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r e e f e r 4 l i f e
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Throwing the story of my 75 gallon reef up here in hopes of getting some thoughts from the general TRT population on how best I can fix the bacteria issues that have plagued my tank since I started it up almost 8 months ago.

First, the system itself:

75 gallon tank
20 gallon sump
Sunlight Supply TEK 48" 6 bulb T5HO fixture
Reef Octopus NWB-110 skimmer (100 gallon rating)
4x Koralia Evo powerheads for circulation in display (3600 gph total)
300 gph return at head height
about 90 lbs of marco "Key Largo" dry rock (marcorocks.com)
no sand - bare-bottom system
Coralife salt mix
RO/DI from my Air, Water & Ice Typhoon III

Now, onto the story.

The first couple months of this tank's life were pretty uneventful while the bacteria populations took over. I put a raw shrimp in the tank to get the ammonia levels up and have something for bacteria to feed on that entered the tank.

After the shrimp had entirely decomposed and I no longer had any ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate in the system (about 1.5 months), I introduced 2 small clowns and 2 SPS frags to see how they did. My fish I still have to this day (5 months) and they are doing excellent, SPS corals (3 frags now, two acropora and a pocillopora) I have never been able to keep alive longer than a month. My last one, just a couple weeks ago, was 100% healthy in the store and, within 12 hours bleached out entirely and lost all it's flesh.

So here's the thing, I have been fighting a bacteria bloom for the last couple months. The tank has always been cloudy, either VERY cloudy or only slightly cloudy but always white or slightly yellowish and cloudy. I have lots of circulation and surface agitation as well as my skimmer running constantly so my fish have never shown any signs of stress from lack of oxygen. They do just fine regardless. I simply cannot keep SPS corals alive. I haven't tried any other corals but, since I have designed this to be an SPS only reef I have no desire to try others.

Anyway, so the cloudiness, about 2 months ago I started 20% weekly water changes and blowing the yellow bacteria slime I have been fighting off of the rocks with a turkey baster. This has been going moderately well. Doing this weekly regiment I was able to get the tank to clear up a little more each week but still not completely clear. Two weekends ago I decided to up the cleaning. I took a clean toothbrush and spent about an hour in the tank scrubbing at the rocks to remove as much of the slimy yellow bacteria that was covering the rocks as I could. During this time I ran filter socks to remove it all from the water column. Once I got much of it off the rocks and filtered out of the water column I did a 25 gallon water change (which is about a 35% change on my system). When all was complete this had cleared up the system immensely from how it looked.

Now, a week later, the system is super cloudy again like it was when I started this whole battle two months ago. I guess disturbing and cleaning out so much of this disgusting slimy yellow bacteria on the rocks all at once tripped the bacteria into a full on bloom again.

So...

I don't know what to do at this point. Do I just wait it out and leave it alone and see what happens?

Do I keep up with weekly water changes but smaller ones?

Do I not do water changes at all for a few weeks and monitor the tank's parameters for changes?

I don't know what would be the best plan.

This tank is nearly 8 months old, it hasn't had any sign of ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate in the tank, still doesn't as of just yesterday my tank parameters are:

SG 1.026
Temp 80 F
Ammonia 0
Nitrite 0
Nitrate 0
Calcium 460
Alkalinity 179
PH 7.8

These don't lead me to believe SPS corals would die in my tank in only 12 hours so I would assume the issue has to be related to this bacteria in the tank. It's not bugging my fish or CUC inverts (oh yeah, I've got about 10 small red-legged hermits and 10 small margarita snails I've had in the tank for the last couple months).

I just can't find much that adds up and want to come up with a game plan to keep corals alive in this system. Please TRT, throw anything you can think of my way on this.

Here's some current pics to give you an idea of how things look.

Here was the tank last week taken before I did the 35% water change and cleaning.



Here is the tank yesterday, one week after the big cleaning and water change, bacteria bloom in full swing again.



Here's the side view yesterday. One of my clowns hanging out there. At least they have shown no signs of stress or anything throughout these massive bacterial blooms.



This picture was taken today, it's even more cloudy than yesterday.



Here's a shot from the side. Visibility in the tank has gone down a lot since yesterday.



Here's one of the rocks so you can get a look at this weird yellow slime bacteria. The coloration in these photos is exactly to what I see in the tank.



Here's a closer look at that same rock and slime bacteria spreading.



Here's what my skimmer cup looks like each day when I clean it.



Please share your wisdom and experience and ask all the questions you want. I want to get this squared away and if there's any details I missed please let me know. Thanks a ton guys!
 

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r e e f e r 4 l i f e
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Well, I'm not 100% positive algae or bacteria. Could be a type of slime algae. When you remove the slime from the tank I noticed if it's exposed to air for a while so that it starts to dry out or if you run it under fresh water it starts to smell very strongly like algae. Maybe that is what it is. I'm not sure what my phosphate level is. I didn't think to get a test for it actually. I kinda assumed my issue would be alkalinity related since I did notice an issue with that before with my first frag months back. That seems not to be the case now with recent tests though. I'll have to pick up a PO4 test kit. Maybe I can get one this evening on my way home and see what is going on there. Would a high PO4 level be able to completely kill an SPS coral within 12 hours?

Thanks for the thought!
 

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Although not as bad, my tank went through the same crap for several months during the "uglies" phase. Mine started at probably month 3 or 4 and I battled it much the same as you have for what seemed like forever (but was really only a couple months). Also like you, all of my fish were perfectly happy the whole time.

After lots of thread searches, I finally saw a thread similar to this one that only ended in success when a UV sterilizer was added. Within 3 days of adding a small UV to my system, my water was crystal clear and has been ever since. I'm now past 13 months, completely established, and thriving. UV was literally a miracle cure, in my opinion.

I do still have the UV running but seriously doubt it's needed anymore. Besides, I've never cleaned the tube or changed the bulbs so I doubt it's even doing much anymore. One of these days I'll remove it - just to lazy to fool with re-working the plumbing again.

Give it a shot. I paid like $100 bux for a 27 watt Odyssea unit. Best $100 I've spent yet. For a 75, you could probably do a two bulb, 18 watt unit.

Good luck and please post results.
 

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r e e f e r 4 l i f e
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I've thought about UV sterilizers before. Wouldn't they cause harm though by inhibiting beneficial bacterial from developing and spreading as well?
 

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I set my tank up at about the same time and about the same way,
I was getting the same type of bloom and then I added a corbon reactor and it went away in a day or two and has never come back, If you don't run carbon i would give it a try.
 

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Not one bit. That is a big misconception. The beneficial bacteria is in your rock, substrate (if you had any), and any and all other objects in the tank/sump. Beneficial bacteria is not in the water column. The UV will not impact your good bacterial populations at all.
 

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Well, I'm not 100% positive algae or bacteria. Could be a type of slime algae. When you remove the slime from the tank I noticed if it's exposed to air for a while so that it starts to dry out or if you run it under fresh water it starts to smell very strongly like algae. Maybe that is what it is. I'm not sure what my phosphate level is. I didn't think to get a test for it actually. I kinda assumed my issue would be alkalinity related since I did notice an issue with that before with my first frag months back. That seems not to be the case now with recent tests though. I'll have to pick up a PO4 test kit. Maybe I can get one this evening on my way home and see what is going on there. Would a high PO4 level be able to completely kill an SPS coral within 12 hours?

Thanks for the thought!
I think it is more algae..and I think it has to do with your rocks loaded with phosphate. UV is a great option. Pulling out some of the rock at a time and putting in a dark container(cooking them)will most likely help too. Eventually it will even out over time. Yeah this bloom is going to kill SPS.. you should wait till the water and rocks look pristine(and have undetectable nutrient levels) before getting SPS corals. If you get a PO4 kit go with salifert they are very reliable vs many others.
 

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r e e f e r 4 l i f e
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Yeah, gonna check out the PO4 levels and see what is going on. I have heard that Marco rock can have phosphates that will leach out for a while. I just figured I was doing enough in water changes to keep things clean. Well, I shall know soon enough. Hopefully if that's the only issue eventually it will all be used up and there will be nothing left for this stuff to feed on.
 

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run your skimmer wetter. what is your flow through the sump compared to how much water the skimmer processes?

there is nothing wrong with running an UV if plumbed and sized properly. i like to run one. it needs to be big enough to handle all of the water a skimmer can process and be plumbed as close to the inlet of the skimmer as possible. that way anything killed or broken down can be removed by the skimmer immediately. not as big of a deal in a BB tank where detritus is easily seen and removed, but still the best way to run a skimmer.

your LR is a bit dense, as it there is a lot of LR and not a lot of good access to the back wall of the tank for detrital removal. do you have a hidden powerhead back there or closed loop outlets behind there that we can not see?

as for "good" and "bad" bacteria. bacteria is bacteria. it can be in the water column or on all of the surfaces in the system. they just do what they do. a UV is going to kill all of it, whether it is "good" or "bad" whatever that means.

G~
 

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what I would do is get an inline UV sterilizer (a good one, that is the proper size), and put that on your overflow line, then get that into your skimmer intake.

if you can't plumb it into your skimmer you can just guide the overflow water to the skimmer entrance and just make sure there is more flow going into the skimmer then is leaving the over flow.

if you do the UV this way you will kill the algae/bacteria and then skim it out of the tank before it simply becomes more food...

were your rocks cooked before you added them to the tank, what is their story?
 

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Sorry about the poor description Geoff. When I say "bad" bacteria, I mean bacteria in the water column leading to cloudiness. And when I say "good" bacteria, I mean bacteria living on/in the objects in the tank. While bacteria is bacteria, my point was simply that the UV is not going to have any impact on the colonies living in/on the tank's rock, etc. which filters our water.
 

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r
as for "good" and "bad" bacteria. bacteria is bacteria. it can be in the water column or on all of the surfaces in the system. they just do what they do. a UV is going to kill all of it, whether it is "good" or "bad" whatever that means.

G~
Interestingly enough, according to this study, UV had no significant effect on bacterial counts in the water column... The skimmer was proven to have an effect.
http://www.advancedaquarist.com/2011/3/aafeature Talk of the UV is between figure 7 and figure 8 about half way into the article.
 

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but that study was done on a tank that did not have a skimmer...

we know for a fact that UV units made for bacterial elimination work at killing bacteria. We also know Bacteria killed with UV will skim out of the water better then just the live Bactria not treated with UV. on another side we also know that once the Bactria that are killed with a UV unit and are not removed, will quickly become food for other Bactria.

so it dose not surprise me that adding a UV alone dose not affect long term Bactria or nutrient levels...
 

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but that study was done on a tank that did not have a skimmer...

we know for a fact that UV units made for bacterial elimination work at killing bacteria. We also know Bacteria killed with UV will skim out of the water better then just the live Bactria not treated with UV. on another side we also know that once the Bactria that are killed with a UV unit and are not removed, will quickly become food for other Bactria.

so it dose not surprise me that adding a UV alone dose not affect long term Bactria or nutrient levels...
it was stated that they ran the skimmer with UV and also without for a week each and found no significant difference with the UV on vs off. Do you have a link that shows the UV effectiveness facts on bacteria? Not saying your wrong, but, maybe we have been lead to believe something that is not true.
 

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IMO most people don't use a powerful enough UV unit or run the flow too fast or both...

here is a good UV unit...
http://www.emperoraquatics-aquarium.com/smartuvsterilizer.php

<TABLE style="WIDOWS: 2; TEXT-TRANSFORM: none; BACKGROUND-COLOR: rgb(255,255,255); TEXT-INDENT: 0px; FONT: medium 'Times New Roman'; WHITE-SPACE: normal; ORPHANS: 2; LETTER-SPACING: normal; COLOR: rgb(0,0,0); WORD-SPACING: 0px; -webkit-text-size-adjust: auto; -webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px" border=1 cellSpacing=#000000 borderColor=#231075 width="99%" align=center><TBODY><TR><TD vAlign=center background=http://www.emperoraquatics-aquarium.com/images/aquarium_navblueroll.jpg colSpan=9 align=left>40 Watt SMART UV Sterilizer Specifications

</TD></TR><TR style="TEXT-ALIGN: center; FONT-FAMILY: Arial; COLOR: rgb(255,255,255); FONT-SIZE: 10px; FONT-WEIGHT: bold; TEXT-DECORATION: none" class=TblTxt align=middle bgColor=#76a2d5><TD width="9%">Model No.</TD><TD width="9%">Maximum
Aquarium Size</TD><TD width="8%">No. Lamps/
Watts</TD><TD width="17%">Water Flow Rate
Algae & Bacteria
30,000 µWs/cm²
Suggested/Maximum</TD><TD width="17%">Water Flow Rate
Protozoa
180,000 µWs/cm²
Suggested/Maximum</TD><TD width="7%">Input Watts</TD><TD width="9%">UV-C
Output Watts</TD><TD width="14%">Dimensions (inches)</TD><TD width="10%">Inlet/Outlet</TD></TR><TR style="TEXT-ALIGN: center; FONT-FAMILY: Arial; COLOR: rgb(35,16,117); FONT-SIZE: 10px; FONT-WEIGHT: bold; TEXT-DECORATION: none" class=TblTxt2 align=middle bgColor=#cccccc><TD>02040</TD><TD>260 Gallons</TD><TD>1/40</TD><TD>943 GPH/1,574 GPH</TD><TD>157 GPH/262 GPH</TD><TD>40</TD><TD>14</TD><TD>43¾" x 3½"</TD><TD>1½" Union</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>


the Algae & Bacteria rates are 943 GPH, and the Protozoa rate falls too 157 GPH.... are all bactira the same?

now lets think about how our tanks work, the bulk of the Bactria will be on our rocks, so very little will be in the water column, so if you have a set number of Bactria in the water and on the rocks from the start. and these Bactria multiply at a steady rate (mature tank) and the food is also at a steady rate, then then you can add that there would be a given amount of Bactria present in the water column at a consistent rate (since all other variables are also consistent). what I would like to know are the values of Bactria numbers entering the skimmer/UV units, and the Bactria levels exiting the skimmer/UV areas, since this is why we want them in the first place.


lets say we have a car eating tunnel, if we say that there are 300 cars on the road with a car eating tunnel as without, this dose not tell us much (people need to constantly get on the road, and there are new drivers/cars on the road everyday, there are also a given number of drivers lost each day, this is a consistent number). but lets say there are 300 cars entering the tunnel, and 0 cars leaving the tunnel, this tells us what is going on in the tunnel right?
 

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they were using a 57watt aquaUV inline unit. It is right there in the link I posted, equipment, how they measure, the water born bacterial counts, etc. It is possible that the UV had too high of a flow through, not sure. Then again, where is the independent data to prove the values in that advertisement will in fact kill off the bacteria in our water columns? Unless one has studied data on bacteria counts and the effects of the UV at x flow rate, we are just taking the UV mfg. word that it will do what they claim.

Read the link I provided....there is a lot of bacteria in our water column... and the info your asking about is there...it is an interesting read.
 
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