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SChambers

Repeated cyanobacteria blooms

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Hey, I am running into an issue with my current tank. I keep having cyanobacteria blooms every one to two months

I run a biocube 32 with filter floss, chemipure, and Purigen. It has been up for about 8 months. It has 2 fish (firefish goby, chalk bass), 4 hermit crabs, 2 snails, and a sea urchin. 1 hammer coral. 

I feed daily, half a cube of brine fish each day. I do weekly water (5 gallon) and floss changes and I change the chemipure and purigen out around every 3 months. 

I am not quite sure what I am doing wrong so I was wondering if y’all had any suggestions. Any help or insight would be appreciated, thanks! 

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What is your nitrate reading?  In my experience, one reason we can get cyano is because when nitrates are low that can allow cyano to outcompete other things.  It is my understanding that cyano can fix nitrogen like some plants can,  and so when other species are nitrate-limited, cyano can gain an advantage.  On the other hand if nutrients are high across the board (nitrate and phosphate) then everybody gets to party including the cyano.  It can also be simply lights running too high intensity.  So tell us a little more ...

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I am not sure what the nitrate was at last bloom. I am running a chemiclean currently with no carbon to clear it out now so I don’t think a reading now would be accurate, but let me know if I am wrong. 

My last tank reading before the bloom was 20 ppm nitrate. My kit does not have a phosphate test, but ammonia was at .5 ppm, nitrite was 0, and pH was 7.8. 

I use the programmed lighting on my tank with the sunrise at 9:30, full day at 10, both off at 7. Then night lighting is on from 7 am to midnight. 

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Well that is definitely not a low nitrate problem.  Your tank is still pretty new, so it could be just a case of new tank uglies, you might be too low on cleanup crew, or you might not have enough water movement.  I would really like to see a phosphate number though.  Just ideas for you to think about

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What kits have a phosphate test? I have a salt water master test kit from API. 

Are there specific additions to a clean up crew you might suggest?

I do have an additional power head in the tank for some extra water flow. A koralia nano 565 circulation pump for 565 GPH in addition to the pump. Maybe I do not have it set up for good flow in the tank? 

I have the power head on the opposite side of the pump return by the intake to the heater chamber. 

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+1 on the pic please.   You could ask the local fish store to test the phosphate for you once.  I use the Hanna phosphorous meter, but I think people also use the API phosphate kit or the red sea or the salifert.

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I use RedSea and find it to work well and easy to read.

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This doesn't seem to be common knowledge but corals have cyanobacteria in their holobiont (the unique assemblage of microbes and viruses found on and in a coral) that help fix nitrogen for the coral's use.  I would be very hesitant to use chemiclean as the long term affects on a coral's holobiont hasn't been studied.  Chemiclean is a different chemical from when I stopped using it many years ago but I also would worry repeated use might develop a super strain of cyano resistant to it.

 

I used to be a fan of the API PO4 test kit as my tests showed at it's low end it seemed to roughly be the same where it overlapped with Elos and Nyos.  After getting an ICP test back and the ICP test showed PO4 to be roughly a 1/5th what the API test showed I'm not using the API test kit anymore.  I suggest you get with different aquarists and try the different test kits to see which one you like to use best.

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Thanks, I had no idea about that. Now I am wondering if that is why my hammer coral died... I will look into getting some better testing or get numbers from my local store. 

For the picture request, I have attached below. The cyano seems to have cleared up but I still have some brown discoloration in the sand. 

 

 

SCTank1.jpg

SCTank2.jpg

SCTank3.jpg

Edited by Steven Chambers

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Thanks for all the tips. Do you have a preferred brand of tester that you trust for those elements?  I have never dosed my tank... is there a line of product you trust most?

For the green hair algae, I have tried to remove it from my rock before. I pulled the rock out and tried scrubbing with a toothbrush to no avail. I am also very worried about hurting any of the crabs or other life that might be on or inside the rock when removing it from the tank. Any suggestions on how to effectively remove it? Does the amount of live rock in the tank look proper? I believe by weight I am on the low side of the suggested live rock. 

I do weekly blow off my rocks with a turkey baster. I will have to take a look at the pods, I am not familiar with what that is. 

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I think lots of people use the API  test kits like you do.  I use Hanna checkers for Alk and Phosphorous.  I use salifert for nitrate and magnesium, and red sea for calcium.   It really depends on how serious you are about keeping difficult coral.  There are many testkit options.  If you are keeping hardy coral then less accurate (less expensive) test kits will do.   When I dose nitrates I use Seachem Flourish Nitrogen, and when I dose phosphate I use Brightwell NeoPhos.  For Alk and Ca and Mag  I use the BRS two part solutions.  I would recommend using the toothbrush on the rock with the rock in place.  Rig up a little siphon hose (not too large diameter, but big enough to suck out what you scrub off).  I found between 1/4" and 1/2" works fine.    I would personally put a bit more live rock in there.  Pods are just tiny crustaceans that feed off algae and detritus.   They are part of a healthy ecosystem.

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On 5/29/2019 at 6:42 PM, SChambers said:

Thanks, I had no idea about that. Now I am wondering if that is why my hammer coral died... I will look into getting some better testing or get numbers from my local store. 

For the picture request, I have attached below. The cyano seems to have cleared up but I still have some brown discoloration in the sand.

 

To give an example of my concerns about using or adding additives or equipment that may disrupt the microbial balance in either our reef systems or our coral's holobiont I'm going to point to the problems with Clostridium difficile, aka C. diff, (see also this TEDMED talks video).  C. diff infections often gets started after being taking antibiotics that disrupt a person's microbiome letting C. diff proliferate.  In the past additional anitbiotics typically prescribed, often with little effect, but with a better understanding of of the human microbiome C. diff infections are now often treated with probiotics and fecal transplants to restore a healthy microbiome.   We often look for immediate solutions and we want to see immediate results.   It's my belief if we take care of them properly our reef systems should last decades, if not centuries.  Looking at what we are learning about how critical healthy microbial processes are to our own health (and sustainable farming has the same corallation with healthy microbiomes) as well as my own experiences with systems, corals and fish I've had for decades, my first thought when I do something with my reefs is what effect will it have on the various and complex microbiomes, is there research which shows this product, equipment or technique will have a negative impact.  But to answer your question about your hammer I doubt the chemiclean was the primary reason(s) it died.

 

For getting rid of the algae I would only do manual removal like Jolt said (see my beta video on using stainless steel straws in the video section).  Another technique I started using over 2 decades ago was using some water from a healthy and mature reef system to help with additional bacteria (it was gratifying reading about researchers using bacteria transplants and infusions to restore a healthy microbiome :D )   I also would not worry about getting rid of it right away or in a single cleaning.  Look at my two threads on nuisance algae, Hair ALgae 1 and Hair ALgae 2,  in both cases the algae disappeared with only manual removal AND it disappeared from nooks and crannies where I couldn't get with a toothbrush or where the urchins couldn't get.  At some point there was a fundamental shift in the ecosystem that favored corals over algae.  (Forest Rohwer discusses this shift in the equilibrium of an ecosystem in ch. 5 of his book Coral Reefs in the Microbial Seas.)   Since corals are proactively promoting autotrophic microbial processes (think oxygen enriching, use the search terms Haas, DOC, DCNS on scholar.google.com if you have a weekend ;)) my advice differs from Jolt's in that I would be adding easy corals right away to both compete against the algae for nutrients and help promote autotrophic processes.  I do strongly urge at least some wild or maricultured live rock to get some beneficial cryptic sponges that will help cycle DOC (Dissolved Organic Carbon, another thick subject) but I only use 1/4 to 1/2 lb per gallon.

 

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I agree with Timfish on adding corals as soon as possible, but to clarify I was saying to simply make sure your water parameters are ready for coral before adding them. It would not take long to measure and adjust a few things

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Thanks for all y'alls help and suggestions... I'm starting to price check some of these things to get an idea of how much it would cost to get things moving on this front.

Right now, I'm thinking I will get the following:

  1. Salifert test kits for the things not covered in my API kit (I don't think I will take the dive on the more expensive Hanna checkers yet... although I do really like the digital readout. The color comparison always has me second guessing myself)
  2. Various nutrients to dose and correct levels; thinking to just go with brightwell as of right now for simplicity
  3. It sounds like I might need more CUC. I looked at the PodYourReef website, but I am really not sure which copepod species would be best... also I am a bit concerned if I don't have anything that feeds on them could their breeding get out of control and overwhelm my reef?
  4. More live rock... from looking at other tanks I'm tempted to rearrange my live rock and add some to build up along the back wall.. this will give me a grading of height for coral placement for various corals that need more/less light. Are there any trusted resources for maricultured or wild that you would suggest? Does this just contain more biodiversity than getting it from my local shop?

I will try to get that stuff and get my water tested and everything in proper balance... I will work on scrubbing at the hair algae and then add some corals. Do I need to try and add larger frags or is starting with some small ones okay? I didn't really understand that adding more corals would help combat the algae. I got spooked losing the hammer coral and was very hesitant to expand into anything else.

For the hair algae, is there detrimental effects of having it in the tank or does it just look bad? If I rearrange the rock, some of it might end up underneath or something... Do I need to make sure it is gone or will it matter?

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Cyano, Hair and other algae is not a big prob unless you have too much. As with any ecosystem "in fighting" is going on. Algae can cover coral, use up nutrients -trace elements, and manufacture chemicals that favor it and could harm corals is there is too much in the water.

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10 hours ago, SChambers said:

Thanks for all . . .    :smile:👍

. . . I didn't really understand that adding more corals would help combat the algae. . .

. . . For the hair algae, is there detrimental effects of having it in the tank or does it just look bad? If I rearrange the rock, some of it might end up underneath or something... Do I need to make sure it is gone or will it matter?

It's really fascinating what researchers are uncovering about the roles of DOC, microbes and reef health.  Rohwer's book is an excellent place to start but there has been tons of new research since then.   Corals and algae both release compounds into the water that fall under the label of Dissolved Organic Carbon, DOC.  The DOC corals produce promotes autotrophic microbial processes the I find easiest to think of as oxygen enriching.  The DOC algae produces promotes heterotrophic microbial processes that are oxygen depleting and promote pathogenic bacteria on corals.   The amount of DOC released by algae also varies considerably by species with what we colloquially call hair algae or nuisance algae being one of the worst. 

 

Algae and corals are also competing for the phosphate and nitrogen (in all their various forms) that is available in aquariums.  I would advise against adding more than what you are feeding your fish while your tank is maturing.   Be aware research has shown high nitrates and low phosphates can seriously compromise a coral by disrupting it's relationship with it's zooxanthellae.   I have systems, fish and corals that are decades old without having to add beyond what is in fsih food.  If it helps for refference my ICP test results for one of my systems is here: http://www.austinreefclub.com/topic/40758-icp-test-results-90-gallon-mixed-reef-w-tapwater/

 

I never try to eradicate all the algae. I wouldn't do more than 10% water change per week trying to get rid of it.  I just try to keep it knocked back until the equilibrium of the ecosystem takes over. Keep in mind while your system is maturing it is easy to exacerbate a problem by trying to hard to fix it.  Like Jolt pointed out above patience is important here for success.  A Tuxedo or Royal urchin will help but they like to drag frags around which can be annoying.  I prefer hermit crabs to snails, they have a longer life expectancy in my experience.  

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I like how your thoughts are coming together, it truly is a project and the more you think and plan, and the more you try to understand what is really happening in your tank the better your results will be.

Pods won't overrun your tank, they will reproduce and sustain a population level that matches available food resources (of course minus being picked off by fish.)   I would recommend to start with the tisbe or tigriopus, or even better a mix of the two.   You can also find those at Aquadome, and probably RCA although they are too far north for me so I never check them out.  Make sure to add them at lights out and with pumps off for a little while so they can settle in and your fish don't just eat them all immediately!

As far as rock goes,  I started with dry rock and so I cannot recommend any live rock from personal experience.  You don't need that much so you may be better off just buying from one of the stores in town.  I've not checked out their rock, but it could be good so long as it does not have pests like aiptasia.  Another mail order place I know people use is Tampa Bay.  You could maybe search the web for reviews of their rock: https://tbsaltwater.com/

 

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On 5/29/2019 at 6:42 PM, SChambers said:

Thanks, I had no idea about that. Now I am wondering if that is why my hammer coral died... I will look into getting some better testing or get numbers from my local store. 

For the picture request, I have attached below. The cyano seems to have cleared up but I still have some brown discoloration in the sand. 

 

 

SCTank1.jpg

SCTank2.jpg

SCTank3.jpg

most of your GHA issues see to be on the left side of the tank, makes me wonder if flow is playing a major roll in some of the issues in that side trapping detritus and left over particles on that side of the tank. id prob throw another powerhead on that side to to get some turbulence, depending on the return to give you flow in that type of tank is (in my mind) not a good idea as flow restricts depending on how often you clean that pump and turnover in the tank.   I do see some Cyano but id vac it up when i did another water change and test phosphates as suggested, ditch the chems to clean it up and watch the water quality more, add a couple lbs more rock. Id probably feed a little less than that too, thats a small tank to feed out everyday depending on the feedings. corse this is all based on what i think/ or would do. 

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4 hours ago, Christyef said:

Where are you located? I have a tub of LR in the garage I could give you some out of. I’m holding off on my 90 gal, so it’s just sitting there wasting electricity keeping it live emoji23.png


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

I am down south of Slaughter and Manchaca intersection. That would be awesome, but I wouldn't want to be an inconvenience or slow down your own tank progress when you decide to start it back up.

 

As far as adding some easy corals, it looks like some good ones would be star polyps, brain coral, maybe another hammer.

I started with the scrubbing on the algae today during my weekly water change... hopefully, I will have some of the test kit stuff by next weekend and can work on getting this tank looking a bit better!

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Salifert kits came in today...

Results:

  1. PO4 = 0.06... had to double the quantities for the higher resolution test because first one came up 0
  2. Mg = 1170
  3. Ca = 390
  4. pH = 8
  5. KH = 10.9
  6. NO3 = 2 ppm

Taking a look around the internet it doesn't seem like my parameters are too far off. My Mg seems to be a bit low. Is testing for NH3 with the API kit any use still or stick with the saliferts I have?

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I agree they look pretty good.  I would say calcium could come up a bit and alk could come down a bit.  Raising the Mg should help the calcium raise as well, you need the higher magnesium to achieve the higher calcium.   I think the lower NO3 may be contributing a little to the cyano, because cyano can survive better in lower nitrate situations than other competitors.   I try to keep mine closer to 5ppm.     I see no reason why you should not continue to add coral with those parameters, as long as it is hardy coral.  Then let the competition for those nutrients begin!

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