Am I ready for acros?

killergoby

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I'm sure a lot of these get posted, but here goes.

My newest tank was set up July 2020. I used primarily marco and RealReef rock for the aquascape, which is all dry. Its a barebottom with a ~50% display water volume refugium with a sand bed in the fuge. The refugium has xenia and caulerpa in it. I converted a previous tank with much less rock work to provide the rock work in the refugium and ~10% of the rock work in the display, along with all the sand in the refugium. The converted tank was up for 1 year but was neglected during 4 months of quarantine away prior to setting up the new system. Everyone always says that the mark for acropora readiness is that you're growing coralline algae (and I am), but I don't necessarily buy that as a useful metric for Acros. In the previous tank I had coralline growth since the first month, but I would not have had any reasonable expectation of success with acropora. I have a significant growth in this tank of filter feeding hitchhikers including sea squirts, mussels, and pineapple sponges. I've seen reasonable growth out of montipora and porites frags since August. I put in one birdsnest as a tester but natural sunlight fried it in a day or two when the seasons changed and the direct sunlight angled through the window onto its lower position in the tank. I have had significant use of calcium and carbonate (mostly from calciferous filter feeders and coralline, given the quantity of uptake) and I replenish right now with kalkwasser in the ATO reservoir and supplemental carbonate/bicarbonate addition to balance out greater uptake of carbonate than calcium. I add the CO3/HCO3 when the buffering capacity of the tank decreases given the pH swings daily. I've attached a graph of typical pH over a week and pictures of coralline/filter feeders. I haven't kept acropora since 2014, and the current system has nothing older than 1.5yrs old after a break from the hobby. Last time I kept acropora my tank was several years old and I only kept them for a year or so before leaving the hobby.

My big question is: short of buying a tester acropora which I may not like, how will I know that the tank will support acropora without buying some desirable frags and risking it? I don't like paying significant money for shipping, and so when I buy a pack of acropora I want them to be of sufficient number and quality to rationalize the shipping costs.

Tank details in bullet form:
-July Marco and RealReef rock dry for main aquascape
-1YO rock and sand from previous reef, mostly in refugium
-Barebottom display
-Xenia & Caulerpa refugium, 50% volume of display
-ATO Kalk and supplemental CO3/HCO3 to steady pH buffering
-COR15 return pump with VCA random flow eductors
-Dual gyre pumps, one opposite to return, one in back left oriented vertically (Currently running 30% except in surge)
-Coralline covering 50% of marco rocks now
-Mussels, sea squirts, pineapple sponges since mid-August
-Oversized skimmer running overnight
-LED's running at 23% white and 45% blue, 6.3 Watts per gallon
-Supplemental T5's Blue+ running 4hrs a day, 0.75 Watts per gallon

Fish:
-Yellow Tang
-4 Lyretail anthias
-2 Dispar Anthias
-1 Carberryi Anthias
-Banggai Cardinal
-2 Percula clownfish
-Bicolor Blenny
-Orchid Dottyback

Corals:
-Favia
-Goniastrea
-Porites (Sanddollar and more traditional varieties)
-Montipora (Encrusting, plating, aequituberculata)
-Turbinaria
-Sun coral (Tubastrea)
-Button Scolymia
-Acan Echinata
-Lords
-Bowerbanki
-GSP
-Zoas/Palys
-Ricordea
-St Thomas Coral
-Chalice
-Cyphastrea (Only ones not doing well, I suspect too much light)
-Duncans
-Gorgonians (Real + Corky Sea Fingers)
-Goniopora

None of these corals pass the 50% height of the tank except for the tyree aequituberculata and the tips of the corky sea fingers

IMG_7508.jpg Screen Shot 2020-11-13 at 11.37.15 AM.png IMG_7675.jpg
 
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vetteguy53081

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You can start with the easier and forgiving acros and progressively graduate to others.

birdnest
Cliffs
Stylo
Monti
Bonsai
 
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killergoby

killergoby

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You can start with the easier and forgiving acros and progressively graduate to others.

birdnest
Cliffs
Stylo
Monti
Bonsai

So given that I've had consistent montipora growth, you would suggest trial corals? Is there any other way to determine acropora readiness?
 

vetteguy53081

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So given that I've had consistent montipora growth, you would suggest trial corals? Is there any other way to determine acropora readiness?
Your parameters
Many share common parameter requirements

alk. 8/9
Mag. 1300
Ca. 450
Salinity 1.025
Temp 77-79
 
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HB AL

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I would try some at this point since a little of the rock was live and if your current corals are doing good. Any acropora you put in there now or say a few months later in reality is gonna be a "tester", I would buy a few different types and see how it goes. Other option is to wait atleast a few more months. If you get some just get a few $20 to $30 frags from your lfs and don't get tempted by the nice expensive frags. If they do good for say a couple months then I would start slowly adding ones you want.
 
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killergoby

killergoby

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Your parameters
Many share common parameter requirements

alk. 8/9
Mag. 1300
Ca. 450
Salinity 1.025
Temp 77-79

Salinity 1.026
Temp 76.8-78.0

I haven't done any recent testing outside of Apex pH and other probe measurements as I haven't replaced any kits recently. I do a 10% weekly water change (total volume) with red sea coral pro salt. If I were to start Acros I would begin testing again but for the LPS and easy SPS I have it isn't really necessary. Nitrate and Phosphate were at 0 for the first 3 months of the tank (the new dry rock absorbs ions at a shocking rate) and now NO3 and PO4 are quite low thanks to the caulerpa growth. Little/no algae growth in the display in the last few months since the initial burst on new dry rock.
 

vetteguy53081

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chris_pull

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I am in a similar position with my tank. My buddy, who sells corals as a sideline, had an SPS sale a few weeks back. I picked up a few $5 acro frags just to see how they'd do. I had a little bit of tissue loss, and I mean really tiny. They already grew back and one has even managed to start growing over the rock. I went for cheap species so it's not a huge loss if they don't make it!
 
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Jenuvio

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I am in a similar position with my tank. My buddy, who sells corals as a sideline, had an SPS sale a few weeks back. I picked up a few $5 acro frags just to see how they'd do. I had a little bit of tissue loss, and I mean really tiny. They already grew back and one has even managed to start growing over the rock. I went for cheap species so it's not a huge loss if they don't make it!

What's your tank size and parameters?
 

ScottB

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I see you have anthias, so you must be feeding frequently?

If you are feeding frequently, but don't have residual nutrients to measure, you might still be OK.

I'd look around to see if there are any local hobbyists that you could source acropora inexpensively.
 

DivingTheWorld

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Salinity 1.026
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I haven't done any recent testing outside of Apex pH and other probe measurements as I haven't replaced any kits recently. I do a 10% weekly water change (total volume) with red sea coral pro salt. If I were to start Acros I would begin testing again but for the LPS and easy SPS I have it isn't really necessary. Nitrate and Phosphate were at 0 for the first 3 months of the tank (the new dry rock absorbs ions at a shocking rate) and now NO3 and PO4 are quite low thanks to the caulerpa growth. Little/no algae growth in the display in the last few months since the initial burst on new dry rock.
It sounds like your flow and lighting is good. But for acros, I'd recommend testing for PAR. You could have the best lighting out there, but if it's turned down to 150 PAR, you're not going to grow acros.

Regarding testing, corals (especially acros) is all about water chemistry. You need to know what your parameters are and that they're not jumping around like they tend to do on newer tanks. I'd recommend you start testing now for:

Salinity (what are you using to test?)
Alk (may be sky high due to RSCP salt)
Cal
Phos
Nitrate
Phos

Get some quality test kits like Salifert, Red Sea or Hanna.

When all that is squared away, the real question is if your tank biome is ready. Is it properly seasoned and stable? Probably not, but you can test by buying a couple inexpensive acros and see how they do.
 
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killergoby

killergoby

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It sounds like your flow and lighting is good. But for acros, I'd recommend testing for PAR. You could have the best lighting out there, but if it's turned down to 150 PAR, you're not going to grow acros.

Regarding testing, corals (especially acros) is all about water chemistry. You need to know what your parameters are and that they're not jumping around like they tend to do on newer tanks. I'd recommend you start testing now for:

Salinity (what are you using to test?)
Alk (may be sky high due to RSCP salt)
Cal
Phos
Nitrate
Phos

Get some quality test kits like Salifert, Red Sea or Hanna.

When all that is squared away, the real question is if your tank biome is ready. Is it properly seasoned and stable? Probably not, but you can test by buying a couple inexpensive acros and see how they do.
Not sure how this thread got revived, but you're right about the testing. I was doing sporadic testing and lost most of my first set of acros (mid november) and all of my new seriatopora. I went to daily testing of alkalinity and weekly calcium + magnesium and I haven't had any losses since then. Much better polyp extension on the acropora as well. Still haven't tried any new birdsnest but the acros are doing well and I'm getting even better growth out of my montipora. Porites are also taking off. Only coral not doing well besides birdsnest is a turbinaria which always has good polyp extension but hasn't grown any discernible amount in the last 3-4 months, even consulting pictures to check if it was just a small amount of growth.

Parameters are:
Cal- 420 (Ranges 400-425 Red Sea)
Alk- 9.7 this morning (Ranges 8.8-9.7 Salifert)
Magnesium- 1410 (Lowest 1320 Jan 4th Salifert)
pH 8.27-8.42 last 24hrs (Month's highest 8.45, lowest 8.23 Apex, Recalibrated Jan 11)
Temp 77.8-78.2

I don't believe in the whole Nitrate & Phosphate snake oil. If algae is growing, I haven't had issues with corals having nutrients. I also feed 5x daily for my 11 anthias so there's a constant source of poop which sustains my Sun Corals even in the absence of any direct feeding.

As for light, I measured my lux at the water's surface and I think the seriatopora deaths may have been related to too much light. I have .6 Watts of Cree LED & .08W T5 per square inch of tank surface, or 79W LED and 10W T5 per square foot. I measured lux above 50,000 at the surface without my daylight LED's, and the tank also gets direct sunlight through a neighboring window which hits the main panel sunrise & sunset at about a 45 degree angle for ~30 minutes each. I dialed the LED's back to 20% colored and 40% blues and lowered my photoperiod and that seemed to make no change in growth rate or coloration. Some Zoas at the bottom which were partially shaded are now reaching for light but otherwise there was no discernible difference.

My surface level lux measurements:
Early light: 1800 Lux center, 80 Lux along trim
Mid level lighting: 28000 Lux center, 8000 Lux along trim
Highest peak lighting: 38000 Lux center, 9000 Lux along trim
*** These numbers were taken at night without the natural sunlight, which comes from a different angle and wouldn't be measured at the surface under the canopy anyways.
(These numbers are for "center" being everything not within 3" of the border of the tank. The LED array is very diffuse, not a puck system.)

I won't be adding any more corals for the next couple of months but I'll update this thread if the current acropora that are left die or grow by the time I make my next coral purchase, around mid-March. My concern was always that the only lacking step was biodiversity or "tank maturity", as I have never gotten an answer for what exactly that is. Since losing a few of the new arrivals (including all the seriatopora), I retested everything and discovered the excessive lighting and the alk swings due to uptake changing when the natural sunlight levels changed. At some times of year the light is blocked more because of the angle it enters the room/tank. The coralline takes off wherever the natural sunlight hits and increases Ca/Alk uptake considerably, but when the natural sunlight is blocked (as it was in December until early January) the alk swings much more, as I was previously adding Kalk to compensate for weekly uptake numbers in September-November. Now I am testing daily and dialing in the Kalk additions based on that. Much greater Alkalinity stability that way.
 
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killergoby

killergoby

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Current Acropora stocking (never had any tissue loss on arrival, think the bleaching in late Nov-early December was due to excessive light or alkalinity swings):

-ORA Pearlberry x1
-Acropora granulosa x1
-Acropora yongei (only purple, no green) x1
-Acropora desalwii x1
-Acropora valida x1
-Acropora Loisettae x1
-Unidentified Acros (x2)

I labeled the pearlberry because I usually get told that ORA corals are easier to care for. The others are no-namers or Tyree corals, nothing recent or flashy.
 

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