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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello reefers,

I have a 50g reef tank, still new (3 months old) with some LFS and some snails & hermit crabs. No fish yet. I added a shrimp 2 weeks ago but didn't survive even if i made sure to acclimate it well.
I tested my water last week and today again. Parameters are:

ph 8.2
dKH 5 mg/l
Ca 490 mg/l
Mg 1060 mg/l
Nitrates 12
Phosphates 0,02 mg/l
Temp. 77F
Sg 1,024.5

I know nitrates are high, but they are going down with the WC once a week (10%). My main concern is the alkalinity level of 5mg/l. It has always been around 9-10mg/l and these past 2 weeks is very low. But Ca and Mg seems to be ok, so I'm confused. I have a tunze Skimmer, 20kg LR and live sand, I syphon the detritus every time i do WC. Corals look ok though. I've been thinking to add some buffer but my local reef supplier says don't do it! I use Red sea test kits and Red Sea Salts. Could it be the test fault?

I need to say that I took the salt from the original bucket to use the bucket for WC and it's been only in its plastic bag, maybe exposed to air and humidity. Could this be as well the reason for lower dKH?

Thank you for your help!
 

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I would take a water sample to your lfs and have them test it. Did you test nitrite and ammonia? Mg should be around 1200 and I think if alk was actually that low there would be major problems in your tank. Is there anything in the tank alive?
 

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5 mg/l dKh ? Assuming mg/l is same as ppm, you have 5 ppm alkalinity ?
That is 0.28 dKh, which is impossibly low.

Are you sure it's 5 mg/l and not 5 dKh ?

If this is actually 5 dKh, then yes, it is low, but not impossibly low.

Dropping of Kh may be an indication of increased bacteria production. Which all by itself is not a bad thing. The reason for it may be bad or natural. Something could be dying or you feed too much and that causes bacteria growth, or your tank is simply maturing.

I would not panic about it. You need to start dosing carbonates. I would recommend this article: http://www.reefkeeping.com/issues/2006-02/rhf/

That article describes so called 2 part system of Ca and carbonate (alkalinity, Kh) dosing. You worry right now is the carbonate part.

As a personal note to that article, I am not so worried about saving money and I do not risk using ice melting salt as the calcium source, so I buy Calcium Chloride from BRS. As for carbonate part, I do use baking soda as prescribed, and everything works fine.

Or, you can get pre-mixed carbonate supplement in your local fish store as use it as instructed.
 

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i would not start dosing anything until you get a second opinion on the test results, or use your test kits against a known water column.

one of the biggest mistakes reefers make when starting out is trying to create "perfect" Ca, alk, Mg levels. as igvm was saying bacteria populations can raise havoc with alk levels in the beginning. it is best to just monitor and not adjust any of the levels until you have a good month or more of solid data.

i would also test a fresh batch of salt water to see if the problem could be there. maybe your salt batch is way out of whack. your S.G. is a bit low which does lower the levels some. your Mg is also low. Ca is high.

G~
 

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I agree w/ G. I would not dose at all just yet.

How much coral do you have, specifically SPS? If you have none, or not a lot, your tank is probably going through the many cycles of a young tank. But since you have shown higher Alk previous, I'd double check your test first.

I would only dose if your tank is consuming alk at a level so high that normal water changes cannot keep up. That's usually when you start packing it in w/ SPS. At 3 months, you probably are not packed to the brim...???
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thank you all for the replies!


Ok, it's quite a long story with my tank, but let me try to tell you shortly:)!

So, with my husband, we started our reef tank in december last year, but long story short, the guy who sold us all the stuff (LR, sand, custom made tank, light, skimmer, etc.) turned to be a big joke! We completely trusted him and had no knowledge what so ever on reef tanks before actually being in the hobby, big mistake and let me tell you, we paid the price :( ! He sold us bad LR (I'm not even sure if they can be called live rocks cause we had so many problems with very high phosphates until we realised the problem was in these LR filled with phosphates! He sold us as well a skimmer that was too small for the needs of a 50g reef tank. And I don't wanna talk about the led lighting...only 32 watts when we needed at least 150 watts. So, for a long time we tried to keep up with things and put them back in place until we realised and our new supplier advised us to restart completely the system!

So, we bought new LR with actual coraline algues on them (not like the previous LR we had) and new sand, all from Indonesia, but because we had 4 corals already in the tank, our supplier gave us 40gallons of his cycled water from his 3 months old reef tank (in order to keep the corals alive). We just add 10gallons of new salt water, which triggered the cycling phase with the diatoms again and we had them for 3 weeks around. So, we completely restarted our tank 2 months ago with 3 months old reef tank water (does this make any sense to you?).
What he did though during the restart is to add some zooplancton and live bacteria (here in switzerland the brand is Bactonet) and after a week I added the rest of the bottles (following his advice). We changed the skimmer with a bigger one and the light is dimmable 168watts led (corals look happy with it). And we add ato system and a heater.

So, now all we have in the tank, aside the LR and sand, are 4 LPS corals, 3 hermit crabs and 1 trochus snail (they were 2 but one died). No fish for the moment. We've bought last week with the crabs and snails one shrimp as well and even though i acclimated them very slowly with a dripping method, the shrimp has died after a day:((.

We don't have anymore problems with the phosphates (they were a nightmare for so long) nitrates are high but going down with the WC. I really need to test a freshly mixed batch of salt water to see if the Ca and Mg of the salt itself is not high enough. And I suspect the dKH test reading, I will check in the reef shop when I go in 2 weeks. What you said about too many bacterias and drop of alk is very interesting, i didn't know that! And, i don't put any food in the tank for now since we don't have any fish.

What do you suggest keeping the SG at? My supplier says 1,024 is good but you say it's low. And sorry for the error on the alk, yes i ment 5 dKH.

I appreciate your help!
 

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I keep sg at 1.026. It sounds like your on the right track now but it sounds like a lot of changes took place in your tank. I would just keep doing the weekly water changes and be patient as far as adding any livestock. Are the corals you have in it now doing ok?
 

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Bringing your SG up to 1.026 will bring your alk up. The numbers that you are supposed to keep are for a 1.026. Alk Cal and mag will be lower the lower your SG is.
 

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Bringing your SG up to 1.026 will bring your alk ugravity numbers that you are supposed to keep are for a 1.026. Alk Cal c ill the lower your SG is.
Can't say I agree this. The reason new hobbyist should keep their specific gravity at 1.024, is so you have some wiggle room. Because specific gravity is different at different temps a beginer may be thrown off when checking the tank water. You could have a reading one day of say 1.026 and a temp of 82 (because its summer and a hot day) over a couple of days the temp drops and you check your specific gravity and it says 1.027 ( it probably wouldnt jump that much. Just an example) because as water temp falls sg rises and vice versa. But the salinity has stayed the same the whole time. So a hobbyist that uses specific gravity (without fully understanding it) can be thrown off and start thinking they have to adjust the salinity when it has been correct the whole time. Keeping it at 1.024 or 1.026 really doesnt mean a thing but salinity which is measured in ppt (parts per thousand),does.
 

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I agree w/ G. I would not dose at all just yet.

How much coral do you have, specifically SPS? If you have none, or not a lot, your tank is probably going through the many cycles of a young tank. But since you have shown higher Alk previous, I'd double check your test first.

I would only dose if your tank is consuming alk at a level so high that normal water changes cannot keep up. That's usually when you start packing it in w/ SPS. At 3 months, you probably are not packed to the brim...???
I agree that the test needs to be verified.

But if the test is correct and indeed the alk dropped from 9 to 5, is not this an indication that "tank is consuming alk at a level so high that normal water changes cannot keep up" ?
 

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Bringing your SG up to 1.026 will bring your alk up. The numbers that you are supposed to keep are for a 1.026. Alk Cal and mag will be lower the lower your SG is.
Not true. SG does not seem to have much of an effect on alk. If there is intensive alk consumption in the tank, then increasing salinity by itself will not have effect on alk.

I have 2 tanks at home, mix water same way, both at 1.026. One tank alk floats between 6 and 7 and the other is at 8.
 

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Thank you all for the replies!
What do you suggest keeping the SG at? My supplier says 1,024 is good but you say it's low. And sorry for the error on the alk, yes i ment 5 dKH.

I appreciate your help!
It does not really matter too much where your SG is, as long as it is steady and within reasonable limits. You creatures will adjust to your value.

Average natural level is believed to be 1.026. I know one LFS which keeps it at 1.024. So I would not worry about that too much, just keep it steady and if you decide to change it, go slowly.
 

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But if the test is correct and indeed the alk dropped from 9 to 5, is not this an indication that "tank is consuming alk at a level so high that normal water changes cannot keep up" ?
Only if there are enough corals that do that. It needs to be heavy on SPS. On not getting that indication but I could be wrong.

Also..to the OP..all of the rocks we use have PO4. I wouldn't blame the previous owner on giving you rocks w/ PO4. Leaching PO4 from our rocks is part of the larger (not nitrogen related) cycle and leads to the maturation of our tanks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Well, regarding the rocks, I've been reading a lot on them and the po4 and that some people "cook" them..I get your point when you say it's normal to have some po4 into them. But comparing the rocks I had and the one I have now, I can tell there is a HUGE difference. These one give me po4 of only 0,03 mg/l and the old one were giving me po4 of 3,60 mg/l (scary high). Anyways, I would talk bad about the guy if I wasn't sure he is rubbish! Lausanne is pretty small and after having this bitter experience I met soo many people pulling their hair and giving up on the hobby too early because of him:((... I don't wanna quit! I want to make it work! Right now it looks so difficult, but I'm positive:)!

I think I'm going to raise the salinity to 1.025 and stay there for now. The temperature in the tank doesn't change because we have a heater in it that keeps it at 77 F. What confuses me a bit is when I measure it with my TDS meter that has a termometer in it and the TDS gives me 78.5 F when the heater is on 77 F. Who should I believe in this case?
I have another question: when I research corals on liveaquaria.com, for most of them they recommend salinity between 1.023 - 1.025. That's why I never aimed for 1.026. Should I ignore what they suggest and if you can recommend website with more reliable info on livestock requirements?

And back on Alk, I will be honest, I've been reading a lot on the reefing and try to understand many things at the same time and I'm a bit overwhelmed! So, I'm not sure anymore what is Alk exactly and in my case what consumes it so much, when my tank is almost empty (no livestock), only 4 LPS corals?

Thank you all!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I just tested a new salt mix at SG 1,025 and it showed Alk of 9 dKH! So, now at least I know that the test is accurate. The alk changes and goes down inside the tank. The question now is what makes it drop from 9 dkh to 5 dkh? After reading a few threads here, I'm starting to think that it might be cause by the bacteria.. especially because i had a cleaner shrimp and 2 trochus snails died in the tank (i removed the shrimp but couldn't remove the snail). So, my conclusion of what I understood is that now bacterias work harder to eliminate the ammonia from the dead inverts. Please, correct me if I'm wrong!

Now, is there a way to find out if this is really the reason? I need to mention it, since we restarted the tank and the LPS guy added half a bottle of each zooplankton and bactonet live bacteria and a week later I added the other half of the bottles, I see a lot of tiny whites spots in the water. It means, water is not cristal clean but having tiny white thing in it, like not dissolved salt moved around by the power heads (by definitely not salt:), don't be scared;), sorry my english is not rich enough in vocabulary to express myself better:). When I showed a photo to the LPS guy, he said this might be the plankton or bacteria (not sure what he said). So, if bacteria can be noticeable as so, it means i have quite a lot right now! And it is what consumes the Alk, am I right?

What shell I do at this point?
Continue WC once a week?
10% or bigger WC?
Or add buffer / baking soda?

I know patience is the key in this hobby, but I fear that I'm just wasting precious time sitting and doing nothing! I don't wanna see my corals die because of low Alk!!! Corals are doing ok for now, I have polyps (Zoanthus) that are fully opened and look happy, the torch coral is not extending his tentacles at max but he is ok i think (it might be not the right placement and too much flow), the hammer coral instead is almost closed these 3 days when it used to be very big and extending his tentacles a lot. Not sure if doesn't like the spot because i recently moved it lower ( i read they need to be placed on the bottom) or is caused my the low Alk?
 

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I would just continue to do water changes routinely. There is nothing in your tank that would be affected by a lower Alk (if it even truly is low) and now is probably not a good time to chase a specific number. If you had a lot of SPS corals, then there would be a reason to be concerned. Let your tank go through it's many phases and balance out. I wouldn't even test Alk until you get more SPS. Doing many tests now while your tank is new will show fluctuations caused by maturation and get your stressed for no reason.
 

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I just tested a new salt mix at SG 1,025 and it showed Alk of 9 dKH! So, now at least I know that the test is accurate. The alk changes and goes down inside the tank. The question now is what makes it drop from 9 dkh to 5 dkh? After reading a few threads here, I'm starting to think that it might be cause by the bacteria.. especially because i had a cleaner shrimp and 2 trochus snails died in the tank (i removed the shrimp but couldn't remove the snail). So, my conclusion of what I understood is that now bacterias work harder to eliminate the ammonia from the dead inverts. Please, correct me if I'm wrong!
Yes, probably it's bacteria.

Now, is there a way to find out if this is really the reason? I need to mention it, since we restarted the tank and the LPS guy added half a bottle of each zooplankton and bactonet live bacteria and a week later I added the other half of the bottles, I see a lot of tiny whites spots in the water. It means, water is not cristal clean but having tiny white thing in it, like not dissolved salt moved around by the power heads (by definitely not salt:), don't be scared;), sorry my english is not rich enough in vocabulary to express myself better:). When I showed a photo to the LPS guy, he said this might be the plankton or bacteria (not sure what he said). So, if bacteria can be noticeable as so, it means i have quite a lot right now! And it is what consumes the Alk, am I right?
No, thats not bacteria, of course. You could not see it with naked eyes. It is easy to see if it is plankton. Just turn off all your circulation. If that is plankton, you will see it moving all by itself.


What shell I do at this point?
Continue WC once a week?
yes

10% or bigger WC?
10% is fine.

Or add buffer / baking soda?
Yes. Just make sure you do not raise your Kh more than 1 or 1.3 dKh per day. Here is good tool: http://reef.diesyst.com/cf/alkalinitycf.html

I know patience is the key in this hobby, but I fear that I'm just wasting precious time sitting and doing nothing! I don't wanna see my corals die because of low Alk!!! Corals are doing ok for now, I have polyps (Zoanthus) that are fully opened and look happy, the torch coral is not extending his tentacles at max but he is ok i think (it might be not the right placement and too much flow), the hammer coral instead is almost closed these 3 days when it used to be very big and extending his tentacles a lot. Not sure if doesn't like the spot because i recently moved it lower ( i read they need to be placed on the bottom) or is caused my the low Alk?
Hammers and frogspawns are good indicators of water quality, but I do not think your corals are going to die. Just make slow adjustments.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Thank you all for your help! I keep doing my WC ( last two weeks I've done 20%, double than usual WC, but want to lower the NO3, which is pretty high at the moment (16 mg/l).

I will keep you updated on the situation! With the Alk problem I have as well long hair algues (it looks like hair to me :).. People advice to find the reason instead of just adding little creatures that eat the algues and they are right on this I think! So here the problem IMO is the high nitrates. I'm trying to lower them significantly and maybe adding macro algues to the tank. Is it a good idea? Some say it will compete with the other "bad" algues for nitrates and actually the bad onces will disappear when they don't get enough food. Or adding some snails, hermit crabs, lettuse snail..is better? I'm thinking about them when they finish all the algues, what am i going to feed them? Than I need to buy algues :D when I was trying so hard to get rid of them!

If I can ask you 2 more questions, i know it's out of the topic, sorry about that!
First, do you know the tunze skimmers and what's your opinion on them? Mine is tunze 9006 for up to 200 gallons. My tank is 50g. and sumpless, so I need to put the skimmer inside the main and only tank. But it's ok, it's black and the back of the tank is painted black so the skimmer is almost invisible. My little concern is this: when I bought the new LR, the collecting cup of 400ml. was full in 24h. Now, it makes only 100ml. a day. There is a little "curtain" which was fully open at the beginning and now it's half way closed as recommended by Tunze. Is it normal to have so little skimmat? I know it depends on bioload and I'm not feeding anything at the moment, so i might be worried fo rno reason, but need to as to be sure!

And the other question: I bought a new led system, the brand is DSunY, it's chinese and they use Bridgelux led lights. The system is full spectrum (45 % whites, 45% blues, 10% red, green, purple. So, they is an automatic mode, where you choose the season and set the time and than the light adjust the intensity of the light as the sun does. Plus, there is a lunar cycle as well. Exemple: now it's on summer time mode, this means that from 12-14h the light is at 100% power (168watts), than it goes every hour down to 90%, 70%, etc. when at 22h. it stays with only the blues at 10% intensity till 5am when the cycle restart again. So, actually there is never complete darkness. Is it good or bad or it doesn't change a lot?
And, what about the intensity? Is it good to keep this settings or I need to go manual and choose most of the time 50%-50% for example? I'm just wondering if my corals are getting enough light with only 2 hours of full power..

thank you very much!
 

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Thank you all for your help! I keep doing my WC ( last two weeks I've done 20%, double than usual WC, but want to lower the NO3, which is pretty high at the moment (16 mg/l).
You are very welcome and good luck.

If I can ask you 2 more questions, i know it's out of the topic, sorry about that!
First, do you know the tunze skimmers and what's your opinion on them? Mine is tunze 9006 for up to 200 gallons. My tank is 50g. and sumpless, so I need to put the skimmer inside the main and only tank. But it's ok, it's black and the back of the tank is painted black so the skimmer is almost invisible. My little concern is this: when I bought the new LR, the collecting cup of 400ml. was full in 24h. Now, it makes only 100ml. a day. There is a little "curtain" which was fully open at the beginning and now it's half way closed as recommended by Tunze. Is it normal to have so little skimmat? I know it depends on bioload and I'm not feeding anything at the moment, so i might be worried fo rno reason, but need to as to be sure!
I am not sure, I never had a Tunze skimmer. As for skimmate production, all I can tell is that it usually fluctuates.


And the other question: I bought a new led system, the brand is DSunY, it's chinese and they use Bridgelux led lights. The system is full spectrum (45 % whites, 45% blues, 10% red, green, purple. So, they is an automatic mode, where you choose the season and set the time and than the light adjust the intensity of the light as the sun does. Plus, there is a lunar cycle as well. Exemple: now it's on summer time mode, this means that from 12-14h the light is at 100% power (168watts), than it goes every hour down to 90%, 70%, etc. when at 22h. it stays with only the blues at 10% intensity till 5am when the cycle restart again. So, actually there is never complete darkness. Is it good or bad or it doesn't change a lot?
And, what about the intensity? Is it good to keep this settings or I need to go manual and choose most of the time 50%-50% for example? I'm just wondering if my corals are getting enough light with only 2 hours of full power..

thank you very much!
I believe that all these fancy light features are important for us, but not for them. There is this theory that lunar cycle has something to do with the way corals reproduce sexually, but I am not sure it is very relevant even if it is true.

As for intensity, it can be dangerous to start at 100% intensity. Too much light can make corals bleach. Start low and gradually increase the intensity and stop and go down when you see signs of them turning white (bleaching).
 
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