let's discuss....cyano. Red/brown slime.

Sk8r

Staff member
RC Mod
Most everybody gets it sooner or later.

Most everybody refers to it as algae or red slime.
It is slime, but it's not algae. It's a bacterial sheet.

A long, long time ago, on a planet fairly familiar, the Permian age of reptiles came crashing down in total disaster---some think because a warm spell caused the massive stores of methane hydrate in the ocean bottoms to go blooey and release tons of methane gas into the atmosphere. Not much survived that.

And what did, besides mammal ancestors and some very, very stubborn proto-dinos?

Cyanobacteria. It not only lived, it began to thrive in places like present Shark Bay, AU. It formed sheets that gave off oxygen, and it was so good at it that it revived the atmosphere and let the surviving other life on this planet recover.

It's still with us, still making sheets of bacteria and giving off bubbles in our tanks, but we, ingrates that we are, consider it a pest.

Now, the fact that it survived when almost everything on the planet died should tell you it's pretty hard to eradicate.

It's an extremophile of a modest sort---it may not live in geysers, but it survives amazing conditions. The current wisdom is that it doesn't like dead spots---true: it can form a sheet really nicely there, but I have some in my sump/refugium, which has a stronger flow than most people like in their refugium, sharply braked by a rubble pile and a ball of cheato, and, yep, righ there is where I get cyano.

Some things will eat it. A few. Most things didn't evolve to eat it, probably because most things had died out.

But if you increase flow, skim hard, and wet, and shut off all window light to your tanks, plus set up a refugium to try to get the phosphate down, yes, you can get the better of it.

There are preparations on the market that will kill it---they're antibiotics. Remember the warning about treating your display tank? Yep. Anti-bio-tics kill microbes. Bacteria. They're often called 'anti' bacterials.

REmember how hard you worked to cycle your tank and build UP bacteria to handle your waste? Right. An antibacterial will kill your surface bacteria. If you have a very young tank, particularly a fairly rock-scarce one, you could kill off your sandbed and rock with a mistake.

As soon as the treatment's over---you're supposed to do a water change and start up your skimmer [which has been off for the duration] and skim like crazy, because all that dead bacteria is now going to spike your tank if you don't move fast and authoritatively. If you have a wimpy skimmer or you've overdosed, or if it's just an unlucky day and you've blitzed your sandbed right when your tank desperately needs some biostuffs processed---well, it's very, very bad.

Don't use the chemical treatment in your first year of setup. Don't use it if you have a wimpy skimmer. Consult with older reefers before you use it. It's a good product: it's NOT for young tanks.

Mostly try: more flow, a refugium, cutting out the side-daylight from windows, or even turning the lights out on your tank totally for 3 days several times---when you do turn the mh back on, run the actinics for one day beforehand. You may have to do this several times. BUT anytime you do anything to kill a lot of the stuff, be sure your skimmer is up to it! And be ready with a water change, and test a lot.

When you're battling the Stuff from Before Time, it's a good idea to have your ducks all in a row, water ready to go, and tests adequate to monitor your tank.

HTH.
 

MSU Fan

New member
um, yeah - how did you know I had cyano problems? mind reader!

Good lesson (I have been looking for one of thes), and good warnings for those of us who meet your "criteria" (wimpy skimmer and new tank!).

Although, I am waiting for a much better skimmer to arrive a couple of days from now, I may have to black-out the tank to stop it all in the meantime. Thanks for the help. Should you stop skimming when you do a blackout?
 

Sk8r

Staff member
RC Mod
No. Start with a turkey baster to SUCK the stuff up off sand and rock as much as you can. Then go to the dark phase. Continue everything but the lights. You can go abruptly into darkness, draw the curtains. Do continue to test your water on the regular schedule. Your fish and corals will survive a 3-day dark just fine: feed, but feed lightly...some won't eat in the semidark, but you may find your lps corals quite hungry. Then if you have metal halide light, turn on the actinics only on the 4th day. Restore the MH on the 5th day. Have water ready to do a 10% water change, and continue as usual. You may have to do this once a month for several months, and take other measures, but it does work.

If you have any special needs specimens or fish needing special care, you do need to track them to be sure they're ok. Most come through this with no trouble at all.

It's just as if there was a 3 day mega-storm in the ocean; or a big volcano blew and blotted out the sun for a few days. Nature accommodates these events, and your fish/corals can.
 

MSU Fan

New member
Yeah, we started the manual "suck the cyano" out already...loads of fun. So, after that its lights out for 3 days. Then 1 day of Act only. Well, that will give me a chance to upgrade my sump anyway, so yippee!
 

marduc

New member
great info on probably the most common "nuisance" in our tanks.. I know from experience, and from reading countless threads on this that it can seem to be impossible to control.. this is not the case, it takes diligence and a multi pronged approach, some of which sk8r already touched on.

here is how I keep mine in check:



1) Only pure RO/DI (0 tds) for ALL top offs/water changes

2) limit nutrient additions via food (thaw and rinse frozen foods, make sure not to overfeed, be judicious with pelleted foods

3) scavengers!! nassarius snails, and serpent stars are great for finding and eating those bits of food the fishies miss

4) skim wet, and vigorously - skimming removes organics BEFORE they break down into nitrites/phosphates

5) light - stay on top of your bulb replacements.. in time our bulbs shift color spectrums, often to wavelengths more conducive to cyano (and algae) growth. As mentioned.. eliminate outside light sources.. this is full spectrum lighting on a level that we can not even come close to reproducing.

6) weekly water changes >10% per week.. without fail.

7) out compete it via vigorous macroalgea growth.. a clump of cheato kept well lit, and - this is important - regularly pruned and removed from the tank.

8) phosphate issues.. even with all of the above.. cyano can and will survive on minimal amounts of phosphate present (don't bother to test for it, it will read 0). I run a phosban reactor with a ferrous oxide adsorption media. If you do not attend to all of the above; however, the reactor will not do you much good. I still see cyano once in a while.. this is my clue that the media in the phosphate reactor needs changed.. after I change it, the cyano goes away again.

great post sk8r on a pita subject for many many reefers, new and old alike! Cyano is extremely tenacious, but manageable. this is yet another one aspect of our hobby that there is not a good quick fix for. Slow and easy and it can be controlled.. patience discipline, and diligence is paramount to get the upper hand against this foul beast
 

MSU Fan

New member
I got the patience, trust me on that one. It's like spot algae in a FW planted tank (which I have had for 1 year). Maintenance is key.

I have to get an RO unit later (I have to wait another month because I only get paid once per month, and this month I am buying the skimmer), but until then is there a reason to believe that the grocery store water is not 0 TDS?

-I have already reduced food, so good there.
-I have a light clean up crew (maybe 4 nassarius, 1 cerith, 1 turbo, a fromia star, and a fire shrimp.
-As I said, I am getting a new skimmer cuz mine sucks! getting an Octopus NW150.
-New bulbs, so not a concern there
-I am pretty good on the water changes, but not perfect yet.
-I have cheato growing in my sump, so good there.
-Phosban reactor? I will have to look into that.

thanks!
 

marduc

New member
There is every reason to believe the grocery store water is not 0 tds. It is sold for drinking.. and 0 tds water tastes flat and unpalatable to many. Grocery store is just RO.. the combo of RO/DI is imperative, the Di picks up and polishes the ions that pass through a RO membrane. Even the best RO membranes only remove 98-99% of the contaminants. The 2 percent or so that does pass through will be ions of an approximate size to a water molecule, this can include nitrates, phosphates, silicates, ect.
 

Sk8r

Staff member
RC Mod
But it's way better than the stuff on the shelves, that's for sure.

My advice on ro/di: the better units cost more but filters have to be replaced less often. Mine's amid its second year and it just had to have a filter recharge, with 0 tds.

And here's the original link to the "lights out" thread. I recommend reading it pretty thoroughly so you'll know how people are using it and for what and with what result. I use it for cyano, and it responds very well.

http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=1078532
 

MSU Fan

New member
Not so good. Well, you learn something new every day, right? Get RO/DI unit ASAP - check. Is the blackout even worth it if I don't have the RO unit yet?
 

Sk8r

Staff member
RC Mod
Yes. Ro/di will be a slow improvement, because at 1/10 a go, you're replacing all your water slowly---somebody who's better than math than me [the known universe] work it out, but you'll be weeks if not months at that; but your skimmer will be getting it out. Meanwhile you'll see major dieoff in your cyano problem with that lights-out method, and between skimming and water changes and some of the crud coming out of lock inside the bacteria, you'll make progress. You might, before that, consider a refugium with a big ball of cheato: that will sop up some phosphate through macroalgae growth while supplying pods and a high level of oxygen for your tank, so that's a triple plus.

[on a completely side topic, dripping kalk supplies alk and cal at the same time AND causes some minor precipitation of phosphates if you site the drip right over the skimmer intake, so the skimmer can uptake it. I've been real happy with this arrangement; and you CAN diy a kalkreactor.]

Just full of suggestions that cost money, but imho, the refugium is one of the best bargains, all round.
 

MSU Fan

New member
ok, that makes sense on the slow changeover...and I have a 75g with a 20g sump - so that will be quite a while to change all the water over to. I do have a fuge with Chaeto in it (and consequently my phosphates test 0 :p ). I use kalk in my top off water, but it dumps into my return chamber, not my skimmer section of the sump. darn. oh well.
 

MSU Fan

New member
are you supposed to cover the tank completely (garbage bags/blankets/etc), or just not turn the lights on?
 

marduc

New member
The water change will be an improvement, when I needed to gain the upper hand I actually did a pair of 40% water changes 2 weeks in a row, then cut down to 20% for a month, and then settled down to the 10% weekly.. this was after a tank move and replacing the sand bed.. so my bacterial colony was on crutches.

To calculate the % of contaminants remaining after water changes the formula is (1- (fraction of water change))^(# of water changes)

so at 10% water changes over the course of 20 weeks it would be:
(1- 0.1)^20 = 0.9^20 = .1216 = 12.16% remaining - this is assuming no nutrient introductions though.
 

Sk8r

Staff member
RC Mod
I'd just turn out the tank lights. Bagging it might build up heat; on the other hand watch the lack of heat once your lights are off after days. Monitor your temp: your heater will probably keep up with it. Your fish will go about business in a kind of a gray halflight, feeding, hopefully, and generally enjoying not getting a sunburn---but the cyano wants rather more light, particularly in odd ends of the spectrum [the post-methane-hit skies must have been yucky] and it will start to die very soon.
 

papagimp

COMAS Rocks!
Not much to add that you didn't already cover, well done sk8r. Love the background info on cyno that I didn't already know. Maybe when my newly setup 75g goes through a cyno phase I won't stare at the stuff so negatively (not as negatively, but negatively nonetheless, lol :D)
 

Sk8r

Staff member
RC Mod
Lol. We just don't give it its due. ;) But I doubt there'll be a market for 'historic cyano...'
 

papagimp

COMAS Rocks!
<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=10446384#post10446384 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by Sk8r
But I doubt there'll be a market for 'historic cyano...'

I don't know bout that....some of the stuff that gets sold on Ebay nowadays. I bet you very well could sell "prehistoric cyno" in a jar, lol. SOMEBODY would buy it!
 

biecacka

New member
i have never had this issue until just now. my CUC has slowly been depleted and im suffering. i need to invest in a few replacements as well as some serpant star fish to aid in eating leftover food.
i have a small section of my tank that has cyano its a BB tank. should i suck the cyano up then go black for 3 days?
corey
 

robrich342

New member
I agree with your approach :)

If you use a chemical to fight it your skimmer will go biz-irk for a few weeks.

There are preparations on the market that will kill it---they're antibiotics. Remember the warning about treating your display tank? Yep. Anti-bio-tics kill microbes. Bacteria. They're often called 'anti' bacterials.
 
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