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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'll be setting up a unplumbed shallow cube (20x20x12) this Friday. The plan for this system will be mostly LPS and a very low fish load of just 1 or 2 smaller sized fish. The tank will also have a large variety of macro algae such as HALIMEDA, CYMOPOLIA, GRACILARIA, EUCHEUMA, BOTRYOCLADIA, and HETEREOSIPHONA. Lighting will probably be a full spectrum LED fixture although I may start out on T5. I may also add some pulsating Xenia.

LPS will mostly be open brains, bubbles, duncans, etc.

It will also serve as a SPS quarantine where I can monitor new colonies/frags for red bugs and other pests for a month or two before intruding them to my main system.

Chemical filtration will be provided by a Tunze 3163 (http://www.tunze.com/149.html?&L=1&C=RO&user_tunzeprod_pi1[predid]=-infoxunter065). I will be using Seachem Matrix carbon and Seachem Phosguard as well as possibly Purigen.

I've been debating whether this tank needs a skimmer or not. I would go with a Tunze 9004 since it will match the 3163 and it's best suited for a tank this size and dimensions.
 

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Well, I have a problem with your idea here. It's a great idea in theory, but the macro and SPS need dramatically different nutrient levels. The macro will die if there is not an ample amount of nutrients in the water, and the SPS won't do so well if there is that much nutrients in the water. So, IMO, the two shouldn't go together. If you want it heavily stocked with SPS, it probably should have a skimmer. If you want it heavily stocked with macro, it shouldn't have a skimmer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
The heaviest stocking will be mostly open brains, acans, and other LPS. The shallow tank with a bit less flow will help out a lot in manual feeding.

I do not plan to keep SPS in it but I hoped it would serve a role as a quarantine tank but it's not critical.
 

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With LPS, it would be a little better, but since they live naturally on open reefs, they require fairly low nutrient levels. Macro algae, since they naturally live in lagoons etc, they require higher nutrient levels. Personally, I would never keep Macro in my tank because if its growing, it means you have high nutrient levels. What are your reasons for wanting macro?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Natural filtration vs physical skimmer. Debating it still, some of the macro tanks I've seen are gorgeous.
 

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Macro can be good-looking in the DT, but you really should be trimming it constantly. It is not good filtration because they are constantly both binding and releasing nutrients, so unless you physically remove them, they aren't doing much.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I think trimming in a shallow tank will be a lot less maintenance than emptying the skimmer cup and cleaning the neck every few days.
 

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Keep in mind as well that macro can end up in the display of the other tank as a invasive pest.

Search halmede tank crashing tdwyatt had a war with it. Japonicus is fighting it off like mad now as well. Macro algae can be a huge pest with many types.

Macro "natural" filtration is a bit over played. Most great setups using algae run lots of mechanical as well. The key is still detritus removal directly. 100% algae systems no mechincal end pretty fast demanding on water changes ect.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
It will be an interesting experiment. I'm going to start off skimmer less and I'm going to monitor my phosphate and nitrate levels to see if the macro algae itself can keep it in the 10ppm for nitrates and under .1ppm for phosphates. (These are the levels I keep in my main system where I have a lot of colorful rapid SPS growth).

I guess if it can achieve that, I don't see the benefit of running a skimmer in this system. I believe the highest bioload will come from feeding the LPS Fauna Marin LPS pellets and half a cube of mysis for the fish in the morning and evening.
 

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It will be an interesting experiment. I'm going to start off skimmer less and I'm going to monitor my phosphate and nitrate levels to see if the macro algae itself can keep it in the 10ppm for nitrates and under .1ppm for phosphates. (These are the levels I keep in my main system where I have a lot of colorful rapid SPS growth).

I guess if it can achieve that, I don't see the benefit of running a skimmer in this system. I believe the highest bioload will come from feeding the LPS Fauna Marin LPS pellets and half a cube of mysis for the fish in the morning and evening.
Unless you have a mechanism for testing for organic phosphates, you really can't test your hypothesis. It is like doing a traffic count on a road and only doing east-bound traffic and ignoring westbound.

The presence of algae mucks everything up. It's existence within a tank establishes there is nutrients available, and its growth establishes that there are plenty of nutrients available. It has nothing to do with the skimmer but if you have algae, a skimmer is (more) useful as it can address the increased organic nutrient availability. That is one reason why many people notice an increase in skimmer activity in systems with algae... and unfortunately they think it is a good thing. Using algae for nutrient control is a lot like using Kentucky fescue to create a desert. It just does not work.

Skimmers in all systems are "optional". They are not required at all. The trick with them is that their use provides a export method with an economy of scale. Skimmers are the ONLY item that removes nutrients on a continuous basis. No other husbandry method can do this (except maybe a continuous WC device). Where skimmers earn their bread is simple. They take a "cut" of organics. Often just 20%-40% of available organics at a time (note, I did not say "total organics"). Now over time, this can be useful especially for big tanks. The result is that for long-term use, a skimmer (and a lower % WC) can effectively gain the same organic availability of a skimmerless system with a higher % WC regiment. Skimmers save on WC cost. Because WC cost are relative to the size of the tank, skimmers are more economical and return-on-investment is much quicker in a BIG tank than a small tank. For a 40g tank and my skimmer $200... I will recoup my cost in just under 3 years. In big tanks 200g+ it is easily 1.5-2 years even adjusting for the increased skimmer's cost and 38 years for a small 15g system. Skimmers just make the operating costs in salt/water go down. They are not "necessary" as you can always increase the WC regiment.

I don't know why we think that LPS need higher nutrient levels. SPS tanks are already more organically laden more so than even the back-reefs. LPS tolerate higher nutrients better but I have found they like tank-observed SPS-levels of organic availability.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Hmmm I think algae gets a bad rap. When I've been snorkeling, there's algae growth everywhere even in SPS rich reefs. I don't believe in reef tanks that are devoid of algae, it doesn't look right to me.

I've also seen the massive benefits of algae turf scrubbers first hand. The improvement a month into a highly productive ATS was much more dramatic than a skimmer in my experience.

The funny thing about reefing is that it's basically religious. Whether it's the T5/MH crowd espousing how terrible LEDs are or vice versa, it seems everyone falls into dogmatic beliefs based on their interoperation of inconclusive data and first hand experiences. I'm certainly guilty of it. I'm NOT saying anyone in this thread is like that, just a general observation.
 

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Hmmm I think algae gets a bad rap. When I've been snorkeling, there's algae growth everywhere even in SPS rich reefs. I don't believe in reef tanks that are devoid of algae, it doesn't look right to me.

I've also seen the massive benefits of algae turf scrubbers first hand. The improvement a month into a highly productive ATS was much more dramatic than a skimmer in my experience.

The funny thing about reefing is that it's basically religious. Whether it's the T5/MH crowd espousing how terrible LEDs are or vice versa, it seems everyone falls into dogmatic beliefs based on their interoperation of inconclusive data and first hand experiences. I'm certainly guilty of it. I'm NOT saying anyone in this thread is like that, just a general observation.
Algae is an opportunistic survivor species. (think autotrophic cockroaches) It is everywhere but the population should be minimal in many places, such a SPS reef. The presence of algae could mean it is an unhealthy reef as it should not be overly abundant. You have to use an ecological model and algae is a bioindicator of various conditions such as "new real estate" since it is an early colonizer as well as a species that responds to eutropication trends.

I am not dogmatic when it comes to this hobby. I apply the (imperfect) rational actor model to empirical research. For me, it is all about the best information moving forward within the best theory. If something comes out to shift our knowledge/paradigm, I welcome it with open arms. Algae is not one of those things. It does not fit within the ecological construct as a means of nutrient control. In fact, the major fundamental pillars of ecology stand its way. If algae does what the ATS/algae fuge folks claim, we really need to re-write all the textbooks.

Now, I am dead serious here when I offer this because it will be a good amount of time for me spent, BUT do you really want to know the ecological principles operating behind our tank? It is fundamental ecological theory and I will bust out my texts (Graduate Ecology Coursework material) So, if you want to go down that rabbithole, I have no problem guiding the discussion (and I hope Invic, G and a few others with nice referenced material will help).

Smithsonian (where the ATS is/was King and killing). Very few things can do more harm than a ATS for the long-term health of a system.
<img src="http://www.thereeftank.com/gallery/files/2/7/2/8/8/aimag3059.jpg" alt="Aimag3059" />

<img src="http://www.thereeftank.com/gallery/files/2/7/2/8/8/aimag3062.jpg" alt="Aimag3062" />

2009 just before the crash.
<img src="http://www.thereeftank.com/gallery/files/2/7/2/8/8/smith_2009.jpg" alt="Smith 2009" />

2012 Still having issues.
<img src="http://www.thereeftank.com/gallery/files/2/7/2/8/8/smith_2011.jpg" alt="Smith 2011" />
 

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Does algae grow in the wild? Yes. In places where there is high enough nutrient levels. The kind of macroalgae you are looking at adding to your tank is usually found in intercoastal, lagoonish areas where there is low flow and low nutrient exchange. The algaes you find while snorkeling aren't necessarily the same kind that you would want in a fuge or for nutrient control. Algae won't grow without a fuel source. If a pond is getting polluted, we frequently see cyanobacteria outbreaks. In closed systems where there is little nutrient exchange, like a pond or our tanks, the cyano simply overtakes other species. It produces a lot of O2, raising pH because a lot of H ions = high pH. The animals die from shock due to pH changes, decompose, providing algae with more nutrients, and the cycle repeats. That was a bit of a tangent but I feel it was relevant. Read the section on pH at this link. IMO, the biggest argument against using macro is that it doesn't really bind nutrients, as it does release nutrients back into the water.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Opportunistic survivor seems to indicate to me that algae as a life form can more easily adapt to conditions that can kill coral. I'm not sure I see anything red flagging about that unless you're implying algae itself is creating the conditions where it's killing coral so it can thrive.

I am interested to read about how algae in macro or micro forms can be poisonous to coral.
 

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Opportunistic survivor means they exist at very small biomass levels until conditions change that promote their rapid growth. Algae can also cull itself via a reduction in biomass to ensure its survival when conditions move away from what it prefers. It can also "invest" material to bacteria to spur bacterial growth that will help algae in the future

Why algae/coral can not get along. Please read this, this is extremely important stuff.
http://www.littlersworks.net/reprints/Littler2006a.pdf

Algae's "toxicity" to coral (at least in the larval phase)
http://parkinson.cos.ucf.edu/Courses/seminar/papers/Kuffner et al. 2006.pdf

And another "big" study... NAS study so I am used to the citations, other might find them cumbersome
http://www.pnas.org/content/107/21/9683.long

We also have a very good in-house algae analyst... Invic.
http://www.thereeftank.com/forums/f...ow-does-it-do-and-what-cant-it-do-198321.html
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Thanks for the links. I made my way through the first one so far and am tackling the rest as as I have time.

However, I don't really see anything in there on how an ATS which is a remote turf algae grower to export nutrients would be detrimental in a reef system. Especially in a system running multiple levels of filtration (something I do with a big skimmer, UV, carbon, phosguard, purigen).

What the first link seems to indicate to me is that algae overgrowth is detrimental and that paper seems to speak to the relationship between herbivores and algae; how that can impact reef health in general. I don't see how that's really applicable in the case we're discussing since macro algae in this case will be constantly removed as part of nutrient export.

This discussion's timing is pretty funny right now though. My skimmer has decided to micro-bubble like crazy this afternoon. Skimmers in general have been the biggest pain in the butt as far as reef equipment go for me. I'm not going to stop using one in my main system but man do they require a lot of maintenance and trouble shooting.
 

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Thanks for the links. I made my way through the first one so far and am tackling the rest as as I have time.
:read: :thumbup: :beer:

However, I don't really see anything in there on how an ATS which is a remote turf algae grower to export nutrients would be detrimental in a reef system. Especially in a system running multiple levels of filtration (something I do with a big skimmer, UV, carbon, phosguard, purigen).
Think about that list for a bit. Save for the skimmer, the chemical media binds organics. They are "sinks" and when they fill out, they stop binding correct? Now, there is another major sink in out tank. Calcium Carbonate. Yes, our sand and rock are also binding phosphate (when hair algae on rock can persist even in a clean tank... for a while). Few talk about how good an agent calcium based media is for binding phosphate. Calcium is used for binding phosphates in dialysis treatments. So in our tanks, we create multiple phosphate sinks. Rock, sand, algae, phosguard/GFO, and etc... The trick is that the more we use, the more difficulty we have at tracking where it is sinking and how full each "sink" becomes. Think of it as a port-o-john with 4 "dug holes" and you do not know were the poo is going. If one fills up, the other take in the extra... but they are also filling up until you have four nasty poo-filled holes and no-where to go. As a result, that is why many folks (but Geoff in particular) say that GFO, algae, and other methods are masking the bigger problem. Eutrophication. The system is gaining mass (phosphate being the real enemy) and we are spending a lot to "cover it up" in the system. In the end, algae out of all the phosphate consumers is actually one of the lest effective methods as GFO, calcium, etc are often much better at getting and binding it first... so algae get the scraps.

Think of it like the family dog during the holidays getting the scraps of the turkey. If you are feeding the dog enough for it to reproduce enough to have a steady supply of puppies, that is a lot of turkey and gravy making into the dog bowl. But algae for nutrient control is the same way. How many turkey scraps do you need for dog population to grow to remove the puppies from the house to "clean up the leftover turkeys" from the house. Keep in mind of how much poo those puppies make as well.Same concept. You can not use an growing organism population to control the nutrients from which it is dependent upon. Either it will reach stasis and neither grow of collapse or it will die. You can use humans to "export" oxygen by removing babies. Either there will be ample O2 for us to consume and procreate or we run out and die. Algae is no different but it is smart enough to start culling itself before it runs out.

What the first link seems to indicate to me is that algae overgrowth is detrimental and that paper seems to speak to the relationship between herbivores and algae; how that can impact reef health in general. I don't see how that's really applicable in the case we're discussing since macro algae in this case will be constantly removed as part of nutrient export.
Herbivores control the algae biomass so that the tides can come in a "sweep" away the organic material into the abyssal plain, otherwise a lot of algae is quite good at trapping organic material nearby. Same with out tanks. A good modest collecting of snails is great at turning small amount of algae into poo so that we can siphon it out.

For algae to grow in biomass, there must be ample nutrients. Cultivating algae means you must have these nutrients in high enough concentrations... it does not control nutrients, nutrients controls algae.

This discussion's timing is pretty funny right now though. My skimmer has decided to micro-bubble like crazy this afternoon. Skimmers in general have been the biggest pain in the butt as far as reef equipment go for me. I'm not going to stop using one in my main system but man do they require a lot of maintenance and trouble shooting.
Skimmers are not necessary but they do lend a specific cost/benefit effect for larger tanks. A skimmer (which is the only piece of equipment that actively removes organics) make it easier to reach a specified organic level combined with a water change. Thus, skimmers are to make water changes more effective at achieving an trophic level. Skimmerless is acceptable but increase WC are required and it might be more frequent. Thus skimmers "pay back" their initial and operating cost over time in water change volumes. Big tanks can take advantage of this better than small. Plus skimmer have some other fringe benefits such as aeration and pH stabilization. Algae unfortunately, can not provide these benefits.

Some skimmers are good, others are evil. You might want to consider the time/effort/cost for running a skimmer vs additional water changes.
 

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The idea isn't that there being algae in the system is bad. The idea is that it is bad that there is enough nutrients in the system to grow algae.
Yup. Algae is indifferent. The conditions that algae needs are detrimental to many of the biotypes we emulate in our tanks. So if many of up see algae, we know that the conditions of our tanks might not be up to par... as algae is one of the BEST phosphate test kits. Increasing algae biomass is a sign of increasing phosphate, thus it is time for a major tank cleaning. Algae does what it does (which is often NOT what a lot of hobbyist claim), but it responds to P in our tanks like nobodies business .
 
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