Bacterial Driven System: A Recipe for Success.

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Thanks, all. I had experimented recently with dosing vinegar, 3 ml for total water volume of ~31 gal, which I think is like the very initial day 1 dosage from the charts I've seen. I was doing that once per week. Definitely no bacteria blooms at that rate, and I was clearly going super slow. Would it still benefit my acros even if I were only dosing once or twice per week? In other words, is some extra bacterial food better than none, even if only intermittently?
Thanks again!
I've wondered that too...I think you would still support a higher bacterioplankton population dosing a few times a week than if you didn't dose at all. I'm not sure how quickly those bacteria die but I've read they multiply really rapidly.
 
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Thanks, all. I had experimented recently with dosing vinegar, 3 ml for total water volume of ~31 gal, which I think is like the very initial day 1 dosage from the charts I've seen. I was doing that once per week. Definitely no bacteria blooms at that rate, and I was clearly going super slow. Would it still benefit my acros even if I were only dosing once or twice per week? In other words, is some extra bacterial food better than none, even if only intermittently?
Thanks again!

Double post
 
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Thanks, all. I had experimented recently with dosing vinegar, 3 ml for total water volume of ~31 gal, which I think is like the very initial day 1 dosage from the charts I've seen. I was doing that once per week. Definitely no bacteria blooms at that rate, and I was clearly going super slow. Would it still benefit my acros even if I were only dosing once or twice per week? In other words, is some extra bacterial food better than none, even if only intermittently?
Thanks again!

Yes, you would still see a benefit but proceed cautiously. As well as promoting bacterial growth vinegar will depress ph.

Truthfully, the greatest benefit I see in carbon dosing, besides the bacteria, is the ability to over feed my reef without consequences. This in turn ensures that my corals, between the fish food and bacteria, have more than enough nutrients to grow. Without a means of export(skimmer) it can be very had to replicate in a small reef. If you can do it right, meaning not cause wide variances in specific gravity and temperature, I would conduct 50% water changes weekly and call it good. I conduct 25% every week and it does wonders.

-Sonny
 
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Yes, you would still see a benefit but proceed cautiously. As well as promoting bacterial growth vinegar will depress ph.

Truthfully, the greatest benefit I see in carbon dosing, besides the bacteria, is the ability to over feed my reef without consequences. This in turn ensures that my corals, between the fish food and bacteria, have more than enough nutrients to grow. Without a means of export(skimmer) it can be very had to replicate in a small reef. If you can do it right, meaning not cause wide variances in specific gravity and temperature, I would conduct 50% water changes weekly and call it good. I conduct 25% every week and it does wonders.

-Sonny
Thank you for your insight!
 

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Thanks so much for this guide, it’s very interesting and I’ve been trying it!

How are you keeping nutrients up? It seems just by feeding your fish?

Because I love clams and have a dozen (!) I’m having a hard time keeping nitrates above .5 and detectable PO4 despite medium fish bio load (large queen angel, 7 chromis, pair of clowns, huge domino damsel, and a ~12cm Mappa puffer…yes I know, but he surprisingly doesn’t eat the clams or SPS…) heavy feeding (everyone is fat and grows quickly), and heavy RS AB+ dosing at 75/day (and lately, only running the skimmer a few hours per day), 50mL of liquid phyto per day, and several scoops of BRS reef chili. I think lack of nutrients are why my many of my SPS are faded so badly. Some have color, some quickly go brown or the colors fade a lot. I am Interested to learn from your experience!

I’m dosing 3mL microbacter in the morning along with 2.5mL of the tropic marine product you use. My system is similar in size to yours (~1200 liters). I’m hesitate to dose more due to low nutrient levels. My nutrients were low even before I started dosing bacteria products. I run carbon changed every 3-7 days and no other chemical media.

My clams grow like crazy, SPS are hit or miss (some have started to grow well, most don’t). Lights are HQI/T5. Tank was started with 100% live rock direct from ocean to tank a little over a year ago.

Thanks!
 
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Sì, vedresti comunque un vantaggio ma procedi con cautela. Oltre a promuovere la crescita batterica, l'aceto deprime il ph.

In verità, il più grande vantaggio che vedo nel dosaggio del carbonio, oltre ai batteri, è la capacità di nutrire eccessivamente la mia barriera corallina senza conseguenze. Questo a sua volta assicura che i miei coralli, tra il cibo per pesci e i batteri, abbiano nutrienti più che sufficienti per crescere. Senza un mezzo di esportazione si può benissimo replicare in un piccolo reef. Se riesci a farlo bene, il che significa non causare ampie variazioni di gravità specifica e temperatura, effettuerei cambi d'acqua del 50% settimanalmente e lo definirei buono. Conduco il 25% ogni settimana e fa miracoli.

-Sonny
Hi, the values in the aquarium are: NO3 10mg, PO4 0.05ppm, I continue with 1ml of NP-Bacto-Balance or do you think it is better to increase by 0.5ml thanks
 

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Hi @SunnyX this is great info - thank you so much. I'm having issues with my tank with nutrients and nutrient removal. I have low nitrates and if I don't dose them, they bottom out; with dosing I keep them steadily around 5-10ppm. However, my PO4 is high and if I don't keep it in check, it will increase to 0.3-0.5 and beyond. At that level, I find that there are many SPS that I can't seem to keep healthy, but others that thrive. My tank is about 3 years old, and I have never successfully grown SPS for a long period of time (had some spurts here and there), despite ideal conditions.

Over the past year specifically, I've been in a constant battle trying to keep PO4 down; I tried both GFO and LC for a long time. GFO seemed to be too up-and-down and I couldn't find a good way to balance it smoothly. LC worked (dosed daily into a 5m sock) and kept my PO4 low, but my corals never seemed to be happy (they didn't die, but they were not growing or colorful).

I have never carbon dosed because my nitrates were never an issues. I always just focused on trying to lower and keep PO4 stable around 0.03-0.10 or so.

I then a few weeks ago tried carbon dosing as you described, and stopped the LC. At the onset, I had NO3 of 7ppm and PO4 of 0.08. I have a 165g tank and started with 2ml of NP Bacto Balance daily in the morning, along with 10ml of MicroBacter7. I have a strong skimmer (Bubble King Mini 180) which is running 24/7.

After 2 weeks, my NO3 is at 14ppm and my PO4 increased to 0.16. Also, my SPS corals started to decline in health and the tips of some of them started to die and get algae on them. I didn't change anything in my system other than stopping LC and adding the NP Bacto Balance and MicroBacter7 as noted.

Lastly - I did notice that I had a LOT more coralline algae growth, which is great. My front glass, which never gets coralline on it, has speckles of it everywhere. So it seems like something is working!

Any thoughts on what I could be doing wrong? I started with what I think is a low dose of NP Bacto Balance, and didn't change anything else. But my nutrients are increasing and my corals seem to be hurting more than ever. I have Elimi-NP as well, but haven't used it yet.

My final note would be that all of my other parameters are what reefers would consider ideal for SPS - these have been backed up with numerous ICP tests and personal testing with various test kits (I gravitate mainly to Hanna - PO4 and Nitrate are both through Hanna).

Thanks for any insight you have!
-Scott
 
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Hi @SunnyX this is great info - thank you so much. I'm having issues with my tank with nutrients and nutrient removal. I have low nitrates and if I don't dose them, they bottom out; with dosing I keep them steadily around 5-10ppm. However, my PO4 is high and if I don't keep it in check, it will increase to 0.3-0.5 and beyond. At that level, I find that there are many SPS that I can't seem to keep healthy, but others that thrive. My tank is about 3 years old, and I have never successfully grown SPS for a long period of time (had some spurts here and there), despite ideal conditions.

Over the past year specifically, I've been in a constant battle trying to keep PO4 down; I tried both GFO and LC for a long time. GFO seemed to be too up-and-down and I couldn't find a good way to balance it smoothly. LC worked (dosed daily into a 5m sock) and kept my PO4 low, but my corals never seemed to be happy (they didn't die, but they were not growing or colorful).

I have never carbon dosed because my nitrates were never an issues. I always just focused on trying to lower and keep PO4 stable around 0.03-0.10 or so.

I then a few weeks ago tried carbon dosing as you described, and stopped the LC. At the onset, I had NO3 of 7ppm and PO4 of 0.08. I have a 165g tank and started with 2ml of NP Bacto Balance daily in the morning, along with 10ml of MicroBacter7. I have a strong skimmer (Bubble King Mini 180) which is running 24/7.

After 2 weeks, my NO3 is at 14ppm and my PO4 increased to 0.16. Also, my SPS corals started to decline in health and the tips of some of them started to die and get algae on them. I didn't change anything in my system other than stopping LC and adding the NP Bacto Balance and MicroBacter7 as noted.

Lastly - I did notice that I had a LOT more coralline algae growth, which is great. My front glass, which never gets coralline on it, has speckles of it everywhere. So it seems like something is working!

Any thoughts on what I could be doing wrong? I started with what I think is a low dose of NP Bacto Balance, and didn't change anything else. But my nutrients are increasing and my corals seem to be hurting more than ever. I have Elimi-NP as well, but haven't used it yet.

My final note would be that all of my other parameters are what reefers would consider ideal for SPS - these have been backed up with numerous ICP tests and personal testing with various test kits (I gravitate mainly to Hanna - PO4 and Nitrate are both through Hanna).

Thanks for any insight you have!
-Scott

Scott,

Thank you for posting. If nutrients are on the rise, I would use the Elimi-NP instead of the NP Bacto-Balance as the later version will add NO3/PO4 to your system. That should help things swing back in the other direction, concerning nutrients.

Concerning the SPS, have you had any appearances of bacterial blooms(foggy water) or a sudden or overall reduction in Ph?

Also, is LC simply Lignite Carbon? If so, I would recommend that you keep using it. I also use carbon and change it out every two weeks.
 

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Scott,

Thank you for posting. If nutrients are on the rise, I would use the Elimi-NP instead of the NP Bacto-Balance as the later version will add NO3/PO4 to your system. That should help things swing back in the other direction, concerning nutrients.

Concerning the SPS, have you had any appearances of bacterial blooms(foggy water) or a sudden or overall reduction in Ph?

Also, is LC simply Lignite Carbon? If so, I would recommend that you keep using it. I also use carbon and change it out every two weeks.
Thanks @SunnyX ! No bacterial blooms to speak of recently, and PH stays pretty steady overall. Any time I've used carbon dosing in the past, it has seemed to hurt my SPS corals. Even the caps and monit's, which are usually my best growers and strongest to survive, show signs of stress.

The LC is Lanthanum Chloride - I've used Phosphat-E from Brightwell. I use it very sparingly but it is effective at keeping my phosphates down. My issue is that even with Phosphates at 0.08 and Nitrates at 5-10, my corals just... don't... grow. There are many acros that will just sit there (for months, sometimes over a year) and not grow. They don't die (usually, unless I change something - i.e. start carbon dosing!!!), but they just don't grow.

All other parameters are good. Also noteworthy I have a fuge with Chaeto and the chaeto grows pretty fast.

It's unbelievably frustrating to see all these beautiful coral frags just sit in my tank for months and months and don't grow :( I've had my tank up since 11/2018 and haven't had success growing acros... I've had some monti's and birdsnests grow, but that's about it. Wishing I could pinpoint the issue...
 
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@SunnyX Thanks for the write up, I had been anticipating this one since you mentioned it when you did the coral snow. From what I understand I will want to remove my GFO and Chaeto before I start dosing?

Correct, GFO and Cheeto should be taken offline.

This point here is directed to everyone:

One point of clarity here is if you currently have a system that works for you and is giving good results, stick to it. We all have varied systems and inhabitants. What works well for me may not work well for you, and vice versa. Its admirable that you all are looking to better yourselves but be sure to do so based on your comfort and level of experience. There are many ways to build a successful reef, and this method is but stone in the foundation of your system.

I hope to break out my principles and keys to success soon in my next article. They are the standards that have helped me find success.

-Sonny
 

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Any thoughts on what I could be doing wrong?
Maybe it is just bad advice from my side but I suggest to ignore parameters for a while, just watch the corals and try to find a balance corals seem to like. This is what I would try.

Sorry that I came so lately to this interesting thread :grinning-face-with-sweat:and have to go back now: I think I can contribute something that might explain the differences between scientific findings in reefs and practice in reef aquaria.

I recall one of the older scientific trials using glucose in quite high concentrations. Some skilled reefers at this time already could have told the experimenter that he is dosing too much glucose. If he would have done the maths, he also could have found out that it was enough glucose to consume all oxygen in the water volume he used and kill the coral.

Besides this the situations in reefs and reef aquaria usually are quite different. In reefs you have a constant supply of very low nutrient concentrations and organisms and particles corals feed on to gain additional nutrients. Binding and consuming nutrients in this situation with the possible consequence to starve the corals may be responsible for bad results.

To my knowledge most described "corals diseases" (syndromes of still unclear multi-factorial origin) are not usually seen in reef tanks and are not reproduced in reef tanks.

In contrast to natural reefs you have a lot of rock and substrate surfaces and a small volume of water in tanks. The rocks and substrates may act as buffers for phosphate concentrations and adsorb or release phosphate, depending from concentration and bacterial acitivity.

Bacterial activity itself may denitrify and in this way remove nitrogen, or may fix N2-nitrogen (also called diazotrophy) and release ammonium into the water, depending from quality and quantity of available nitrogen compounds. Organic carbon may provide energy for these processes helping to balance nutrients.

And finally, as Sunny alread pointed out, organic carbon converts inorganic nutrients into coral food the coral polyps can feed on and give the zooxanthellae their nutrient share, while with inorganic nutrients the nutrients get to the zooxanthellae largely uncontrolled and may shift the nutrient balance and the mutualistic relationship into an unwanted direction. To express it in rather unscientific terms, with inorganic nutrients zooxanthellae get egoistic and stop to share with the coral polyps and the heterotrophic members of the coral microbiome. The conversion of inorganic nutrients into food is what may improve coral growth and coloration.
 

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Correct, GFO and Cheeto should be taken offline.

This point here is directed to everyone:

One point of clarity here is if you currently have a system that works for you and is giving good results, stick to it. We all have varied systems and inhabitants. What works well for me may not work well for you, and vice versa. Its admirable that you all are looking to better yourselves but be sure to do so based on your comfort and level of experience. There are many ways to build a successful reef, and this method is but stone in the foundation of your system.

I hope to break out my principles and keys to success soon in my next article. They are the standards that have helped me find success.

-Sonny
I completely agree with, if it’s not broke don’t fix it approach, however I think it could be better. As far as nutrient control goes my system is pretty stable with no3 around 15 and po4 .06 going up to .09-.12 when GFO is getting exhausted, currently my acros show decent growth and coloration. I am interested in carbon dosing 1 to try and keep the nutrients from fluctuating and 2 as a more usable food source for acros. Would you suggest getting those nutrients down more before starting?
 

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Long time carbon Doser here. For some reason on my current tank I can’t seem to get nutrients under control. I am maxed out on my elimi NP Dosage amount and have been for months. My skimmer is plenty large enough as it is rated for a much larger tank than I have. I pull almost a gallon a week of dense black skimmate on my 150 gallon.

I don’t chase nutrients super closely but I do like to test on occasion and lately my nitrate stays at about 5 ppm but my phosphate just skyrockets up to 0.3-0.4 ppm. I do have a pretty well stocked tank with a couple mature tangs and rabbit fish as well as several adult anthias. I would hate to reduce their feeding by much at all because they are all very healthy and active.

I try to avoid using GFO At all costs but I always end up getting shocked when I get a phosphate reading so high and I end up running some. I realize that this is creating instability in nutrients but the carbon dosing just doesn’t seem to be working very well for me like it has years past on previous tanks. Thoughts?
 
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Long time carbon Doser here. For some reason on my current tank I can’t seem to get nutrients under control. I am maxed out on my elimi NP Dosage amount and have been for months. My skimmer is plenty large enough as it is rated for a much larger tank than I have. I pull almost a gallon a week of dense black skimmate on my 150 gallon.

I don’t chase nutrients super closely but I do like to test on occasion and lately my nitrate stays at about 5 ppm but my phosphate just skyrockets up to 0.3-0.4 ppm. I do have a pretty well stocked tank with a couple mature tangs and rabbit fish as well as several adult anthias. I would hate to reduce their feeding by much at all because they are all very healthy and active.

I try to avoid using GFO At all costs but I always end up getting shocked when I get a phosphate reading so high and I end up running some. I realize that this is creating instability in nutrients but the carbon dosing just doesn’t seem to be working very well for me like it has years past on previous tanks. Thoughts?

Hello,

That is strange. I wonder if you may have an imbalance in bacteria specific to reducing phosphates.

Are you dosing any bacteria to the system? I think part of the issue is as we discussed with a lack of biodiversity due to setting up the system without real live rock.

-Sonny
 
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Hello,

That is strange. I wonder if you may have an imbalance in bacteria specific to reducing phosphates.

Are you dosing any bacteria to the system? I think part of the issue is as we discussed with a lack of biodiversity due to setting up the system without real live rock.

-Sonny

Possibly. On my last tank it was never an issue. Vodka kept po4 down under 0.1 at all times, rarely needing anything else.

I’ve always dosed a combo of microbacter 7 and prodibio biodigest on their recommended dosage schedule and amounts. Don’t want to change too much at once. Live rock will be here next Tuesday so I’ll add that and evaluate over a couple months and see what happens
 
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Possibly. On my last tank it was never an issue. Vodka kept po4 down under 0.1 at all times, rarely needing anything else.

I’ve always dosed a combo of microbacter 7 and prodibio biodigest on their recommended dosage schedule and amounts. Don’t want to change too much at once. Live rock will be here next Tuesday so I’ll add that and evaluate over a couple months and see what happens

Sounds like a good plan. You have already heard my spiel on this, but many issues have arisen from the lack of real live rock and quite a number of systems have been corrected by simply adding a small amount of live rock.

In my example, I attempted to setup a smaller reef tank seven or so years back. I had been out for a few years due to illness and decided to wet my thumbs again. Boy, did I struggle. For all my perceived skills and knowledge I could not get SPS to grow. All my parameters were on point but things just didn't work out. I had the sneaking suspicion that I was struggling due to a lack of diversity but never got around to correcting the issue. I was heavily involved at work and doing some home upgrades. That tank was shutdown and remained empty until 2020 when COVID struck.

This time around, I rebooted the tank and used 15lbs of live rock and 50lbs of dry rock. The dry rock was placed in the display and live rock in the sump. In less than a month, I had SPS in the tank that was not only surviving but was now thriving. I was using the same equipment, with the only difference being that I had used some live rock for this setup as obsessed to starting up barren in the previous iteration.

It was a tough lesson to learn but it is why I recommend that everyone have 20-30% of their rock be actual live rock. You will run into much less issues down the line and be setup from the start on the right path. I physically cringe when I see a tank setup with 100% barren rock and resist the urge to step in. Some people will find success without live rock but for many, its a long road to success and if they are not discouraged enough they will see it through.

-Sonny
 

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Sounds like a good plan. You have already heard my spiel on this, but many issues have arisen from the lack of real live rock and quite a number of systems have been corrected by simply adding a small amount of live rock.

In my example, I attempted to setup a smaller reef tank seven or so years back. I had been out for a few years due to illness and decided to wet my thumbs again. Boy, did I struggle. For all my perceived skills and knowledge I could not get SPS to grow. All my parameters were on point but things just didn't work out. I had the sneaking suspicion that I was struggling due to a lack of diversity but never got around to correcting the issue. I was heavily involved at work and doing some home upgrades. That tank was shutdown and remained empty until 2020 when COVID struck.

This time around, I rebooted the tank and used 15lbs of live rock and 50lbs of dry rock. The dry rock was placed in the display and live rock in the sump. In less than a month, I had SPS in the tank that was not only surviving but was now thriving. I was using the same equipment, with the only difference being that I had used some live rock for this setup as obsessed to starting up barren in the previous iteration.

It was a tough lesson to learn but it is why I recommend that everyone have 20-30% of their rock be actual live rock. You will run into much less issues down the line and be setup from the start on the right path. I physically cringe when I see a tank setup with 100% barren rock and resist the urge to step in. Some people will find success without live rock but for many, its a long road to success and if they are not discouraged enough they will see it through.

-Sonny

What are your thoughts on adding wild collected shells/rocks (or glass bottles, in at least one user's case)?
 
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What are your thoughts on adding wild collected shells/rocks (or glass bottles, in at least one user's case)?

Hello,

Glass is not porous so I would perceive that there would be no benefit to adding it to an aquarium. The same would go for the shells.

What you want is live rock from the ocean. With that, you will receive the bacteria within the rocks and all of the other creatures and inhabitants who call that rock home. I don't know the legality of pulling rock yourself directly out of the ocean so make sure to check the laws surrounding such a thing before doing so.

-Sonny
 

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Hello,

Glass is not porous so I would perceive that there would be no benefit to adding it to an aquarium. The same would go for the shells.

What you want is live rock from the ocean. With that, you will receive the bacteria within the rocks and all of the other creatures and inhabitants who call that rock home. I don't know the legality of pulling rock yourself directly out of the ocean so make sure to check the laws surrounding such a thing before doing so.

-Sonny

It might not be porous, but I'd suspect the surfaces of anything found in the ocean contain bacteria which, if kept submerged, would be transferred into the tank too, no?

Assuming that's true, I suppose the question really is whether the quantity/type of bacteria found on less-than-ideal surfaces would be sufficient to carve out a niche in the overall tank biome.

If all we're interested in doing is inoculating the tank with new strains, would adding objects even be necessary? Or could scraping off the objects while held in the tank be sufficient? Again, probably depends on the type/quantity of the organism being introduced.
 
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