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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi ya'll
I've been observing the forums for a while and gathering alot of useful information about the hobby. I have been enthusiatic about saltwater tanks for around ten years. I have had moderate success throughout the years. I have finally found the following to be true: The reefmaster may start the process but the reeftank must balance itself on its own terms.
My latest set up is a dsb (3 1/2") 55 gal with 10 gal sump (just for water changes- like to keep the hands out of the tank as much as possible). The protein skimmer is a Lifereef with a mag9 (excellent skimmer). LR mixed with non-live. LR seeding NLR. Since I don't believe in the pounds of LR per gallon formula, I try to fill 1/3 of the tank with LR. To date-cycling has been normal. Coraline developing thoughout tank--different shades from deep red to lavender. Lighting consists of ambient light and two 10,000k 65watt power compacts and two 65 watt actinic power compacts-lighting cycle 8 hours a day.
All is fine except with the introduction of a Tomato clown. Once acclimatized to the tank, this clown has begun to dig up the sand bed (normal behavior). Immediately after this was done- Cyno Algae spread on the sand bed! All invertabrate life (feather dusters, crabs, seamat even gorgonian frags) seem to be fine- just unsightly cyno, again, only on the sandbed.
SO. . . My observation... DSB is a great stabilizer but a very critical variable in maintaining the stability of a reeftank. If the DSB is upset the tank begins to recycle again, thus delaying the much sought after stability of the tank.
In previous tanks I used LS from local reef areas. That sand was visually unsightly-grain size irregular-ranging from pebbly to grayish silt. But because of its consistency it was more difficult to upset therefore system stability was maintained . The comercially available live sand, which I used this time I chose because of the visually appealing sugary sand effect, but this is not really the best choice for a good stable DSB. The fact that a Tomato clown can upset the balance of this mini eco system with a swish of its tail gives one much to think about.

looking forward to sharing with all of you,
jman
 

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"The fact that a Tomato clown can upset the balance of this mini eco system with a swish of its tail gives one much to think about."
yeah, i seeing that happen in my reef right now. i added a bubble tip anemone last week, and the cinnamon clownfish has really taken to it! too bad the bta settled at the bottom of the tank. now everytime my clownfish fluffs up the anemone, it moves the substrate about, buring my other corals, and leaving a 3" deep divot! the reef has been somewhat clouding the last few days.
glad to have ya on board!
:cool:
 

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i'm hesitant to think that the clownfish upsetting a small portion of the dsb, would result in a groth of cyano across the entire substrate.

from your wording, it sounds like the tank is still new? and the tomato is the first citizen? perhaps your tank has jsut reached "it's time" and the tomato was just a coincidance.

i'm no dsb expert by any means, and in the process of seting up my first one now. but i've never heard of anyone saying anythign like this before. so i'm wondering if perhaps it was something else.

perhaps even the change in bioload due ot the introduction of the clown? i can understand water getting cloudy by the clown kicking up sand, but the cyano has me perplexed.

btw: WELCOME TO TRT :dance: good to have you here. we'd love to see pics of you tank!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the welcome.
Fman: The clown is the only fish citizen but it is doing more than dusting. It is creating dunes! In places the sand has been reduced to 1 1/2" this has disrupted the established bubble ladened layer which was forming.
True, the tank may be achieving "its time." The tank has been up and running for eight months. Yet this does not take away from the fact that DSB maturation and physical "compacting" seem to be crucial for maintaining a DSB reeftank. I am almost sure that the disruption of the DSB releases undesirable organics/nutrients into the water column. I would be interested in reading from fellow hobbists who have large goby populations or other DSB disrupting citizens regarding the augment in algae blooms. Cromagnum's experience surely does seem to strengthen my observation.
I will be posting pics of my tank soon.
 

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Yeah! I had a large female maroon that loved fanning the DSB with her large tail! She was returned to the LFS along with my puffer and large yellow tang!:)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
"The only place I have ever seen cyano is on the top of the sand in a couple of places. I solved this problem by siphoning out both the cyano as well as about 2" down in the sand."
This does seem a useful solution to remediate the immediate problem. I will take your advice. Since the Tomato has already shifted the sand, I will siphon the affected areas. But, as a long range preventive measure I am considering mixing in irregular sized live sand and let the system recycle AGAIN!
Montana: My Tomato won't even let me put my hand into the tank. When I do it attacks. It even attacks the glass cleaning magnet when it moves! I know that these clowns are territorial, but this is downright unfriendly. I guess this behavior means that it feels very comfortable in the tank.
 

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Maroon, Cinammon and Tomatoes , esp when they get size are hellions, remember they are essentially damsels in pretty pajamas. The Pomacentrids are genetically closely linked with Cichlidae, go figure ;)
 

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hmmm i guess that makes sense. i was under the impression it was moving a little sand. but that deep into the sand bed, i guess could causea problem.

btw: seeing you guys say these things about the tomato's and cinnamons, is odd. my cinnamon does none of this. it's friednly with the other fish, i catch them schooling a lot (the blue damsel, coral beauty, and the cinnamon) they all eat from my hand, and it never disturbs my substrate. it actually is rarely even near the very bottom of the tank.

hmm, am i jsut getting lucky, or do i jsut have retarded fish? :)
 

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You know, I don't know that it really had much to do with it. FWIW, I have had powerheads come loose of a couple of occasions and blow our 5" DSB down to the bottom glass. We never had any problems result, other than a sandstorm and some unhappy clams. We also had a 6" twin-spot wrasse who liked to bury himself in the sand. No problems there either. (Except that he kept rearranging and burying my frags!)

Oh, and our 3 year old tank just went through a diatom and cyano bloom - with no provocation I could think of.

I'd think it was more a coincidence, but I'm sure you'll be watching extra carefully now.

Welcome to the board!
Danielle
 

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here is a small example of the daily trashing my clownfish does to my tank. i had just releveled the tank's substrate in that area before i left this afternoon, now that i'm back, so is the divot. i think tomarrow i will relocate the bta somewhere up and away from the bottm of the tank.....
:cool:
 

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I took out most of my LR and coral and put them in a rubbermaid container and the maroon was caught and took a trip to the LFS. It took about two hours to complete the eviction but well worth it!!:D
 

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where the clown came from?

Did you pour any of the water from the "bag" into your tank? What I am getting at is if the fish came from a tank that had cyno in that tank, then spores could have also been in the water in which you carried the fish home in. If you let that water enter your tank. you could have "seeded" your tank with cyno spores.
 

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Hmmmm...

Actually the situation is most likely a combination of all the things that folks have discussed here so far. Cyanobacterial blooms occur because either:
  • nutrients become excessive (especially phosphate and nitrate)
  • Lighting is excessive or red-shifted (old bulbs)
  • current is low in some areas
  • a lack of competition for the available nutrients
  • "new" real estate
  • no or few consumers at the next level of the food chain
In a tank that is so new, there is usually little competition in terms of benthic microfauna (other microalgae, macroalgae, clams, etc.) that will compete for the nutrients from decaying foodstuffs. Many reefers often think that the maturation cycle is finished once the ammonia and nitrite go to zero and the nitrates start to rise, but in truth, especially in reef tanks, the process is just starting. Cyanobacteria is an essential part of the nutrient food chain that is responsible for the movement of nutrients through the closed system of a tank in a manner that supports a multitude of life forms. Think of the Cyanobacteria as the grass that is planted in an open field to support cattle. It needs nitrogen and light to grow, and if there are enough consumers of the grass, the grass will not get knee deep. Many grazing creatures will depend on the grass and its byproducts as it grows, and their waste products help develop the pasture's ability to grow more grass. This analogy can even be taken to the extreme when considering the underground worms, bugs, etc., that all occupy specialized niches in the pasture.

As the benthos of a closed system sandbed develops, Cyanobacteria will bloom each time there is an excess of nutrients, especially after feedings. As you introduced the clownfish, you introduced its feedings and nitrogenous waste products as well. The tank will in time mature to increase its capacity to handle these substances, but for now, expect cyano blooms until the cyano's competition can catch up with the available nutrients. Flake food is especially high in phosphate, but so is most high protein "wet" food. Heavy skimming will help control these nutrients by removing them and their resulting DOM's before they are broken down into their constituents. Another method of removing the nutrients already available is to siphon out the cyano mat at the end of the photoperiod. These nutrients that are fueling the bloom cycle make up the bulk of the biomass of the cyano, and at the end of the photoperiod, the cyano has ingested as much as is available to support its growth. After the lights go out, the mass will disintegrate, releasing a large portion of these nutrients back into the water column, where they will fuel the next cycle of the bloom when the lights come back on. Removal via siphoning not only cleans up the appearance of the tank, but removes the nutrients that drive the next day's bloom.

Having the clown move the substrate exposes fresh new real estate that has not developed a biofilm in new tanks with new substrate. In the long run, this is good, as these biofilms compete with Cyanobacteria on the surface of the substrate granules for available nutrients. This helps suppress cyanobacterial blooms, but until tht happens, each time the substrate is rearranged, there will most likely be some small bloom. IN addition, if the substrate has not fully developed its ability to denitrify yet, the substrate is a sink of nitrogen and nitrogenous byproducts, and disturbing it will release these substances back into the water column. Even worse, these "dunes" will now create eddies of slow or still water on the substrate as they block current, further increasing the ability of Cyanobacteria to bloom.

If you have lagoonal organisms that use large amounts of dissolved nutrients to fuel their growth (Corallimorphs, Zooanthids, many Octocorals, etc.), the chances of having cyano blooms is reduced even further. Clams utilize large amounts of nitrogen (even ammonia!!!) as they synthesize proteins and build biomass, competing (very successfully) for the nitrogen in the water column, making it unavailable to drive cyano blooms.

Having a number of cyano-consuming-organisms helps to keep cyano in check. This includes some species of bristle-toothed tangs, as well as the infamous Strombus gigas and related conchs. If your system is young, you may want to find someone that has a mature tank and no cyano problems for a scoop of sand. Peter Wilkins has suggested that systems that are cyanobacterial-bloom-free have a sufficient number of diverse benthic organisms that are capable of utilizing Cyanobacteria spp. for their food source. The blooms may still be occurring, but are not evident as the blooms are consumed before they become visible to an observer.

Many folks have Cyanobacteria blooms for the first 6 to 12 months that they have a new setup, but this would be considered just another step in the maturation process of the sandbed. Having a sump with macroalgae growths will help control these blooms and also supply a microhabitat that many cyanobacterial consumers need to grow and multiply. Not only will macroalgae reduce the available nutrient resources, but they will indirectly provide consumers of the blooms as well. In addition, harvesting the macroalgae will remove many of the substances that can accumulate over time in the sandbed.

Sorry to ramble on so long here, but what you've described is part of the normal maturation process of a closed system. It sounds to me that you're well on your way to a successful DSB system.:D

HTH
 

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Tom,
Great reply!! Thanks for describing the process in plain english. Us non-scientists appreciate it. Bob
 

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Tom Great post!

I have tanks set up for 3 years or more were sand is moved all the time. Some by clowns, most by pistol shrimp. No cyno in them.

Ray
 

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i was wondering about jsut that tom. mostly because there are so many critters to buy that are intended to stir up your sand bed. such as sand stirrer stars and the various burrowing fish, cucumbers, etc...

i would think all of those things would stir the sand up as much, if not more than a clown. which is why i was confused about that upsetting the balance.
 

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thefatman said:
i was wondering about that... ...because there are so many critters to buy that are intended to stir up your sand bed. such as sand stirrer stars and the various burrowing fish, cucumbers, etc...
In terms of what you want, some sand stirrers are better than others.

The sand sifting sea stars and Sand Dollars are echinoderm omnivores that consume benthic macro and microfauna that are necessary for the processing of carbon through the sand bed. Some species of gobies and related fishes are also not so good in that they sift through the sand to consume these same organisms. Sea stars that would be better choices would be Linckia laevegata and related Linckia spp. along with Fromia and a few other detritus and surface film feeders.

Sea cucumbers, especially the Holothurians are great in that they minimally move the sand, the digest only the bacterial biofilms of the sand, and they pretty much put it back nice and clean in about the same place. They do not actively prey on the benthic microfauna, and the "cat turd" ugly ones are of minimal potential disaster when they eviscerate (and will do so only when extremely provoked or threatened), Interesting behavior associated with these creatures is that they will turn VERY rigid when picked up or moved, and may stay like this for some time when disturbed (just to be safe, don't do this in a closed system, the ocean has a much larger distribution volume...:eek: )

In most mature sand beds with good benthic populations, there is little need to have "sand stirring" creatures like the sand stirring sea stars and fishes to move the substrate, as the minute jostling and moving of each sand granule by the burrowing activity of these benthic populations provides all the necessary movement to prevent clumping and provide movement of interstitial waters (free water) between levels of the substrate. This system has limitations, but good sand bed management and husbandry practices will prolong the useful lifespan of a DSB almost indefinitely (the key is in its management).

Good thread in "the think tank", I just wish I had the time to get caught up enough to contribute on a regular basis.

HTH
 
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