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Experienced Reef Keepers - Run some tests on our water (Free coral / fish)


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Hey guys,

Having some issues with the coral we moved over from our frag tank to our display.

Massive frogspawn keeps dropping heads and is never expanded. Two wall hammers fell apart. Bunch of acros started to bleach.

Only things that seem happy are a Golden Torch and Zoas.

I've run tests and everything seems in check... unless our kits are off or I'm colorblind...

Nitrates - 0
dKH - 8
PH - 8
Temp - 78

Alk = Just over 7
Mg = 1400
Calcium = 425

I know ALK is a little low, but read that's actually good when carbon dosing.


If any super experienced reef keeper would be willing to come over and run tests on our water with their trusted kits I'd really appreciate it.

As thanks I'll order you a fish or coral next time I place a personal order in a week or two around $50-60.

Please only super experienced reefers.

Thanks :)

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Oops sorry...

Phosphate = 0 (Probably tied up in GHA)

Salinity = 1.0255

The GHA is pretty much 95% under control, was getting out of hand for a bit.

Started carbon dosing, automatic water changes, stopped afternoon light hitting tank, skimming wetter + neck cleaner, lots of manual removal.

Ty are you in North/Central Austin?

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Yes, I'm by the Domain.

Going to be around tonight?

Trying to see if I can pick up a fuge light from BML as well. Our old light just crapped out...

See if we can kill two birds with one stone having to make the trek into town.

Good excuse to hit up Whole Foods in the Domain for some beer too :P

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I'm not convinced is something that's going to show up in your water parameters. It's something else going on.

What are you dosing now?

You still have the 4 kessils? What are their running schedules?

78 could be too cold in my opinion as well. Did you verify your temp with multiple thermometers? One of my temp probes was off by almost 3 degrees, so if you were reading 78 and off by 3, it could be as low as 75.

I might be able to swing out there sometime soon Peter if you'd want.

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I don't consider myself a super experienced reefer, but I do think I have a knack for noticing trends.

one trend I've seen in my tanks is that my display is much "cleaner" than my "frag tank".

My frag tank is an Ao1 so... no turf scrubber (and at the moment no skimmer). Some things do great there and horrible in the Display and vice versa. Example: Green torch LOVES frag tank, HATES (most places) display. I've found a sweet spot or two where it does well in the DT, but never as good as the FT. Then I have Some dragon eyes that do awesome in the display but die off in the "frag tank".

The point being : is it possible the two systems are just drastically different?

I see my "frag tank" as more of a QT. And sometimes with both corals and fish what makes it through QT doesn't thrive in the DT. Now, a frag tank that is run within the same system would be different I think. Provided lighting and flow were at least very simillar...then we would have a real pondry on our hands. Not being familiar with your system I have to ask if this is what you run?

I'm far more interested in this aspect of the hobby actually than chasing numbers. I'm with Vu (I think), stability is key in any tank, but every tank is different.

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Alright, here are my results after testing your water:

Sal - 1.023 (low)

Ca - 400 ppm (slightly low but fine)

Alk - 6.1 dKh (low, enough to maybe cause issues )

Mg - 1120 ppm (low)

NO3 - 64 ppm (definitely a problem, contributing to coral death)

PO4 - 0.32 ppm (definitely causing coral death)

With the alk level, I usually probably see rampant STN with that low of a level. The sky-high nitrates and mainly the phosphates is what is killing your LPS/zoas for sure.

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I used Red Sea. I tested my water after yours and got 0.25 ppm for my water, which is about right where it usually is.

I would actually be more concerned with the phophate level. I've had corals and fish survive super high nitrate levels but 0.32 ppm of phosphate is enough to kill most corals in my experience.

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It's important to try to figure out where all these nutrients are coming from. Most of all phosphate is sourced from feeding... but some may be attributed to leaching from the live rock if there was any bound there.

Nitrates mainly come from fish waste and decomposition of food.

I would imagine levels this high of both have built up over time and the processes used to remove them were inadequate. I'd also check to make sure your RO/DI system is running at peak performance and not adding to the nutrient problem.

Skim wetter if possible. I'd get aggressive with phosphate removal via GFO... not a ton all at once but start using some if you don't currently use any and if you are already using it, use more of it.

For nitrates, you mentioned you were carbon dosing of some sort. I'd work on getting that tuned to your system... either increasing your liquid carbon dosing over time or employing biopellets and starting at the minimal level and start ramping it up slowly to counteract the nitrates. This will take time as the bacterial populations needs to be built up over time.

A quicker option to take care of nutrients are water changes. They'll also help in potentially bringing up your low Ca, super low alk, and low Mg as well as lowering your nitrate levels and PO4 levels. For nitrates, the percent of water removed is equal to the percent of nitrates reduced in the water. For instance, change 50% of your water and you'll reduce your nitrate level by 50%. I'm not calling for that drastic of a water change but several smaller ones would be beneficial.

The main priority is actually reducing your phosphate level. I think that's the main killer of your corals right now and needs to be a priority to get back to normal levels.

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In my opinion Water changes at this point are going to be the great equilizer. I know your system is plus or minus 500g TWV.

if you do 2 50% water changes at 250g each for a total of 500g your numbers look like this, I would do the WC 4 days apart here.


N03 - 32ppm

P04 - 0.16ppm


N03 - 16ppm

P04 - 0.08ppm

If you do 20% water changes (100g) until you reach the target of 16ppm and 0.08ppm you will need to do 7. For a total of 700G.

This may be the better way to go as I dont know you you have the ability to make 250g at one time. This also allows your alk, mg, and salinity to come up gradually. I would do the WC 2 days apart here.


N03 - 51.2ppm

P04 - 0.256ppm


N03 - 41ppm

P04 - 0.205ppm


N03 - 32.8ppm

P04 - 0.168ppm


N03 - 26.24ppm

P04 - 0.1312ppm


N03 - 21ppm

P04 - 0.105ppm


N03 - 16.8ppm

P04 - 0.084ppm


N03 - 13.44

P04 - 0.67ppm

After you reach those numbers you can fine tune you GFO and Carbon dosing to gradually lower and maintain. It would be a mistake to try and up your carbon dosing to try and pull down the levels from where they are at. You are likely to get a bacterial bloom which will depelete your 02 levels and can kill all your fish and coral.

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Wow, I'm shocked that your results were so far off of Ty's. I was thinking along the same line of DanHs, but with the high PO4 and NO3, I'd suspect that is your issue. Would be interesting to see what the #s look like in your frag tank.

I agree that water changes, GFO and biopellets may be your best bet.

How are all the fish in the DT?

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I like Reburn's water change plan he detailed.

I just want to point out that phosphate removal doesn't have as linear of a relationship with water changes as nitrates does. So the general concept of removal is right on point but trying to calculate the actual amounts of phosphate removed is not as accurate due to ability of phosphates to bind to rock/gravel. I'm sure Reburn was just using it for more demonstration purposes as he deals with nutrient control in his planted tanks as well.

For any carbon dosing attempts to control nutrients, you do run the risk of overdosing, which is why I cautioned to slowly raise his dosing schedule (there are plenty of spreadsheets online that detail how to gradually increase your carbon dosing to minimize a possible bacterial bloom) but Reburn makes a great point to emphasize the possible danger in increasing your carbon dosing too fast. He has good advice on taking the water change route as the probable safest option for bulk nutrient removal.

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Ol Aggie, some of his test kits were API I believe. You guys know my lack of affinity for API test kits in general though. I won't knock their entire line of test kits as I know some on the club use them and find them accurate for the most part.

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Wow. To be reading 0 is shocking. Seems like the test kit must be completely hosed, or it's user error (sorry, computer people have to assume that is a possibility). I think this explains all the GHA you're seeing as well as the coral problems.

GFO + Water changes + Run the skimmer hot + perhaps feeding light if you're feeding heavy right now. That's pretty much it. The good news is you have almost certainly found your problem, and it's an easy one to solve.

Have those been the only test kits you've used on that system? How old are they?

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I had to double-check myself after reading the >63 ppm on his and then afterwards, testing Juiceman's water and getting ~50 ppm. I was like... my test kit must be going nuts. No way are both of their levels that high!

Then I went to test mine and it read right at 0.25 ppm as I always does so the levels should be close to correct. Crazy!

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