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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all,

So I've been running a Fluval Edge 12 gallon for the past 6 months, and in that time I've had two major crashes. I don't understand the reasoning behind them and was hoping someone could help me.

The first time, I had a clown, 2 small bubble tip anemones, an anemone shrimp, and a nassarius snail. There was also a small gsp colony but nothing major. The tank proceeded to crash, ammonia and nitrate levels severely spiked and I lost everything but the clown.

Fast forward to today. After about three months, I had the same thing happen almost overnight, but I'm looking for a reason why. In order to better support my tank, I purchased a AI Nano and controller, setup a lighting schedule and had the lights at 15% intensity, so I don't think lights were a factor.


Sunday night I did a water change using RO/DI water, dechlorinated using Prime. I tested the water Sunday night, and my nitrates were minimal (0.1) and ammonia and nitrites were both zero. Tank livestock was a nassarius snail, clown, small carpet anemone, a GSP colony, sea fan and a fancy brittle star.

I noticed my fish wasbreathing heavy on Monday, and my water was becoming unexpectedly cloudy almost overnight. I came home and found my ammonia levels were at 8.0 and nitrates well over 4.0. The carpet had pinched itself into about a dime shape, so I tried doing a 30% water change in an attempt to salvage. Entire tank crashed regardless.

I have since done about a 75% water change, and repositioned my rocks. Potentially the carpet and GSP colony may make it, my local LFS is really helpful and he offered to hold them to see if they would make it.

I cannot figure out why these levels spiked so hard overnight. The ammonia literally went from 0 to 8.0 in 24 hours, and nothing was left rotting in the tank. I immediately removed the starfish on Monday morning because I thought it might be the source, but still can't confirm it was dead. Regardless, the tank became cloudy and I lost everything.

I have about 10 lbs of live rock in the tank, had been doing calcium and phytoplankton for the corals. Two feedings daily, but I don't think I was having much leftover with the cleanup crew I had. Could stress be enough of a factor to release that much ammonia and nitrites in less than 24 hours? I'd like to continue this tank, but losing all of my livestock every three months is killing me.

TL;DR : Tank ammonia and nitrite levels keep spiking, don't know why. Water gets a white cloudy color to it, and tank crashes shortly after. Been doing weekly changes with RO/DI water. Any guesses?

I've attached a picture of my tank from last week, all of this is now toast :(
 

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Shark...fish are friends
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The cloudiness I believe is a bacteria bloom. So it is the effect of the ammonia/nitrite spike so quickly, the bacteria bloom responds by quickly adjusting their numbers to try and take on the ammonia/nitrite increase.

It appears you have sand, how deep is your sand? When you are doing water changes are you making sure you siphon the sand good to clean detritus that is getting in the sand? If not then it will act like a deep sand bed which tries to lock all of the detritus under the sand, but you don't have a deep sand bed, so if it gets disturbed it releases everything that is under it and could be causing the tank crash... this happens in deep sand beds eventually too if you don't replace the sand when it gets full.

Your sand seems really fine, so I'm going to guess you can't siphon it very well (or at least what I would call siphoning it really well...), so without knowing everything about your tank and how you maintain it I'd say take a look there... you could either try going bare bottom if you don't have critters that need the sand, or switch sand to a larger grain size (I used caribsea special reef grade sand which has a larger grain size so when I do my water changes I stick my siphon all the way under the sand and it creates a whirlwind inside the siphon where sand is rolling around, all the fine particles and detritus get sucked out, the heavier grain sand drops back down).
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Is there anyway to keep these bacterial blooms down? I was under the impression that I was getting into my sand bed well enough, but I could see that being a problem. I would say the sand is about an inch thick, but I got it mostly to help with the live bacteria and cycling.

It is a very fine sand bed. In the prior week, the sand bed looked very clean, so much that I was amazed I wasn't seeing any waste products. I tried recently using a dropped to spray clean my rocks even, and I got minimal waste.

I've rearranged my rock setup to try and increase flow around the tank. Do you think buildup around the edges of the sand could be an issue? I don't know how the detrius could have gotten that deep otherwise. Nassarius snail was doing fine until yesterday.
 

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Shark...fish are friends
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well just in general the way a sand bed is supposed to work (thinking in deep sand bed days) was that detritus that settles on the sand keeps moving downwards under the sand, so you may not see detritus since it settles down under the sand... if you aren't able to siphon it really well it acts like the deep sand bed, but since you only have 1" it doesn't take it very long to get filled with detritus... if it is acting like a DSB then the life expectancy of the sand might only be the 3 month period or less that you're seeing when your tank crashes. If you had 7 or 8" DSB then you might be looking at something more like 21 - 24 months before reaching that crash point... but in a small tank a DSB is not practical, who wants to have 8" of sand in a 12" tall tank?

So the alternatives are bare bottom, or larger grain sand so you can siphon it better... personally I like my yellow watchman goby and pistol shrimp, so I'm running about a 2" sand bed, but it gets cleaned really well with water changes (I don't even bother trying to siphon out water, because I siphon out more than enough water while trying to clean my sand bed).

You don't need sand if your only reason for having it was for helping with the cycle... as long as you have enough rock and good flow your rock will be capable of doing all the filtration and housing all the bacteria you need... so if that's your only reason then try going bare bottom, then you can see where the detritus is and siphon it out when you see it instead of letting it get buried in the sand...
 

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it looks like you are just not waiting long enough for the bacterial populations to adapt to the bioload. it takes time.

what kind of filtration is used in that system? if there are bioballs, filter floss, or any other kind of biomedia, you might want to remove it completely, or clean it every day, once a week at the very least. if biomedia is not cleaned regularly it is just creating more food for more bacteria.

G~
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
it looks like you are just not waiting long enough for the bacterial populations to adapt to the bioload. it takes time.

what kind of filtration is used in that system? if there are bioballs, filter floss, or any other kind of biomedia, you might want to remove it completely, or clean it every day, once a week at the very least. if biomedia is not cleaned regularly it is just creating more food for more bacteria.

G~
The filtration is an "all in one unit" unfortunately. It has a floss sponge, a carbon pad, and ceramic beads to aid in filtration. I added a pad to hopefully absorb phosphates, because I was using tap water previously and having a hair algae problem. I washed out the carbon pad, sponge and ceramic beads about the same time I did the water change as well, could that be part of the issue?

also thanks so much for all your insight guys.
 

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Shark...fish are friends
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well if you are using stuff like that for mechanical filtration you should be cleaning it about every day or two max so it doesn't get clogged up. That could be your problem depending on how often you clean it - if a lot got trapped in there it will decompose rapidly due to the high flow rate running over the detritus, which then if your bacteria population isn't strong enough to handle the increased nutrients could cause the ammonia and nitrites to spike, thus the bacteria bloom.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks again rininger85, all of the brainstorming really helps.

I definitely was not washing out the mechanical filtration near that amount. I had heard that it was best to not interfere with it since the bacteria would work on it as well. Unfortunately looking back on it your point makes way more sense.

Currently I'm just letting the tank run and have no livestock in it. I'm going to keep the live sand and just really agitate it during cleanups, and increase the cleaning on the mechanical filtration. I did the 75% water change, but how long do you think I should wait and let it sit again? Should I let it sit for a solid month again?
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Also, do you think oxygen flow could be an issue? In any examples of Fluval Edges I've seen they don't seem to have any kind of air stone, but I don't feel like there is an enormous amount of oxygen being dumped into the water. It has a 6x 8 opening on the top where water is filtered in, but I'm not sure if that's enough.
 

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Shark...fish are friends
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I don't know how long it will have to sit to be ready again, it did take a full month when my FW tank crashed and had to re-cycle. Its best to just keep testing it and see when it hits 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and some nitrates, give it an extra week afterwards and you should be good. Just keep feeding the tank while its cycling, toss fish food in like you normally would if there were fish in there that way there's still something decomposing to keep feeding the bacteria.

Do you have any powerheads in the tank? I'd get a powerhead rated someplace in the 300-400gph range if you don't. That will help create surface agitation to help gas exchange.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I have a Rio powerhead in currently, but I don't now the gph range, I'll have to check when I get home. I feel like there was already pretty high circulation from that one powerhead, but it was in the middle of the tank and angled down to try and create circulation throughout. I've since moved it to the top right to try and get better flow. I'll take a picture of the current layout and location later.
 

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airstones just make the entire tank into a skimmer, not what you want. :(

i also think you should have more flow in the tank, than just the return pump.

one must think of all of the bacteria as a fish. the more bacteria, the bigger the fish. the bigger the fish, the more resources it uses up. the more detritus you allow to accumulate in the filter section the bigger the fish. the more oxygen that is used up. the object is to keep enough bacteria to process just the amount of waste that is reasonably left over between water changes. any more detritus left over is just going to create a bigger fish.

we need bacteria to do some work in our systems, but we also need to understand that they are an organism and that they also use up and create resources. they are not magic and make matter disappear. the waste product from one bacteria will feed another. if more food is going into the tank, then there must be more bacteria to match this food.

G~
 

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as long as you have surface agitation you should be OK, shouldn't need an airstone... really airstones don't inject oxygen in to water as well as you might think, the bubbles go to the surface and pop, so really all they do is create surface agitation... powerheads and filters should give adequate agitation I believe...
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Ok, so I just bought an additional powerhead from amazon, and I have a Rio 90 in there currently, I'm not sure how to read the flow level based on what it says though. I've attached a picture of it.

Also, I've redone my rock structure to open up some gaps. In the last picture I had the Rio powerhead dead center covered by the rocks, currently I have it in the top right. Any input on this? Should i put the new powerhead opposite it on the left top of the tank?

Thanks again.
 

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Shark...fish are friends
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the rio 90 is 85gph, the info in the chart is telling you 'head height' so if you were using it as a return pump and had to pump water vertically 12" it would drop to 54gph, if you had to go more than 12" it doesn't give a rating because its not capable of pumping it at that height (although it does say max head 2 ft so maybe it can pump it, just not enough to create any flow).

The way you are using it you're getting the 85gph rate. In general someplace between 30-50x the capacity of your tank is where you want to be (depending on the tank, and inhabitants). So you want at least 360gph to have decent flow in your tank.
 

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I guess I read right past that part (probably on purpose, hoping someone else would lecture rather than me) =) it very well could be... tank is 6 months old and has had 3 different anemones in it already... since dpoltsdsu brought it up, you might want to hold off on the anemones this time around. People usually recommend waiting a year, but at a minimum 6 months before adding an anemone so your tank can stabilize and you can learn a good routine for caring for them before adding them...
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I was thinking the anemone could have been the issue as well, but there were no real signs of stress until the last days. It had been eating very well, was ridiculously sticky (the clown got stuck on it, and barely escaped) and in general looked good in my opinion. I am definitely holding off on anemones regardless on this go round.

I plan on significantly reducing the bioload this time, making it mostly corals, maybe a clown and a goby/firefish maximum. I think my own greed might have caused it as well.

I purchased a Koralia Nano 425 Aquarium Circulation Pump 425 GPH off amazon to try and help with circulation, but I felt like the Rio seemed strong for a current as is. Maybe I'm overestimating it.

Any thoughts on powerhead placement? I plan on leaving the Rio in the top right corner, should I place this top left? Was the middle of the tank amidst the LR not a good plan?
 
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