And why you should always have access to enough salt water for a full water change on your salty tank.
On Friday I heard a noise. A strange cross between "BAM!" and "THUD!", and then a really short alarm "BuRrRrRrR". I wandered around the house thinking something had hit a window, but could not find anything, and the sound was very different than any of my window/door alarms. Finally I gave up.
A couple hours later I went to the bathroom and heard a louder-than-normal water noise coming from the closet where my salty tank refugium lives. Strange... when I opened the door I noticed that the pipe holding my algae turf scrubber had been knocked off and the water was pouring into the refugium from the pipe. Okay... But also... black sand. Black sand all over. At a closer look I could see a circuit board in the refugium. What!?! Yea... a circuit board.
I quickly shut off the power strip to everything and dashed out to the main tank to shut off the pumps.
So what was it? The tiny little heater in my refugium. The cheap kind that barely warms water in a small tank. Yep....... BLEW.... UP.
The seal must have weakened from the salt water over time, water got in and melted part of the circuit board and blew off transistors and such until the pressure was too much and it blew it's top off along with all the black sand that filled the heater, the circuit board and springy heating coils,... and whatever deadly toxic chemicals result from melting the circuits and/or were present in the black sand that filled the heater.
The strangely short alarm noise was from water that splashed briefly onto the water alarm I have attached at the top of the tank to alert me of clogged return pipes.
I did a quick rinse of everything in the refugium and sucked out the black sand and water from it, but it had water running through for hours before I knew there was a problem. It wasn't until I came back to the main tank that I saw it was more of a problem than I hoped... corals clenched, xenia shockingly white, and even hardy palythoas looking like they were beaten with a stick.
I grabbed a pump and quickly fashioned a filter from a soda-bottle and a bag of charcoal and put it in the tank, but everything was still looking terrible and my peppermint shrimp was dead by Saturday morning. The fish on the other hand were just as healthy and happy as ever, so I guessed it was some kind of chemical similar to copper that was affecting all of the invertebrates... and sadly making it even harder for the carbon to remove than most of the issues that would affect fish.
To compound injury with irony, hubby and I had just gotten new barrels for having large emergency supplies of RO and saltwater on hand... but the cheap grommet style bulkheads the barrel supplier installed leaked, so we had to drain them and order new bulkheads... so while we *would* have had plenty of water on hand to do a full water change, we were left with less than half of the 65-ish gallons of saltwater ready and only 3 gallons of RO.
After spending the greater part of Saturday mixing water, draining the tank, and trying to get water up to temperature and salinity in a hurry... the end result is that most of the corals should survive, and while salt mixed with our well water with a tds (total dissolved solids) of 85 and nitrate of 20-40ppm will need to be changed out fully again when we have enough RO to mix truly good saltwater for the whole tank again... it is definitely better than what ever toxins were in the water.
With new (if not great) water and a large carbon and chemi-pure filter running, I think most everything left will make it, except maybe the xenia corals.
As for Curly the smallest urchin... I REALLY don't like profiling... but he is running around with a chunk of calurpa coiled on his head like a turban today.......
(The last comment was ONLY meant to be amusing and I hope it doesn't offend anyone..... I don't REALLY think Curly is a terrorist.)
In case anyone has a similar emergency and needs to know how to make the filter...
cut off the bottom of a soda bottle...
drill a hole in the cap to fit the intake (or output) of a pump...
fill a knee-high stocking / pantyhose with charcoal or other filter media...
put into soda bottle and use rubber band to hold in if you attached the cap to the output of the pump...
put into tank and plug in.