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Saltwater Aquarium/Neglected tank!


I recently took over my brothers neglected 55 gallon salt water tank there are currently 4 living fish, and living rock coral. Problem is I have hair algae growing all over my rocks.. Honestly you can't even see the rock it's so bad.. This is embarrassing to say, the entire bottom of the tank you can't even see the sand it's so gross  I feel as if the only way I will be able to save the tank is removing coral or fish to a different tank with same water and cleaning out the bottom of the tank as we'll as trying to remove the hair off the rocks .. Is that an okay thing to do I won't change all the water in the tank just partial but keep either the fish or the rocks in the same water while cleaning the tank, basically my question is, can I remove either the fish or the rocks without killing either and clean the entire tank? There are atleast 30 rocks stacked longways,
I appreciate your help!

Good morning Chelsea:

Everything that you've mentioned is correct. Place the fish and corals in the old water, as to not shock and/or kill them from otherwise varying water parameters.

Thoroughly clean the tank and reassemble, make sure you don't use any harsh chemicals, detergents, or soaps to the clean the aquarium with. Distilled White Vinegar is good to clean with.

When setting the aquarium back up, place some of the old water back in the aquarium, so you can re-establish the biological processes of the tank, this is accomplished by populating the new water with the colonies of beneficial bacteria already established in the old water.

Once you get the aquarium back to normal, you'll have a beautiful piece of the ocean to enjoy, learn from, and to be proud of.

I wish you much success in all your newfound saltwater aquarium endeavors!


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David Ocreef


Technical saltwater coral reef related aquarium questions are welcome. Coral, invertebrate, and peaceful species of saltwater fish questions are welcome. Questions asked on Saturday and Sunday will be answered the following Monday. REMINDER: Please check the answers pool to see if your question has already been asked and answered. Questions typically are answered within a 48 hour period, however sometimes it may take longer.


I possess over twenty-five years of hands-on experience and knowledge in the ecology of aquariums. Beyond the traditional, I have successfully tested and sustained environments that have been uncharted territories for hobbyists, for decades. I am the first to admit I don't know it all because there will always be something new, amazing, and exciting to learn about, as discoveries are made. It's a hobby one can never outgrow, or grow tired of.

MASNA - Marine Aquarium Society of North America. Director of Orange County Reef Aquatics -

Publications,, and many others.

After High School, my experience and love of marine animals influenced me to take up studies in Marine Biology. Throughout college, I studied Microbiology with an emphasis on Marine Life, as well as numerous other sciences. I continued to advance in this hobby, by building a dozen or more saltwater ecosystems all utilizing Microbes as the major source of my filtration method.

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