Are low Phosphates killing my coral?

DirtMcGurt

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So I'm finally getting frustrated with this tank.... Its a 75 gallon reef ready with a Trigger 30 sunp and has been up and running for 1 year and 2 months. I try hard to keep good husbandry habits. 15 to 20 gallon water changes every 7-10 days. I dose Redsea Alk and Calcium and run 2 Kessil 360WE lights. The latest parameters are...
Alk: 9.5
Cal: 400
Mag: 1340
Temp: 78-80 F
N03: 10 pom
P04: 0.02
Nitrite: 0.0
Ammonia: 0.0
Ph: 8.2-8.4

The N03 and P04 both swing in a matter of days, it seems. If I do nothing, the P04 will drop to 0.0 and the NO3 seems to rise. It used to be the other way around. I had trouble keeping N03 up and P04 was about 0.08 most of the time. Until hair algae and dinos took over my tank. It was terrible and I almost gave up. After A LOT of cleaning, adding a UV filter, and dosing Neonitro the N03 came up and everything stabilized. My tank was a beautiful thriving reef for about 3 months. With all corals happy and growing noticeably. Until my tang died and got stuck under some rock work. I didnt want to tear my beautiful reef apart to take it out and the crabs seemed to have eaten most of the carcass so I just did a bunch of water changes to get it out. That resulted in the N03 rising to 50 ppm and I lost all chalice frags, most acans, and most other corals are still angry about this. Also, if I let the P04 bottom out, or drop, I get a dusting of diatoms (I'm guessing diatoms but not 100% sure) and my corals seem to be happier if I keep dosing the Neophos. My question is... am I doing this right? If so, will it ever stabilize again this way? Any input is greatly appreciated because this is gonna be the end of my reefing for a while if I can't figure this out.
 

KrisReef

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Nothing is ever stable if there are constant changes. Let it run its course and slowly move the parameters to your target without doing a bunch of manipulating and keeping your hands off might be what the tank is needing?
 

madweazl

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I dont believe your current phosphate levels to be an issue however, if that has been bouncing around between none and some frequently, that could be a contributing factor to poor health. On the same note, have the other parameters been bouncing around? Also, a pair of A360WEs doesnt produce a lot of PAR over a 75g, especially depending on mounting height; above 6" and you'll struggle to break 200 (I have some data here if you're interested in my measurements over the same size tank). Simply feeding the fish more will increase these levels well beyond what you want so I'd start there vice dosing the phosphates (happier fish too).
 
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DirtMcGurt

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Stability is my goal and while everything seems pretty stable, the N03 and PO4 are the two parameters I'm having trouble with. I'm trying to hold 2-5 pom with N03 and I'm not sure where my PO4 should be in relation to that. At this point I've only been doing water changes weekly to keep N03 down and dosing Neophos to keep some phosphates in the tank.
 
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DirtMcGurt

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I dont believe your current phosphate levels to be an issue however, if that has been bouncing around between none and some frequently, that could be a contributing factor to poor health. On the same note, have the other parameters been bouncing around? Also, a pair of A360WEs doesnt produce a lot of PAR over a 75g, especially depending on mounting height; above 6" and you'll struggle to break 200 (I have some data here if you're interested in my measurements over the same size tank). Simply feeding the fish more will increase these levels well beyond what you want so I'd start there vice dosing the phosphates (happier fish too).
My 360's are about 6"-7" from the water surface and top out at 55%. I've tried bumping it up slowly but at 60% my BTA retracted for a few days until I dialed it back again. Thing is.... everything was fine until that spike in N03. But I'll give that info a look just in case. Thanks
 
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Dr. Dendrostein

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So I'm finally getting frustrated with this tank.... Its a 75 gallon reef ready with a Trigger 30 sunp and has been up and running for 1 year and 2 months. I try hard to keep good husbandry habits. 15 to 20 gallon water changes every 7-10 days. I dose Redsea Alk and Calcium and run 2 Kessil 360WE lights. The latest parameters are...
Alk: 9.5
Cal: 400
Mag: 1340
Temp: 78-80 F
N03: 10 pom
P04: 0.02
Nitrite: 0.0
Ammonia: 0.0
Ph: 8.2-8.4

The N03 and P04 both swing in a matter of days, it seems. If I do nothing, the P04 will drop to 0.0 and the NO3 seems to rise. It used to be the other way around. I had trouble keeping N03 up and P04 was about 0.08 most of the time. Until hair algae and dinos took over my tank. It was terrible and I almost gave up. After A LOT of cleaning, adding a UV filter, and dosing Neonitro the N03 came up and everything stabilized. My tank was a beautiful thriving reef for about 3 months. With all corals happy and growing noticeably. Until my tang died and got stuck under some rock work. I didnt want to tear my beautiful reef apart to take it out and the crabs seemed to have eaten most of the carcass so I just did a bunch of water changes to get it out. That resulted in the N03 rising to 50 ppm and I lost all chalice frags, most acans, and most other corals are still angry about this. Also, if I let the P04 bottom out, or drop, I get a dusting of diatoms (I'm guessing diatoms but not 100% sure) and my corals seem to be happier if I keep dosing the Neophos. My question is... am I doing this right? If so, will it ever stabilize again this way? Any input is greatly appreciated because this is gonna be the end of my reefing for a while if I can't figure this out.
I recently made some saltwater , and I forgot why I mostly use real ocean water. The saltwater I made most perimeters way off.
Also I didn't read all replies, but have you done a ICP test?
 

Nano sapiens

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Your posted parameters are within normal reef keeping practices. From what I have read, it seems like your PO4 and NO3 are fluctuating. IME, stabilizing PO4 would take priority (I do this with consistent feeding...others use an additive). For a complex biological system to restabilize this takes time and effort, but if you keep at it it should happen for you.
 

madweazl

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My 360's are about 6"-7" from the water surface and top out at 55%. I've tried bumping it up slowly but at 60% my BTA retracted for a few days until I dialed it back again. Thing is.... everything was fine until that spike in N03. But I'll give that info a look just in case. Thanks
If it's the lighting, it will be a slow demise and poor color. At 55% though, you arent providing too much light for anything. They also produce the most PAR around 60% color; it falls off pretty sharp on either side of that. I'd suspect wandering parameters though.
 
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DirtMcGurt

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I recently made some saltwater , and I forgot why I mostly use real ocean water. The saltwater I made most perimeters way off.
Also I didn't read all replies, but have you done a ICP test?
I've changed to the Fritz pro salt because it matches my parameters more closely but you make a good point. I haven't tested any fresh saltwater in a while so I'll do that and see how it compares. I did an ICP Analysis test just 2 weeks ago and it came back with everything looking good except it said the Arsenic levels were high... maybe it really is but I did some searching and found others that have gotten the same results from that company so I better try a different brand ICP test. Any suggestions?
 
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DirtMcGurt

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Your posted parameters are within normal reef keeping practices. From what I have read, it seems like your PO4 and NO3 are fluctuating. IME, stabilizing PO4 would take priority (I do this with consistent feeding...others use an additive). For a complex biological system to restabilize this takes time and effort, but if you keep at it it should happen for you.
Thanks. That's what I had in mind but didnt know for sure as no one has ever told me to do this. I made a big mistake in the beginning with trying to keep my N03 and PO4 at zero. That was bad advice from someone and poor research on my part.
 
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DirtMcGurt

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Hmm... I didnt know that the PAR is greater around 60% color. That's good info to have going forward.
If it's the lighting, it will be a slow demise and poor color. At 55% though, you arent providing too much light anything. They also produce the most PAR around 60% color; it falls off pretty sharp on either side of that. I'd suspect wandering parameters though.
 

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I read you loud and clear on the nutrient issue. My current tank has had chronic low nutrients since forever. I’ve dosed nitrates and I feed like it’s going out of style. I personally believe if the actual nutrient input is adequate, it matters less what the test shows.

I can tell you that right now my NO3 reads 0 on any titration test and PO4 is 0.03. However, I’m dumping a lot of food in there, so I know the coral are getting something. I’m a big fan of the BRS/WWC “heavy in, heavy out” methodology. I have an oversized skimmer and I do 10-15% water changes every 5 days.

The biggest difference between our tanks on paper is alk level. I also personally believe there’s enough anecdotal evidence out there to support lower alk being ideal when nutrients are low. My alk is around 7 dKh but drops a couple points here and there. This morning was 6.88.

I always hesitate to make recommendations because every system is different. But if I was going to, it would be to feed a bit more and let your alk come down slowly - maybe around 8ish.

I wish you the best of luck, and please feel free to DM me if you want to discuss anything.
 
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DirtMcGurt

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Are you using gfo in the tank? If so cut back the amount or run the gfo reactor for less time.
I've never ran GFO. I do have some carbon in media bags. No reactors are running. For filtration I just have a skimmer and a refugium with litte hair algae. I've always struggled to grow macro algae so I just gave it up for a while.
 

Dr. Dendrostein

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I've changed to the Fritz pro salt because it matches my parameters more closely but you make a good point. I haven't tested any fresh saltwater in a while so I'll do that and see how it compares. I did an ICP Analysis test just 2 weeks ago and it came back with everything looking good except it said the Arsenic levels were high... maybe it really is but I did some searching and found others that have gotten the same results from that company so I better try a different brand ICP test. Any suggestions?
If arsenic a concern, run activated carbon, and refresh as you determine it. Draw back possibly of carbon my throw perimeters off some? Possibly
 

Nano sapiens

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Thanks. That's what I had in mind but didnt know for sure as no one has ever told me to do this. I made a big mistake in the beginning with trying to keep my N03 and PO4 at zero. That was bad advice from someone and poor research on my part.
The 'zero nutrients' idea is an attempt to more closely mimic pristine oceanic reefs where water column dissolved nutrients are typically in very short supply. What wasn't well understood/considered is that a reef produces large amounts of benthic microfauna (in addition to the pelagic micro flora and fauna from the open ocean)...which coral feed on to supply the nutrients that they need for growth and reproduction. Somewhat higher dissolved aquarium nutrient levels help to supply captive coral's with nutrients that they likely aren't getting with the typically restrained particulate/macrofeeds supplied in most reef tanks.
 
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DirtMcGurt

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The 'zero nutrients' idea is an attempt to more closely mimic pristine oceanic reefs where water column dissolved nutrients are typically in very short supply. What wasn't well understood/considered is that a reef produces large amounts of benthic microfauna (in addition to the pelagic micro flora and fauna from the open ocean)...which coral feed on to supply the nutrients that they need for growth and reproduction. Somewhat higher dissolved aquarium nutrient levels help to supply captive coral's with nutrients that they likely aren't getting with the typically restrained particulate/macrofeeds supplied in most reef tanks.
I'm a little too dumb to grab all those big words and have it make sense. Are you saying that "zero nutrients" works in the ocean but not in reef tanks? I'm not trying to over simplify it but I'm just having trouble understanding all that.
 

pharazon

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I'm a little too dumb to grab all those big words and have it make sense. Are you saying that "zero nutrients" works in the ocean but not in reef tanks? I'm not trying to over simplify it but I'm just having trouble understanding all that.
It means that even if nitrates and phosphates are low/near zero on an actual reef, the coral actually have a constant supply of food available.

In a closed system home reef aquarium, that quantity of organic matter isn’t possible or sustainable. We supplement coral nutrition demands with dissolved organics, nitrate and phosphate, instead.
 

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I've never ran GFO. I do have some carbon in media bags. No reactors are running. For filtration I just have a skimmer and a refugium with litte hair algae. I've always struggled to grow macro algae so I just gave it up for a while.
So your only method of nutrient export are water changes? If that is really the case then maybe you need to cut back on your water changes so nutrients accumulate.
 
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DirtMcGurt

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It means that even if nitrates and phosphates are low/near zero on an actual reef, the coral actually have a constant supply of food available.

In a closed system home reef aquarium, that quantity of organic matter isn’t possible or sustainable. We supplement coral nutrition demands with dissolved organics, nitrate and phosphate, instead.
Oh, I see. So that means that I do want some nutrients (N03 and P04) in my tank at home?
 

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