I need a paradigm shift in aquarium management - help please!

Discussion in 'General Reef Topics' started by justonwo, Nov 28, 2015.

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  1. justonwo

    justonwo Fire Shrimp

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    As many here will know, I'm relatively knew to the hobby. I inherited a 90 gallon tank in June, fully stocked, and have been making my own marks on the tank with the addition of a few fish, removal of a few, and some new acros and acans. The previous owner of the tank was very hand's off. No additives of any kind. He never monitored pH, alkalinity, calcium, etc. I mean NEVER. Just faithfully changed the water every week (with tap water, no less), fed pelletized food, and fed the acans and scolymia maybe once per month. Most of the fish, coral, anemones, shrimp, etc seemed to do ok.

    When I adopted this approach after moving the tank, things started to go south, so I spent quite a bit of time getting my water parameters where they need to be. I've invested in an RODI system and high quality chemistry monitors and now have salinity, alkalinity, calcium, magnesium, etc right where I want them.

    I wanted to take a comprehensive and well explained approach to tank management and basically bought into Red Sea's entire program because it was at least fairly prescriptive. I started with NO3PO4-x and got my nitrates down from 40+ ppm to 1 ppm or less at times. The trouble is that when nitrate gets that low, the corals can starve so, according to the program, I need to add Coral Energy A and B every day (coral food), which also requires that I turn off my skimmer for 30 minutes.

    I've noticed that when I'm dosing at levels high enough to get the nitrate down to below 1 ppm, things start to go south. Corals bleach, shrimp disappear. It seems like everything is starving. Some corals even RTNed/STNed. So I back off on the NO3PO4-x and keep nitrates at 2 ppm or so, which phosphate around 0.16 ppm. I dipped below 1 ppm NO3 for the second time this past week, and one of my acros immediately STNed. Very frustrating.

    Now that I'm adding tons of soluble nutrients to the water every day to make up for the depletion from the NO3PO4-x, I've gotten a ridiculous infection of vermetid snails EVERYWHERE. Little ones are encrusting all over anything and everything. If one tiny part of a coral gets unhealthy, there are 5 or 6 vermetid bastards just waiting to encrust.

    The bummer of all this, beyond the fact that I'm creating more problems than I think I may be solving, is that I'm having to add so many additives to the tank. It's expensive, and if I wanted to automate it would be insane. I'd have to have a program that would deal with 1) NO3PO4-x, 2) Reef Energy A, 3) Reef Energy B, 4) alkalinity dosing, and 5) calcium dosing. Not to mention, I need the ability to top off my water and turn the skimmer on and off. That would cost a FORTUNE to automate.

    I need a simpler approach to tank management than this. I don't think the Red Sea approach is going to work for me. It's simply too complicated and it seems to create some problems. I would prefer to have to dose nothing more than alk/calcium every day. How can I get my nitrates and phosphates to the right levels (I am told that some nitrate and phosphate is good, 1-2 ppm nitrate and 0.1 ppm phosphate) without having to back fill a bunch of nutrients that just cause blooms of anything and everything in my tank. I don't feel like I should have to supplement nutrients for my acropora every day, since I know there are many people that never really feed them. Help me find a simpler approach that can help minimize unwanted side effects (like explosive growth of vermetid snails), keep my chemistry where it needs to be, and keep my acros happy and healthy.

    I'm happy to add some hardware if needed. I have a sump with a skimmer and UV sterilizer. I know there has to be a simpler way. Show me gurus!
     
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  3. Va Reef

    Va Reef Giant Squid

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    I hate to tell you to go and do your own research, but I would have to write a novel. Lol

    Simple way to combat nitrates and phosphates: GFO in a reactor and chaeto algae in the sump (requires a light). Brand new with everything needed a reactor will cost about $130. People give chaeto away. As chaeto grows it uses phosphates and nitrates, outcompeting pest algae in the tank and lowering said levels. GFO needs to be changed once every month and half or so.

    I'm sure you've seen the review thread of Red Sea's NOPOX, if not look at it, good info there.

    Here is where the reasearch part really come into play...

    Calcium reactors VS dosing pumps

    So many different pros and cons here I can't even list them. I use a dosing pump as it suits my needs and style (for now) more. Either will make your life so much easier.

    Personally id ditch most of the Red Sea program. I like to dose acropower, boron and potassium.

    So to recap, a calcium reactor or dosing pump would take care of calcium alkalinity magnesium and potentially trace elements depending on your methods.

    A GFO reactor and some chaeto will keep phosphates and nitrates down.

    This is how I run my tank and I'm thoroughly satisfied with the results, not to mention how "easy" it is once everything is dialed in. I feel like all I ever have to do is clean my skimmer and add water to the auto top off reservoir (another thing to consider if you don't already have it)

    Once you decide what you want to do, after hearing from others too, I'd be happy to go into more detail for the methods you choose.
     
    Vinnyboombatz likes this.
  4. justonwo

    justonwo Fire Shrimp

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    Thanks Va Reef. Are you dosing anything other than Acropower for acro food/nutrients? I have done tons of research. Tons! But it can all get really overwhelming
     
  5. Va Reef

    Va Reef Giant Squid

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    Reading your post, I couldn't help but think "yeah I'd be pretty annoyed having to do all that everyday"

    I dose a 3 part, tropic Marin's original balling method, but that's just calcium, alkalinity and trace elements.

    For where you're at I'd recommend a dosing pump as opposed to a reactor.

    I really just think if you have a dosing pump (and solution for it) a GFO reactor, some chaeto and an ATO, all your problems will be solved, assuming proper maintenance. I try to minimize how much work I have to do and keep it as simple as possible. This method works wonders for me.
     
    justonwo and Vinnyboombatz like this.
  6. justonwo

    justonwo Fire Shrimp

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    I'm going to give your suggestions a try to start with. So you don't provide any additional "food" for your coral?

    I'm definitely intrigued by the Balling method, although Red Sea claims to provide all the trace elements in its salts. Not sure how much water changing takes care of the uptake, though.

    Any suggestion on how to transition from NOPOx to GFO and cheato?
     
  7. Va Reef

    Va Reef Giant Squid

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    I will occasionally give some mysis shrimp to acans, but that is more for my amusement. I also feed baby decapsulated brine shrimp, which are just barely visible specs, for my pipefish; I suspect that the corals can grab this, but I've only started feeding this within the last week. Many people on 3reef with successful reefs don't feed coral either.

    I'd stop dosing the NoPoX all together and start with a half dose of GFO for about a month. Monitor phosphates and reduce feeding for the time being.
     
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  9. Va Reef

    Va Reef Giant Squid

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    I will occasionally give some mysis shrimp to acans, but that is more for my amusement. I also feed baby decapsulated brine shrimp, which are just barely visible specs, for my pipefish; I suspect that the corals can grab this, but I've only started feeding this within the last week. Many people on 3reef with successful reefs don't feed coral either.

    I'd stop dosing the NoPoX all together and start with a half dose of GFO for about a month. Monitor phosphates and reduce feeding for the time being.
     
  10. justonwo

    justonwo Fire Shrimp

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    Thanks, VA Reef. I've ordered a reactor from Bulk Reef Supply as well as a dosing system and ATO. I'm also going to try your suggestion of chaeto for nitrate reduction. I will slowly wean the coral off the Reef Energy, since I don't want to make a sudden change in the nutrient supply, but I've already started to taper on the NO3:pO4-x so I'm ready to cut that off altogether.
     
  11. justonwo

    justonwo Fire Shrimp

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    Ok, the GFO reactor is installed and running at half the recommended reactor load. Any idea how long it will take for the phosphates to come down. Since I lowered the dose of NOPOx, my phosphates have shot up from 0.10 to 0.36 ppm very quickly. Nitrates are also up.

    I've been doing 15 mL of Coral Energy A and 15 mL of Coral Energy B each day. Should I cut that off completely or slowly bring it down? I don't want to shock my corals with a big change, but that's probably introducing a lot of nutrients to my system.
     
  12. DSC reef

    DSC reef Giant Squid

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    If this approach doesn't work for you another way is to try bio pellets. My reef has always reacted negatively when GFO is used plus it can alter ph as well. Stripping to much of something is just as bad as having to much. I think you need to try and simplify your approach as I think you maybe changing to much at once. People freak out when they see nitrates at 10 or 15 ppm and it boggles me. My reef has never looked better when I actually had nitrates. They never got out of control and the biopellets kept them in check which allowed me to heavily feed my tank. I like to feed my LPS, that's just me. Point is, some nitrate is not gonna hurt AT ALL and some phosphate as well. Slow down and simplify.
     
    oldfishkeeper likes this.