, breathing hard with its tail curled up. I thought it was too late. However, when I finally got the tank to 75 F, he came out and started swimming around. I realize these fish may still die from the shock, but hopefully I saved them this time.

I am an experienced aquarist, but I just got too busy with other things. So hopefully this will help someone else. At least it wasn't as bad as the time my professor turned the fan off on the chiller and created an "ice age" in an aquarium...but that's another story!
 

Nancy

Titanites
Staff member
Moderator
#2
It's important to have backup equipment, too - you had an extra heater that could be used for emergencies.

Heaters do fail, so we all need to keep an eye on the temperature.

Looks like you may have a happy ending!

Nancy
 

Jean

Colossal Squid
Supporter
#5
the other thing you can do (I can't believe I'm saying this :grin:) is to put one of those sticky thermometers made of heat sensitive plastic to the tank. While it's not very sensitive it will show at a glance when the temp is doing something drastic (I'm NOT advocating this in place of a proper thermometer tho)

J
 

cuttlegirl

Colossal Squid
Supporter
Registered
#6
Yeah, well, I would actually have to LOOK at the thermometer, which I didn't do. I had one inside the tank too, but it was covered with algae. The fish and shrimp are still alive, so I was lucky. All of my tanks are in the basement and since it has been so cold here, that was why it was down to 57 F.
 

DHyslop

Architeuthis
Supporter
#7
Jean;87323 said:
the other thing you can do (I can't believe I'm saying this :grin:) is to put one of those sticky thermometers made of heat sensitive plastic to the tank. While it's not very sensitive it will show at a glance when the temp is doing something drastic (I'm NOT advocating this in place of a proper thermometer tho)
I'll be contrary and say that a less-accurate measure that's easier to use is often better than a precise measure used rarely. Take water chemistry dippable test strips--They're not nearly as precise as the hand-held colorimeter kits; but I guarantee I wasn't using the colorimeters weekly! Ultimately I don't know what my tank conditions are as accurately, but there's a greater chance I'll catch something quickly if it goes wrong.
 

elaflam

O. bimaculoides
Supporter
#8
They have those $15 digital thermometer at petstores. They are pretty accurate. I use one on my 450 gallon reef to watch the temp. It's pretty darn stable and the digital thermometer's reading the same as the standard
one. I also like that the fact that it sits outside the tank with a nice quick easy to read display. So when I get home from work I can do a quick pass and check the temp, the pH and the ORP. I got digital monitors for each of those as well. What a time saver, and you get an immediate feed back on the basic water parameters.
 

Jean

Colossal Squid
Supporter
#9
DHyslop;87333 said:
I'll be contrary and say that a less-accurate measure that's easier to use is often better than a precise measure used rarely. Take water chemistry dippable test strips--They're not nearly as precise as the hand-held colorimeter kits; but I guarantee I wasn't using the colorimeters weekly! Ultimately I don't know what my tank conditions are as accurately, but there's a greater chance I'll catch something quickly if it goes wrong.

Point taken............I'm a science nerd tho'..............I like flashy equipment :grin:

J
 

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