detritus outbreak after a year? Coral dying.

scarecrow1f9

New member
So to start, I'm pretty sure I've never posted here. Just a long-time lurker, even before I had a marine tank.

If there's a procedure for posting this sort of thing correctly that I'm not following, I apologize and will repost in whatever format is acceptable. I have read countless threads about this issue, but the problem is I find differing answers, often on the very same thread. Just trying to do my best, thank you for anyone who offers input.

The basic premise is a detritus/brown algae outbreak that I'm having a hard time controlling that now seems to be affecting some of the tanks inhabitants.

About a year ago I upgraded to a larger tank, and acid-bathed all rock before moving it into the new tank as I had a huge issue with rampant coraline spread (the glass and back had to be scraped weekly) and started developing a hair algae issue. No water/etc came from the old tank, but I am using the same source water. It was cycled with live sand purchased from BRS and dry-rock for about 3 months until parameters were what would be expected. Then I started introducing fish, one at a time.

New tank is:

120 gallon
50 gallon sump
Vertex 200 skimmer, seems to be calibrated correctly - inner chamber full of whole... poop. Waste cup gathers maybe 1/5th a cup per week of waste water. cleaned weekly.

In the sump there is:

Skimmer
2 "pod hotels" emptied weekly
1 very large filter sock with phosguard, shuffled or changed weekly
1 very large filter sock with carbon, shuffled weekly, changed monthly.

Display tank rock and cleaning crew:

~85lbs rock
~2 inches sand, vacuumed per water change
26 nassarius snails very small
1 lettuce nudibranch, 1"
20 margarita snail
20 dwarf hermit crab
1 serpent sea star 8"
1 1" clam

Fish:

6 green chromis, all 1" or under
1 Smith Blenny, 1.5"
1 Mandarin Goby 2.5" - thus the pods
1 Swallowtail Angel 2.5 "
1 Jaguar wrasse 1"
1 yellow watchman goby 1"

Coral and anems:

1 Toadstool 8" when healthy
1 bubble tip rainbow anemone
1 hairy mushroom 3"
1 green mushroom 3"
1 carpet mini carpet anemone 1"
1 single pally polyp

Flow:

1 single circulation powerhead
output from sump

Food:

tiny pinch Ocean Nutrition formula two at 8 AM
tiny pinch Ocean Nutrition formula two at 2PM
1/2 block of Mysis shrimp at around 7PM
1X per week copepods from culture setup and pod hotels, in the sump. NO phyto in the tank ever, use coffee filters.
I spot-feed corals and anemones with frozen shrimp with a turkey baster once a week, just a tiny tiny amount. Maybe a teaspoon full.

Lighting:

two Viparspectra 165 at 60/10

Water:

6 stage RODI at 0 TDS, BRS
Red Sea Salt Coral Pro

Water parameters:

Ammonia 0
Nitrite 0
Nitrate 0
Phosphorus 0
PH 8.1
Salinity 34.8
This is all I test at this point, should I test more with my couple of coral?

What has changed since before the outbreak:

Lights are the biggest thing. I had China Blackbox lights before, I swapped out to these Vipars and the tank looks so so so much better. I have tried moving coral down, etc. They (the lights) are only sitting 8" above the water as that's all the space I have under this hood. Nothing is bleached. The anemone in specific looked hugely bubbled up after the light change. That's all changed since the outbreak.

What I've changed since the outbreak started:

I went from weekly water changes of 15 gallons and top-offs to every-day to changes of 10 gallons daily.

What's doing well:

The fish. The fish look better than ever and are super healthy. The carpet anemone looks great, and all inverts seem to be thriving. The clam looks gorgeous. Green shrooms look amazing.

What's not doing well:

Bubble tip anemone might be dead. Toadstool has shrunk and turned green? Pally looks awful. And. of course, every rock and most of the sand is covered by brown algae/ detritus. I read here that if you have an algae outbreak even if the phosphate levels read 0 its because of the algae. I've added another massive sleeve of phosguard, It's not turning yellow, it doesn't seem to be helping any.

I do actually have a great LFS here, and their suggestion was to let the tank adjust and stop changing things. But things are dying. Any suggestions?
 

kharmaguru

Premium Member
I assume you mean dinoflagellates and not detritus. Nitrate and phosphate at zero starve out beneficial organisms and allow opportunists like dinos and cyano to take hold. Zero nutrients also explains your leathers and palys doing poorly. Your water is too clean. Remove the phosguard to start and definitely stop with the excessive water changes. 10% a week is plenty. Here's a recent video with Dr. Tim that might help shed some light for you.

 

Subsea

Premium Member
So to start, I'm pretty sure I've never posted here. Just a long-time lurker, even before I had a marine tank.

If there's a procedure for posting this sort of thing correctly that I'm not following, I apologize and will repost in whatever format is acceptable. I have read countless threads about this issue, but the problem is I find differing answers, often on the very same thread. Just trying to do my best, thank you for anyone who offers input.

The basic premise is a detritus/brown algae outbreak that I'm having a hard time controlling that now seems to be affecting some of the tanks inhabitants.

About a year ago I upgraded to a larger tank, and acid-bathed all rock before moving it into the new tank as I had a huge issue with rampant coraline spread (the glass and back had to be scraped weekly) and started developing a hair algae issue. No water/etc came from the old tank, but I am using the same source water. It was cycled with live sand purchased from BRS and dry-rock for about 3 months until parameters were what would be expected. Then I started introducing fish, one at a time.

New tank is:

120 gallon
50 gallon sump
Vertex 200 skimmer, seems to be calibrated correctly - inner chamber full of whole... poop. Waste cup gathers maybe 1/5th a cup per week of waste water. cleaned weekly.

In the sump there is:

Skimmer
2 "pod hotels" emptied weekly
1 very large filter sock with phosguard, shuffled or changed weekly
1 very large filter sock with carbon, shuffled weekly, changed monthly.

Display tank rock and cleaning crew:

~85lbs rock
~2 inches sand, vacuumed per water change
26 nassarius snails very small
1 lettuce nudibranch, 1"
20 margarita snail
20 dwarf hermit crab
1 serpent sea star 8"
1 1" clam

Fish:

6 green chromis, all 1" or under
1 Smith Blenny, 1.5"
1 Mandarin Goby 2.5" - thus the pods
1 Swallowtail Angel 2.5 "
1 Jaguar wrasse 1"
1 yellow watchman goby 1"

Coral and anems:

1 Toadstool 8" when healthy
1 bubble tip rainbow anemone
1 hairy mushroom 3"
1 green mushroom 3"
1 carpet mini carpet anemone 1"
1 single pally polyp

Flow:

1 single circulation powerhead
output from sump

Food:

tiny pinch Ocean Nutrition formula two at 8 AM
tiny pinch Ocean Nutrition formula two at 2PM
1/2 block of Mysis shrimp at around 7PM
1X per week copepods from culture setup and pod hotels, in the sump. NO phyto in the tank ever, use coffee filters.
I spot-feed corals and anemones with frozen shrimp with a turkey baster once a week, just a tiny tiny amount. Maybe a teaspoon full.

Lighting:

two Viparspectra 165 at 60/10

Water:

6 stage RODI at 0 TDS, BRS
Red Sea Salt Coral Pro

Water parameters:

Ammonia 0
Nitrite 0
Nitrate 0
Phosphorus 0
PH 8.1
Salinity 34.8
This is all I test at this point, should I test more with my couple of coral?

What has changed since before the outbreak:

Lights are the biggest thing. I had China Blackbox lights before, I swapped out to these Vipars and the tank looks so so so much better. I have tried moving coral down, etc. They (the lights) are only sitting 8" above the water as that's all the space I have under this hood. Nothing is bleached. The anemone in specific looked hugely bubbled up after the light change. That's all changed since the outbreak.

What I've changed since the outbreak started:

I went from weekly water changes of 15 gallons and top-offs to every-day to changes of 10 gallons daily.

What's doing well:

The fish. The fish look better than ever and are super healthy. The carpet anemone looks great, and all inverts seem to be thriving. The clam looks gorgeous. Green shrooms look amazing.

What's not doing well:

Bubble tip anemone might be dead. Toadstool has shrunk and turned green? Pally looks awful. And. of course, every rock and most of the sand is covered by brown algae/ detritus. I read here that if you have an algae outbreak even if the phosphate levels read 0 its because of the algae. I've added another massive sleeve of phosguard, It's not turning yellow, it doesn't seem to be helping any.

I do actually have a great LFS here, and their suggestion was to let the tank adjust and stop changing things. But things are dying. Any suggestions?



I agree with your LFS.

zero nitrates & zero phosphates are not a good thing. In limiting nutrients to desirables, you have you have allowed undesirables to dominate.

Also, your statement about a huge issue with coralline algae as a problem is confusing, as most would consider coralline as a good bioindicator, yet you scraped it off back glass to be replaced by undesirable GHA.
 

Subsea

Premium Member
I assume you mean dinoflagellates and not detritus. Nitrate and phosphate at zero starve out beneficial organisms and allow opportunists like dinos and cyano to take hold. Zero nutrients also explains your leathers and palys doing poorly. Your water is too clean. Remove the phosguard to start and definitely stop with the excessive water changes. 10% a week is plenty. Here's a recent video with Dr. Tim that might help shed some light for you.


Kudos to this post. As was pointed out, diversity of bacteria determine the health of your system.. After 50 yrs of Reefing, I maximize biodiversity of micro fauna & fana by using diver collected live sand & live rock. Nitrogen fixation bacteria are only a small part of the bacteria that provide nutrient pathways for moving carbon up the food chain using the microbial loop to process organic & inorganic nutrients into live food for hungry mouths.


https://ocean.si.edu/ocean-life/microbes/microbial-loop
Smithsonian Institution

Invisible to the naked eye, molecular pieces of proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, and nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) drift throughout the water column. Some are the remnants of a zooplankton excretion, others the cellular innards of a phytoplankton recently attacked by a virus. These molecules are too small for the average consumer but are perfect sources of fuel for bacteria. By consuming the molecules, bacteria are reintroducing critical energy back into the food web when slightly larger creatures, like krill, eat the bacteria. This process is known as the microbial loop.
 

kharmaguru

Premium Member
Kudos to this post. As was pointed out, diversity of bacteria determine the health of your system.. After 50 yrs of Reefing, I maximize biodiversity of micro fauna & fana by using diver collected live sand & live rock. Nitrogen fixation bacteria are only a small part of the bacteria that provide nutrient pathways for moving carbon up the food chain using the microbial loop to process organic & inorganic nutrients into live food for hungry mouths.


https://ocean.si.edu/ocean-life/microbes/microbial-loop
Smithsonian Institution

Invisible to the naked eye, molecular pieces of proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, and nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) drift throughout the water column. Some are the remnants of a zooplankton excretion, others the cellular innards of a phytoplankton recently attacked by a virus. These molecules are too small for the average consumer but are perfect sources of fuel for bacteria. By consuming the molecules, bacteria are reintroducing critical energy back into the food web when slightly larger creatures, like krill, eat the bacteria. This process is known as the microbial loop.

Agreed. I've seen systems do a 180 towards good just because they bought or traded for a coral from a balanced system, and that coral brought healthy microbes with it. People starting with dead and manmade rock more often than not these days is leading to a lot of these imbalance problems.

Thanks for that link. Good stuff.
 

Subsea

Premium Member
Contrary to reef hobby newbie folklore, detritus is food for the reef. See what PaulB says about “MULM”.


https://wamas.org/forums/topic/78578-mulm-in-a-reef-tank/
I think one of the most important, and least understood or mentioned things in a reef tank is "mulm". That stuff that grows in the dark portions of a tank if it is set up long enough. "Mulm" is a combination of algae, sponges, bacteria, pods, worms, detritus, poop and any thing else that can be propagated or grown in the dark. I realize most people would immediately get out the sponge, razor blade or grenade to remove it but there is a word I like to use to describe those people. That word is "wrong". Mulm is a natural product that you will find in the sea all over the world. Our tanks run on bacteria, algae and a food chain. Bacteria and a food chain are dependent on having a place to reproduce. Mulm is the perfect place. Rocks and glass are flat surfaces that are only two dimensional. Mulm makes these places three dimensional allowing much more space for bacteria and microscopic organisms to grow and do the macarana. (Then love to dance) Pods, which are needed for any small fish also need to eat and their numbers are directly related to how much food they can get their hands on (or whatever pods use to eat with) The more food, the more pods, the more pods, the easier to keep smaller fish. Larger fish such as copperbands and angels also eat pods.

Many people try to keep fish such as pipefish, mandarins or other dragonettes in a sterile tank and while feeding them a couple of times a day with tiger pods or some other expensive food. Those types of fish will not live for long in such a tank and they certainly won't spawn which I consider the "only" criteria to determine the state of health for any paired fish.

Mulm (after a while, maybe a few years) should grow on the back and sides of glass as well as under rocks.

Here in this picture of my clingfish, the mulm appears green. It is really brownish and that fish is on the side of my tank. I brightened up the picture and turned it sideways because it was in the dark and the fish was hard to see.

There is a thick layer of it on the back of my tank where my mandarins and pipefish like to hunt. My long spined urchin also grazes there most of the time as there is not much algae in my tank for him to eat. He is many years old as are the mandarins and pipefish and they are dependent on this food source.

A sterile tank IMO is the biggest problem we have keeping certain fish healthy.

Sterile is good in an operating room but very bad in a tank.
 
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