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Tang Lover
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7,326 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Okay...gonna come clean...and hope for some good advice/input.
(first off, sorry...this is a REALLY long post, but this is a big problem with my tank, and I really need some help)

I'm having a few problems with my SPS's. And looking for some advice/input/etc.

1st, Since day one, I've not been getting any really good growth. I have frags that have been in the tank for over 8 months, that really aren't any bigger. They're not dying...and they grow to encrust at the base...but after that...no real growth.

2nd problem is...about once every month or two, one of my corals will just start bleaching near the base. It appears to be random...and I never really can stop the recision. instead, I just take a frag from the coral and place it somewhere else. The frag does fine...but the mother colony usually completely bleaches out over the next couple weeks.

So...I ask this as two seperate problems, but wondering if there's a common thread to them.

Those not familiar with my tank, here's some details:

72 gallon bowfront w/29 gallon sump (holds ~13 gallons when running). roughtly 85 gallons total system volume.

2x250wt 10K MH's with 2x110wt actinic VHO's. Unit is about 8" from the surface of the water.

VHO's are on from 7:30am-9:30pm
MH's are on from 11am-4:30pm

Tank has one sabae anemone, one small hammer, one short tent plate, a grouping of about 3-4 zoo polyps, and the rest is all SPS's (some monti caps, which ARE growing), acro's, Poccillapora, Stylo, Birdnest, Porites, etc.

MR-2 Skimmer, CR-1 Calcium reactor.

Tank Parms:
  • temp is 79°-81° (enforced by 1/10th HP chiller)
  • pH goes from about ~8.00 to ~8.20 throughout a normal photoperiod.
  • Salinity is kept at ~1.025
  • Ammonia, nitrItes, and nitrAtes are undetectable.
  • Calcium has always been a little high. about 480-500ppm
  • Alk has been pretty dead on for over 6 months. At about 9-10 dKh
  • Magnesium...well, that's a long story. Salifert test kit said it was at 1050ppm, but there's a very real possibility I had a bad test kit. So as a result of the recent dosing, it's either 1350ppm or up to 1650ppm.
My bio-load (non corals) is:
  • Hippo tang who's not a baby, but not an adult either. Prob about 2" long.
  • Coral Beaty who's not much bigger than the Tang. once in a while, he'll nip at a coral (mainly my x-mas tree worms/porites), but is actually well behaved for the most part.
  • one male Clown
  • One Cleaner shrimp
  • One Porcellain crab
  • 6 snails (5 astre's and 1 turbo)
  • and ~20 hermits.
For flow, I have a Gen-X PCX70 pushing a closed loop through 2 3/4" eductors on each side of the tank.

Top off with a 5 gallon jug of RO/DI next to the tank, a tube running to the sump, and a 1/4" ball-valve I use to adjust the drip rate.

And substrate...here's where I think MANY of you will jump on this...and while I'm not inclined to argue, I'm not quite inclined to agree either. But yes...I'm one of the only people I know on here with a heavily SPS dominated tank, and a Crushed Coral substrate. But I must elaborate. Each water change (every other weekend), I vacumn out the substrate HEAVILY. I'm religious about this, and get almost every spot except dead center under the LR.

I have NO algae problems, and need to clean my glass every 4-5 days.

Anything else, ask away, and I'll be more than happy to answer.

In summation...it seems like my tank isn't really having problems...but isn't really growing either. I seem to be in a stale purgatory with the tank. And I think the bleaching's are caused by maybe one bad day with a minor swing of something (open drapes, and pH goes up a little for one day), or top off drip is a little slow, and takes me a few hours to notice it's not quite keeping up and I'm a half gallon off track. I don't know.

Some theories I have all tend to lean towards me doing TOO good a job on tank husbandry.

Maybe I don't have enough fish? 3 fish in a 72 gallon tank? maybe I need more? I've heard bits and pieces of this theory, but not enough to understand it.

Am I UNDERfeeding the tank? I feed the tang/CB every other day with a small piece of Nori (about the size of the SMALL post-it notes). Every 3 days, I cut up one whole cube of Formula one, a cap-full of DT's, and very small amount of oyster eggs. I let this sit in a dixie cup of tank water for about 10 minutes, then dump it in the tank. I shut off the return pump, the CA reactor, and my skimmer. An hour later, I turn back on the return pump and CA reactor. An hour after that, I turn the skimmer back on.

Another theory is the CC substrate. Maybe there's a reason no one has this? But if THIS were the issue, wouldn't it manifest itself as algae problems first?

Either way...this post is SUPER long, so I need to stop now, but ANY help would be appreciated.
 

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Tang Lover
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7,326 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Some additional notes:

I use Reef Crystals salt mix, and have been for over a year.

Also, all my SPS's have pretty good color. Even the one's that start bleaching maintain their color throughout, until they are all bleached. It's not like one spot bleaches, and then the whole coral fades.

Polyp expansion is so-so. Not completely hidden, but not full out like some of you seem to have. hehehe

I'm not saying I don't have them...but as best as my eyes can see, I do not see any predetors of any type. No bugs/worms/etc.

And since day one, every SPS (or any coral for that matter) that I've added to the tank, I've always added some SeaChem's Reef Dip (iodine solution) to the aclimation water during the last 5-10 minutes of aclimation. I've never seen any flatworms in this tank, nor aiptasia, nor any other kind of problematic parasite.

Other than trying to increase Magnesium levels during the last month or so (thinking that might be a reason for this problem), I've not really made any changes to the system. And I've had this problem for a while, before adding Mg.

Other than a few frags (4 or 5) Tom sent me a couple months ago, I haven't added much to the system in the last 6 months. No new fish. no new critters. No new corals. no new equipment really. The Ca Reactor might have been added about 6 months ago, not quite sure.

I've been of the mindset lately that before adding anything else to this system, I'd like to see good growth from what I already have in it.
 

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Just some guy, you know?
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After reading a little better:


Quit using DT's, it's pure phosphate and phosphate is the enemy. (this may be your biggest problem right here) The kind of corals you keep don't eat it anyway, they eat poo.

When you say bleaching, does the coral loose tissue? If so then it is STN not bleaching.

Have you ever had a coral die that has had a green skeleton?

Usually if a tank is too clean, the corals grow really really fast, but are low on color. I once thought my tank was too clean when I had problems that sound exactly like this, I was wrong.

Whiskey
 

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Fish Killin' Reef Keeper
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358 Posts
So you only have about 5 1/2 hours of "heavy PAR" lighting each day? Aren't VHO actinics very low in PAR? That's one thing that stands out to me, I would bet most of us are running our daylights for 10-12 hours on average here.....

I run T5 HO, and run actinic+ for 14 hours a day, and my Daylights for 12.....The Actinic + actually have a good bit of usable PAR, so my corals are getting PAR even during dawn/dusk..

Oh...and what Wiskey said.....Phosphates?? I would think you should see algae if you have phosphates, but who knows??

Other than that, Everything SEEMS fine....HMMmmmm
 

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Hi, Skeety. you said that nothing changed (in term of equipments) in the last 6 months. What about your lights? are they still good or loosing PAR?
 

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Tang Lover
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7,326 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I don't test for phosphates, as everything I've read says even if you have 'em, half the time they won't show up on the tests...since they're usually bound up in the algae. So always seemed to me that test kits really wouldn't help for Phosphates.

Not to mention, as ReelFreak mentioned...I'd think I'd have algae problems. And I have almost the complete opposite. I have ONE spot on my rocks where there's a small patch (about the size of a quarter) where algae is. And it's been that same size for over 6 months.

As for DT's...I know the corals don't eat it...but the critters that a coral eats DO eat it. It's indirect feeding. Much like most of the other coral foods. And while I know phyto is a big phosphate source...I'd read that DT's actually had LESS phosphate than MOST phyto foods. But then again, can't believe everything you read. So that's one vote for DT's being a problem. If I get some more feedback on that, I'll discontinue it's use. Still on the fence a little about that.

As for the bleaching...it's usually a spot somewhere at the base that forms. Looses color first...then the spot gets bigger and spreads. As the bleached area widens, the middle of the original spot does start to turn slightly green...(algae forming). And eventually, the whole colony is gone. It all turns slightly green...then a week or two later, is covered in corraline (purple).

SO to answer you question...it bleaches first. Then later dies. And spreads as such. Algae thinly covers the skeleton, then corraline fairly quickly after.

The whole process usually last about a week or two, so it's definitely STN. But STN and RTN aren't so much a disease as they are a way to describe the death, aren't they?

I'm sorry if I sound argumentative, as I'm not. Just trying to elaborate on points you guys are bringing up. And my mindset (which COULD be wrong).
 

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Tang Lover
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7,326 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
kevinnq said:
Hi, Skeety. you said that nothing changed (in term of equipments) in the last 6 months. What about your lights? are they still good or loosing PAR?
I'm sorry...let me elab on this.

I purchased the light fixture last x-mas. 2x250wat MH, and 2x110watt VHO's.

About 3 months later, one of my VHO bulbs went out. Hamilton appolgized for the problem, and sent me out two new bulbs. I replaced one (the other's in storage).

So technically, the MH bulbs are 7 months old, ONE VHO bulb is 4 months old, and the other is 7 months old. I was under the impression that both MH and VHO bulbs should be changed every 8-12 months.

If this is incorrect, let me know.

Another tidbit on that is that this problem was occuring the whole time. Actually a little before...thus the reason I upgraded to MH. Thinking insufficient lighting was the problem.

Also, in response to ReelFreak and my photoperiod....I know that 10-12 hours for other forms of light is normal. But (and again, correct me if I'm wrong), I thought when it came to MH, longer photoperiods could be damaging. I've read most are around 6 or 7, and there's some who only have them on 3 or 4 hours a day. So I shot for right in the middle.

But if an increase in photoperiod is called for, by all means, chime in.
 

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Tang Lover
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7,326 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
the wierd part is, it's only ever ONE coral at a time that's bleaching. While almost all of them are growing SUPER slow..only one coral bleaches at a time. This lead me to believe parasite, and not water parms. But I can't see any.

But then again, it could be a weakest of the heard kind of thing. Don't know.

It just seems that the tank, while not exactly detrimental to coral life, isn't optimal either. But please keep the questions/advice coming.
 

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Just some guy, you know?
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I don't test for phosphates, as everything I've read says even if you have 'em, half the time they won't show up on the tests...since they're usually bound up in the algae. So always seemed to me that test kits really wouldn't help for Phosphates.
Fine. Do you have a picture of your tank? High rez please.

As for DT's...I know the corals don't eat it...but the critters that a coral eats DO eat it. It's indirect feeding. Much like most of the other coral foods.
Corals eat poo. They also harvest bacteria from themselves. Hmm, Do you have any pods?

I'd read that DT's actually had LESS phosphate than MOST phyto foods. But then again, can't believe everything you read.
Go find out how Phyto is made, then think about that for a second. You will believe it more if you find out for yourself.

As the bleached area widens, the middle of the original spot does start to turn slightly green...(algae forming). And eventually, the whole colony is gone. It all turns slightly green...then a week or two later, is covered in Coraline (purple).
Yes that is STN, and you are right it is a way to describe death. Spanky once said that it means there is something going on with your tank that the coral simply could not adapt to. I think it is the best description I ever heard.

Finally, how long has this tank been setup? How long between the time you get a coral, and the time it starts to STN? This really does sound allot like the problems I was having.

Whiskey
 

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Tang Lover
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7,326 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
if you need higher res shots than this, let me know (actinic, and scroll down for MH):

http://mysite.verizon.net/s0da/tank%20shots.html

That IS a good description of STN. Sounds fitting too!

Tank has been set up since Feb of '05. (almost a year and a half).

Corals went in in late March (i was stupid then). Softies (and most LPSs) came out, and SPS's started going in around this time last year (june/july).

So this problem YOU had...how did you fix it? Or was it purly related to the blasting of your LR? I DO notice that when the spots DO first show up, it's right after I've done a water change. A day or two later. But the rest of the tank brighten's up so much! It's like ONE coral didn't like the water change, and everyone else loved it.
 

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Tang Lover
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7,326 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
addendum...that tank shot is about 4-5 months old. Since then, all those zoo's on the left have been removed. and the Gorgonian on the right side has since withered away.

Here's an updated shot from less than 2 months ago:

 

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Premium Member
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I would start running the MH at least 10 hours a day. if you were running BB then you would be fine with that photoperiod but with the substrate i would bring it up. Your calcium is also a problem and i think it may come back to the CC substrate your using. it will dissolve over time and that may be assisting in raising your CA level which will throw off your alk eventually. you may want to slow down your reactor by slowing the Co2 bubble and then slowing the drip into your tank. get the calcium down for sure and get the light up. if it is white bleaching then i would say the light is the big problem.
 

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Tang Lover
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
okay...I'll try that.

Can I increase it by 30 minute increments? or no more than 15 min?

and I'm guessing every 3 or 4 days, I can up it another increment?
 

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Just some guy, you know?
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Another tidbit on that is that this problem was occurring the whole time. Actually a little before...thus the reason I upgraded to MH. Thinking insufficient lighting was the problem.
Lol, your methods for fixing this problem were even the same as mine, didn't work for me either.

Also, in response to ReelFreak and my photoperiod....I know that 10-12 hours for other forms of light is normal. But (and again, correct me if I'm wrong), I thought when it came to MH, longer photoperiods could be damaging. I've read most are around 6 or 7, and there's some who only have them on 3 or 4 hours a day. So I shot for right in the middle.
To set the photoperiod you really need to react to the coral's look, but until you get the coral to do well that is very hard to do. I think you photo period is plenty to keep them alive, you can fine tune it later.

So technically, the MH bulbs are 7 months old, ONE VHO bulb is 4 months old, and the other is 7 months old. I was under the impression that both MH and VHO bulbs should be changed every 8-12 months.
VHO should be replaced every 6-9 months, Mh depends on the bulb.

Whiskey
 

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Nah, add 1-2 hours per day. they are starved right now so go for a faster startup. they aren't going to burn because your not over the standard light requirement. take some macro shots of your fuzzy ones and then compare polyp extension in a week.
 

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I only do 5 hrs of photo period/day with my 2-250W 15K MH, but 12 hrs with 4-54W actinic T5. my corals look great. One interesting thing is that, my Acro that I bought awhile ago and placed until PC and die, but I left it in the tank, after it was under the MH, i now see some came back, still little but i was very happy that it came back! I have a BB tank.
 

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I also heard that T5 is better than VHO (more brighter) and also last longer, around 1 yr before you need to replace the bulbs, and it is cheaper too. MH about a year, from what i heard.
 

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sorry whiskey but i have to disagree with the lighting bit. tanks with substrate have much more in the way of dissolved solids than BB. because of that the light penetration is cut as the light has to go deeper. I run a shallow 90 and i run my MH 13 hrs a day and my corals are busting out with full polyp extension and great growth. CC is worse because even with his increased cleaning he is going to have more stuff floating in the water. I am not saying the light is the only problem, but it is a factor IMO.

Skeety, you may even want to turn the CA reactor off until it gets down to 400 then turn it on and play with it until you can keep it in the 400-450 range.
 
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