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jason the filter freak

Tank failing, need help

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I have an IM 40 of which all the contents were transplanted from an IM 30 that was doing relatively well.

 

I get cyano blooms here and there, i cant keep macro algae alive at all, coraline algae doesnt grow, and every bta i add to the tank shrinks to almost nothing (baseball size shrinks to grape size but doesnt die off all together)., and my pod population is nil despite adding pods a few times.

 

I did not have these issues with my IM 30.

 

 

 

The setup:

 

IM 40 gallon

 

Radion XR30Pro 4th gen 10 hours on, coral lab setting, 30-40% max for about an hour.

 

Vortech MP10QD around 40-50% max flow

 

Tunze 1073.05 return at 50-60%

 

Tunze 9004 skimmer (running faily wet)

 

Biopellet reactor

 

Aquamaxx FRS GFO reactor (running BRS recommended amount of media)

 

Apex controller (tank runs around 79 degrees and 8.1-8.3 pH depending on time of day)

 

 

 

Live stock: two ocellaris, 1 royal gramma, 1 cleaner shrim, 1 emerald crab, misc clean up crew.

 

 

 

Corals: rock flower x 2 (lost one recently), maxi-mini (has shrunken considerably but not died after 9 months), BTA x 2 (same shrinking), misc rics, zoa, mushroom, grogornia, euphyllias, acans, duncans

 

 

 

I feed 3 times a week and sparingly, change water monthly (20% with redsea coral pro and 0 TDS rodi), and run an ato to keep salinity consistent.

 

 

 

The tank has been up for around a year and just isnt doing as well as it should. I can not freaking figure out whats going on im about ready to throw in the towel, tear down, and sell off after 15 years of reefing. 

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My initial thought was not enough nutrients. You have little stock and a clean up crew. Throw in your Biopellet reactor and water changes, you are removing quit a bit of nuttients. Micro algae also takes out nutrients but since you cant keep it alive is what has me leaning towards not enough nutrients. But it is probably something more complex.

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What is the ALK-CAL-MAG levels?

 

And I agree with Tony. Ditch the pellets/aGfo and see what happens in the next 30 days.

Edited by epleeds

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My initial thought was not enough nutrients. You have little stock and a clean up crew. Throw in your Biopellet reactor and water changes, you are removing quit a bit of nuttients. Micro algae also takes out nutrients but since you cant keep it alive is what has me leaning towards not enough nutrients. But it is probably something more complex.

This would possibly seem to account for macros but not the anems and lack of coraline (didnt have that problem in my previous tank)

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++1 Too clean was my initial thought as well. In addition to ALK, CA, MG levels, what are your P and NO3?

Ill wait a couple of days and test this. I did s large water change and dont think the results will be accurate if i do it today or tomorrow

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This would possibly seem to account for macros but not the anems and lack of coraline (didnt have that problem in my previous tank)

Definitely. That's the more complex part. Hope you get It figured out.

 

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My last test mid sept was Mag 1400, Alk 6.3, Ca 400, and pH runs in the 8.1-8.3 range in the last 3-4 weeks since adding a CO2 scrubber

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Nitrates and phosphates? It may be too “clean”. Nice equipment though. I have an IM40 too.

Edited by A.ocellaris

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Jason, low nitrates and high phosphates (low Redfield (N:P) ratio) favors cyano and might account for what you're seeing. Any reason to think that you might have a phosphate problem (or source) since moving from the 30 to the 40? You might try bumping and holding that alkalinity up, too. Maybe 8 dKH or so. Finally, check your salinity using a calibrated tool.

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Yea i was just considering the salinity tonight. I did have my refractometer checked within the last year but its been a while.

 

I tend to get the cyano blooms every time i try adding macros and it starts to die off. I think the cyano comes from nutrients released as the macros die. So ive tried and failed to keep macros 3-4 timed since moving to the 40 and am going to give up on tjem at least for a while.

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Yea i was just considering the salinity tonight. I did have my refractometer checked within the last year but its been a while.

 

I tend to get the cyano blooms every time i try adding macros and it starts to die off. I think the cyano comes from nutrients released as the macros die. So ive tried and failed to keep macros 3-4 timed since moving to the 40 and am going to give up on tjem at least for a while.

 

I have to calibrate my refractometer every time I use it and it's off most of the times. 

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According to BRS Cheato feeds primarily on phosphates. My cheato grows unless I add Phosban and then it starts shrinking. MY PO3 seems to always test low. 

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According to BRS Cheato feeds primarily on phosphates. My cheato grows unless I add Phosban and then it starts shrinking. MY PO3 seems to always test low. 

That's a deceptive conclusion. Phosphates and nitrates are needed for any plant to grow. Bioavailable phosphorus (in the form of phosphates) are normally in short supply and get snapped up quickly. However, you can have both nitrogen- or phosphorus- limited conditions because consumers can consume what they need up to the point where one of the pair is no longer available. That's why sometimes dosing the missing part can shift the balance in a system to something more favorable. (That can mean intentionally dosing phosphates or intentionally dosing nitrates.) The Redfield ratio goes back many years and many papers have been written on it. One implication that's been used in the hobby is that in a low N:P environment, cyanobacteria is favored to outcompete higher forms of algae. In high N:P enviroments, algae can take better hold and outcompete cyano. 

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Yea i was just considering the salinity tonight. I did have my refractometer checked within the last year but its been a while.

 

I tend to get the cyano blooms every time i try adding macros and it starts to die off. I think the cyano comes from nutrients released as the macros die. So ive tried and failed to keep macros 3-4 timed since moving to the 40 and am going to give up on tjem at least for a while.

The macros could be dying because they're being outcompeted by the cyanobacteria. That's classic Redfield. Not saying it's that, just something (phosphates) to check. 

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Alk is pretty low, bring up to 8+. Keep it stable. Likely you’ve had parameter shifts? I think the too clean tank concept is thrown around too much, just my opinion. Or maybe I never had a tank too clean. I’ve always kept a small bio load though and never feed corals (sps, lps, softies). If concerned maybe dose trace. I’m assuming you’re using quality RODI water. I also prefer 50% water changes by the end of the month. Usually 25% every two weeks.

 

Other thought, how much rock or bricks are you using for natural filtration? Maybe bumping the lights up at the higher percentage. It seems they are one for 10 hrs, but only at the highest fit an hour.

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That's a deceptive conclusion. Phosphates and nitrates are needed for any plant to grow. Bioavailable phosphorus (in the form of phosphates) are normally in short supply and get snapped up quickly. However, you can have both nitrogen- or phosphorus- limited conditions because consumers can consume what they need up to the point where one of the pair is no longer available. That's why sometimes dosing the missing part can shift the balance in a system to something more favorable. (That can mean intentionally dosing phosphates or intentionally dosing nitrates.) The Redfield ratio goes back many years and many papers have been written on it. One implication that's been used in the hobby is that in a low N:P environment, cyanobacteria is favored to outcompete higher forms of algae. In high N:P enviroments, algae can take better hold and outcompete cyano.

BRS 'deceptive'? You think they're lying to us? I think their conclusion was sound. Their videos are on YouTube. They provided a detailed explanation of their methodology and how they came to that conclusion. Before you criticize it I would suggest you watch it.

 

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BRS 'deceptive'? You think they're lying to us? I think their conclusion was sound. Their videos are on YouTube. They provided a detailed explanation of their methodology and how they came to that conclusion. Before you criticize it I would suggest you watch it.

 

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Ha. I've watched a lot of their videos. Lying is strong. I'm saying that it's probably oversimplifying. Algaes need both nitrogen and phosphorus. That's why they're key components in fertilizers. Phosphorus is used in energy production and in the backbone of DNA. Nitrogen is a key component of amino acids and proteins. Chaetomorpha does not "feed primarily on phosphates." It can certainly benefit from phosphates so long as the nitrates are there, too. However, if you get too much of an imbalance in the ratio of a number of ions, you can trigger environmental imbalances, too. That's kind of where the Redfield ratio comes into play. Why would you think that Chaeto's much different than many of the higher forms of algae out there? Most of the time, in both aquatic and terrestrial systems, life is phosphate-limited. So, when it becomes available, a lot of life snaps it up quickly (along with nitrates) for life processes. Nitrates are much more available and hence many of our systems are not nitrate-limited, but phosphate-limited. In that case, adding phosphate fuels growth. That could be misinterpreted as it feeding on phosphates when, in reality, it's consuming both in a ratio consistent with it's needs/composition. 

 

Here's an article written by Randy Holmes-Farley on the topic many years back. I've bookmarked the section on phosphate export by macroalgae (including Chaeto). In it, you'll find:

 

"For those interested in knowing how much phosphorus is being exported by macroalgae, this free PDF article in the journal Marine Biology has some important information. It gives the phosphorus and nitrogen content for nine different species of macroalgae, including many that reefkeepers typically maintain. For example, Caulerpa racemosa collected off Hawaii contains about 0.08 % phosphorus by dry weight and 5.6% nitrogen. Harvesting 10 grams (dry weight) of this macroalgae from an aquarium would be the equivalent of removing 24 mg of phosphate from the water column. That amount is the equivalent of reducing the phosphate concentration from 0.2 ppm to 0.1 ppm in a 67-gallon aquarium. All of the other species tested gave similar results (plus or minus a factor of two). Interestingly, using the same paper's nitrogen data, this would also be equivalent to reducing the nitrate content by 2.5 grams, or 10 ppm in that same 67-gallon aquarium."

 

Now, if interested in the topic, I'd recommend looking up the Redfield Ratio - both it's discovery and it's application to reef tanks. There's been a lot of discussion on it over the years and it's interesting.

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Jason, just shotgunning some ideas here: When you moved up in tank size, did you add new rock to the system?

 

GFO should take care of phosphates but still worth testing. It may also be the reason your macro isn't growing. (It could also be nitrate limited if the biopellets and bacteria are doing their thing.) Did you put the GFO on the tank for a reason? Or just a precaution? This would all go to the clean-tank syndrome that others have suggested.

 

I noticed, also, that you don't have any carbon. If you don't have a phosphate issue, why the GFO (in addition to the biopellet reactor)? Would you consider pulling the GFO and possibly adding carbon?

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Ha. I've watched a lot of their videos. Lying is strong. I'm saying that it's probably oversimplifying. Algaes need both nitrogen and phosphorus. That's why they're key components in fertilizers. Phosphorus is used in energy production and in the backbone of DNA. Nitrogen is a key component of amino acids and proteins. Chaetomorpha does not "feed primarily on phosphates." It can certainly benefit from phosphates so long as the nitrates are there, too. However, if you get too much of an imbalance in the ratio of a number of ions, you can trigger environmental imbalances, too. That's kind of where the Redfield ratio comes into play. Why would you think that Chaeto's much different than many of the higher forms of algae out there? Most of the time, in both aquatic and terrestrial systems, life is phosphate-limited. So, when it becomes available, a lot of life snaps it up quickly (along with nitrates) for life processes. Nitrates are much more available and hence many of our systems are not nitrate-limited, but phosphate-limited. In that case, adding phosphate fuels growth. That could be misinterpreted as it feeding on phosphates when, in reality, it's consuming both in a ratio consistent with it's needs/composition. 

 

Here's an article written by Randy Holmes-Farley on the topic many years back. I've bookmarked the section on phosphate export by macroalgae (including Chaeto). In it, you'll find:

 

"For those interested in knowing how much phosphorus is being exported by macroalgae, this free PDF article in the journal Marine Biology has some important information. It gives the phosphorus and nitrogen content for nine different species of macroalgae, including many that reefkeepers typically maintain. For example, Caulerpa racemosa collected off Hawaii contains about 0.08 % phosphorus by dry weight and 5.6% nitrogen. Harvesting 10 grams (dry weight) of this macroalgae from an aquarium would be the equivalent of removing 24 mg of phosphate from the water column. That amount is the equivalent of reducing the phosphate concentration from 0.2 ppm to 0.1 ppm in a 67-gallon aquarium. All of the other species tested gave similar results (plus or minus a factor of two). Interestingly, using the same paper's nitrogen data, this would also be equivalent to reducing the nitrate content by 2.5 grams, or 10 ppm in that same 67-gallon aquarium."

 

Now, if interested in the topic, I'd recommend looking up the Redfield Ratio - both it's discovery and it's application to reef tanks. There's been a lot of discussion on it over the years and it's interesting.

 

 

Good answer and good info. (But still why would BRS be "deceptive"?)  

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Good answer and good info. (But still why would BRS be "deceptive"?)  

No, I wasn't saying that BRS was being deceptive. I was saying that a simplified conclusion could be deceptive to the viewer/listener. For most plants, there's not a "preference" for basic nutrients. That is, they don't have a choice of one or the other - they're needed and often times in fairly predictable ratios to sustain cellular metabolism and reproduction. However, if one is lacking (e.g. in a phoshpate-limited environment) while the other(s) (e.g. nitrogen / nitrate) are plentiful, you can spur growth by adding the part that's lacking (e.g. phosphate). In this scenario, that could lead to the incorrect conclusion that the algae growth is primarily fueled by phosphate when it's not. Instead, the uptake of nitrogen / nitrate is being limited by the lack of phosphate in the phosphate-limited environment. Hence growth is limited.

 

This has gotten a bit off topic of Jason's original question. He's been a member of this community for a very long time (I remember his "ghetto-build" that was done on a student's shoestring budget) and I'd hate for him to give up in frustration. I'm hoping that this thread gives him some options to look into and try.

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No, I wasn't saying that BRS was being deceptive. I was saying that a simplified conclusion could be deceptive to the viewer/listener. For most plants, there's not a "preference" for basic nutrients. That is, they don't have a choice of one or the other - ...

 

This has gotten a bit off topic of Jason's original question. He's been a member of this community for a very long time (I remember his "ghetto-build" that was done on a student's shoestring budget) and I'd hate for him to give up in frustration. I'm hoping that this thread gives him some options to look into and try.

Maybe so, I was trying to explore a connection between his failure to grow macroalgae and possibly low phosphates.

 

The only time I've seen my own cheato shrink is when phosphate adsorption competed it with or I had a weak bulb. Several times I have replaced an old bulb with a fresh one and my cheato growth took off. Hope that helps.

 

 

 

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Maybe so, I was trying to explore a connection between his failure to grow macroalgae and possibly low phosphates.

 

The only time I've seen my own cheato shrink is when phosphate adsorption competed it with or I had a weak bulb. Several times I have replaced an old bulb with a fresh one and my cheato growth took off. Hope that helps.

All valid. Low nutirents or insufficient resources for photosynthesis (CO2, water, and light) can all be limiting. Another option is being outcompeted for resources. That's kind of where Redfield starts entering our hobby. Originally fixed on the N:P ratio, the simplified conclusion was that N:P ratios below 16:1 favored cyanobacteria, while above favored algae. This was admittedly a very simplified conclusion that many in the hobby fixated on based on the ration of N:P in oceanic phytoplankton. However, this paper (origninally linked to in the RHF article that I cited above, but which now gives a 404 error where Randy pointed) shows that the ratio can vary for various algae even. I'm guessing that, because cyanobacteria is capable of doing something that a lot of plant life can't do - fix nitrogen gas - it can adapt to a nitrate-limited environment that would stunt algae and turn, instead, to fixing nitrogen gas as its source of nitrogen. 

 

In addition to the stunted algae growth, he also mentioned shrinking/unhappy anemones, low coraline growth, inability to sustain a decent pod population, and occasional cyano blooms. Plus he's running both biopellets (a carbon source) and GFO (a phosphate adsorber), a skimmer that's running wet, and a fairly low fish count (which may imply low added nutrients from fish food). 

 

Now that I see all that again, I really do wonder if it's running too clean (as others have mentioned). Maybe he should try pulling the GFO offline and then phase out the biopellets to see how the system reacts.

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