Balancing nutrients for coral versus algae

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blasterman

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Optimum nutrient levels for most corals and also growing nuisance algae does overlap. However, it's mostly phosphate that drives algae although high nitrate can aggravate it.

You shouldn't be running 0 nitrate anways. Dinos aren't fun and most nuisance algae blooms can be nuked with some turbo snails or vibrant.

Euphyllia has never done well for me even though any SPS , acan or zoa I toss in my tanks grows super fast. Euyphillia are deeper water LPS and they have particular conditions they dont like and I will be danged if I can figure it out.
 
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Timfish

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For starters I's reccommend getting Forest ROhwer's "COral Reefs in the Microbial Seas" (kindle is ~$10). It's an excellent intrroduction to the antagonistic roles corals and algae have and the complex, various and conflicting roles the different types of DOC have in reef ecosystems. As pointed out above you are starving your corals and they are not able to compete with nuisance algae. You're going to have to go through the "uglies" to get corals doing well and out competing algae (I just use manual removal). Here's one of my systems with an ICP test for teh system and the tapwater used for water changes for reference. I'd also recommend reading Aquabiomic's article on establishing healthy microbiomes

90 Gallon Mixed Reef

ATI 90 PBD .jpg

ATI 90 PBD Tap 04-06-19.jpg

Here's four videos you might find informative:

Forest Rohwer "Coral Reefs in the Microbial Seas"

Changing Seas - Mysterious Microbes

Nitrogen cycling in hte coral holobiont

Richard Ross What's up with phosphate"
 

zoa what

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Over 15yrs of reefing and following online forums from multiple sources.... ive seen a countless successful reef tanks where this is their approach:

feed heavy, skim even heavier with a top-notch overrated skimmer, do 10% WCs twice a month

Imo running an ULNS is fruitless

I personally would feed heavier but my skimmer is slightly under-rated at 150g where my total volume is at 200g. When my skimmer dies I'm upgrading to a skimmer rated 2x my water volume.

I truly believe the magic lies in mimicking the Ocean where a ton of nutrients come in and leave quickly.




.
 
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ketchup318

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Hi All

Thanks for the responses... it is true, I am scared of algae =) I had a crazy outbreak at the beginning and it took a long time to get rid of it. At the time it was due to my inexperience with feeding, water changes, etc. But it's left a lasting impression.

I've tried a pincushion urchin a while ago when I had more algae, before turning to NoPox. The urchin seem happy and was mowing down algae, but the a few days after I got it, the spines started falling off. A day or two later, it fell off some rockwork and I guess the CUC went to town. Really sad cause it was so cool looking, but didn't want to risk killing another one until if found out the cause. Never figured out what caused it to die off, so I haven't gotten another one.

I did start with dry rock due to reading stories about hitchhikers and all that. And yes it does look sterile. I've been trying to get coralline to grow, with small chunks of live rock from my LFS, but so far no luck. My goby's home (in the picture) was full of coralline, but it went away for some reason. What's left is what you see, almost pure white with some shades of purple where there used to be coralline.

I am ramping down NoPox and I'm starting to feed a bit more. For a long time, I was feeding a 1/3 cube of Hikari brine shrimp in the morning and 1/3 cube at night. Why such an odd portion? Well, with the same bioload, I started with one cube after work a day. But most of it would settle and the fish didn't look interested. Then it was 1/2 a cube morning and 1/2 night... better, but still left overs. The 1/3 portion seems to keep everyone happy, with minimal leftovers. But I'm ramping that up to 1/2 again... to raise the nutrient levels...
 
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Azedenkae

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Here are a couple pictures of my tank. You can see, even with zero nitrates and 0 phosphates, I do have isolated patches of algae.

I've started to ramp down my nopox dosage. I'm hoping to get it down to zero in about two months. At the same time, I'll try increasing my feeding.

I've tried looking for algae eating fish, but my tank doesn't seem like it's big enough. It's a Red Sea reefer 250 and that's 55 gallons with about a 10 gallon sump. It seems like algae eating fishes seem to need tanks bigger than that, so I'm not sure what I can get. And I'll take a look again, and see what options I have
Oh I did not see this.

Hm... if you cannot get algae-eating fish, how about just a more diverse cuc? I think I see a few snails in your picture. Beautiful aquarium by the way! But anyways, what I did and could suggest is going to a site that specializes in inverts like Salty Underground and just grab one of each snail, mollusc, and hermit crab they offer lol.

Here's their invert list: https://www.saltyunderground.com/3-marine-invertebrates

I was reading through the cuc descriptions and seem like there's something for any type of algae, so yeah, I just got a variety. Don't know how well it really works in practice, though I do see patches of all manners of algae disappearing so... I guess it is working? XD
 
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Massic

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My reef tank is only about 10 months old, but as someone who also enjoys euphyllia coral, I'll just throw my hat in.

I have a 60 gal sumpless tank, fairly heavily stocked with coral and a similar fish bioload to yours, with an intank skimmer rated for 65 gal, and run only GAC to remove the chems to keep the softies and leathers from ticking off my elegance coral. Currently and for the past couple months my ANNP hit 0/0/5/0.06 at its highest, but I do have a little bit of hair and bubble algae, but nothing that can't be removed during bi-weekly water changes.

One thing that I feel I can credit my relatively low nuisance algae to, in addition to having an urchin, 2 turbos, 4 astrea, 4 money cowrie and about 8 hermits, are my display macro. Caulerpa prolifera, dragon breath and gracilaria curtissae. Since neither of our systems have (macro)algae eater fish, you could try adding in macro algae that you find visually appealing to add some more life, movement, color and nutrient competition while helping to keep the brakes on the nuisance algae.
 

Jase4224

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Here are a couple pictures of my tank. You can see, even with zero nitrates and 0 phosphates, I do have isolated patches of algae.

I've started to ramp down my nopox dosage. I'm hoping to get it down to zero in about two months. At the same time, I'll try increasing my feeding.

I've tried looking for algae eating fish, but my tank doesn't seem like it's big enough. It's a Red Sea reefer 250 and that's 55 gallons with about a 10 gallon sump. It seems like algae eating fishes seem to need tanks bigger than that, so I'm not sure what I can get. And I'll take a look again, and see what options I have
Mate your tank is super clean!

I can see that your corals are bleached and I’m going through the same issue you are having but I’m getting my colour back in my corals so I’ll tell you my experience..

1. I had issues with getting too much algae on my rocks despite having [email protected] and [email protected] First off I blew off the rocks as a lot of the hair algae was actually just attached to detritus. Secondly I added LARGE (1.5-2 inch shells) trochus snails. These big guys take down everything in their path and only 3 in my 180 gal display have polished all my live rock within two weeks. I have no algae eating fish either. Super happy with my snails. Lesson: get cleanup crew.

2. Now for my bleached corals .. they are bleached because the nutrients are so low that their zooxanthellae cannot compete with my chaeto ball for nutrients. So I gradually over a few weeks reduced my lighting time from 12 to 8 hours a day. Lesson: allow your zooxanthellae to feed.

3. I turned my skimmer down from 24 hours a day down to 12 hours a day. The skimmer is taking out DOC that corals also feed on. Lesson: your skimmer is there to take out excessnutrients.. not all of them!

4. Add amino acids and vitamins. I use the Quantum Reef bio enhance. The same as RS AB+ but MUCH more affordable and Aussie made but now available in the US. Lesson: your corals don’t have access to food like they do in the ocean so this is our substitute.

Since making these changes in the last month or so I’m getting colour back in my corals so it’s working and I’m happy to see results. My N and P are still 0 but since the filtration has been turned down perhaps my corals are taking more up, but it will take time for the tank to adjust and to get readings again. I’ll keep adjusting the filter down slowly until I get the readings I want. My snails will keep on top of algae growth giving me the freedom to do this without worries of outbreaks.

My advice to would be slow down your use of NoPox and add a handful of trochus snails. Especially if you can get larger ones. Also a small Tomini tang would do just fine in your tank. It’s ok to have algae growth, you just want a balanced cleanup crew to keep it under control so you can raise nutrients safely for corals to use. I wouldn’t add extra food to your tank to raise nutrients as this simply dirties the tank. You are better off slowing down filtration then tuning it upwards as you add more livestock. Once you start getting N and P readings I would start adding corals again. Also bi weekly carbon changes may be stripping your water too well so perhaps try monthly.

Good luck and love your scape!
 

Jase4224

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Easiest answer to coral health.....

Heavy in, heavy out.

In other words....

Feed heavy, and export heavy.
This works great for WWC who have full time staff. In our home tanks heavy in can equal build up of excess rotting food that may not be obvious until you have either high N/P or algae issues. Or if your sand bed is not maintained a bomb.

Heavy in heavy out works when the export system, in tank flow and maintenance match the heavy in can keep up.

I wouldn’t advise a new reefer ‘heavy in’ without explaining how the ‘heavy out’ actually works. Sorry to be pedantic but ‘heavy out’ is more involved than just a bigger skimmer. It’s not that I disagree with the methodology, it’s the ‘easiest answer’ bit that I feel is misleading. In any tank it’s still a process to get to that point and the OP’s tank is immature.
 

Twitchy

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I had a very similar issue when I first set up my tank. no matter how much I fed I could not keep nutrients above 0 which I thought would be fine, so for the 1st year or so I let it be... even though some corals were hard to grow, and everything looked pale. It wasn't until the Dino outbreak that forced my hand, so I had to start dosing, getting NO3 from around 0 to 1 was basically like watching my tank go through a mini cycle, the algae exploded... It looked sooo bad, but after a week the corals all started looking better, the Euphyllia frag I thought I had killed had the tiniest of bits sticking back out the center, and a little lights out mixed with some cleaning eventually got the algae back under control after everything rebalanced at the higher nutrient levels. IMHO If you don't have to clean the thin film off the front glass every week or two, you are most likely starving the corals.
 
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Jase4224

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I had a very similar issue when I first set up my tank. no matter how much I fed I could not keep nutrients above 0 which I thought would be fine, so for the 1st year or so I let it be... even though some corals were hard to grow, and everything looked pale. It wasn't until the Dino outbreak that forced my hand, so I had to start dosing, getting NO3 from around 0 to 1 was basically like watching my tank go through a mini cycle, the algae exploded... It looked sooo bad, but after a week the corals all started looking better, the Euphyllia frag I thought I had killed had the tiniest of bits sticking back out the center, and a little lights out mixed with some cleaning eventually got the algae back under control after everything rebalanced at the higher nutrient levels. IMHO If you don't have to clean the thin film off the front glass every week or two, you are most likely starving the corals.
This sounds about right! Pale corals and dumping in food same as me. I would bet that the excess food you had sitting around on your rocks helped the algae outbreak too. I think dosing N was a good move as it bypasses having to add more food. After all, N comes from rotting food but if it’s just N you need then dosing a pure form is much better IMO.
 

SPS2020

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As for fishes, I have two clownfish, a Firefish, purple Firefish, a yellow watchman goby with a pistol shrimp And a peppermint shrimp. I ordered a 20g clean up crew from reefcleaners about 6 months ago to replenish some snails.
Bristletooth and Zebrasoma Tangs along with a lawnmower blenny will go a long way in algae control.

As others mentioned, your tank is waaay clean.

Cheers!
 

Ardeus

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I wouldn't sacrifice more cuc at this time: you're the clean up crew for a while and you should accept that picking and scrubbing algae off the rock will be part of the maintenance while the tank balances itself.

Your problem is a bacterial imbalance.

Dosing assorted bacteria or even getting a bit of sand from a mature system will help.

A refugium or ATS will also help.

Continuously picking algae will help the bacteria to establish and win the race against the algae.
 
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Belgian Anthias

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Are algae the enemy which must be battled? Or can they be used to restore the nutrient balance?
What about the balance between producers and consumers?
if nutrients are out of balance and some become limited available only those organisms specialized in using essential nutrients at very low availability will dominate. Are corals a member of those specialized organisms, although they are able to survive in nutrient poor conditions.?

Some types of algae and phytho ( photo-autotrophs) are specialised users of inorganic nutrients, some will dominate in phosphate poor conditions, others in nitrogen poor conditions, this if the other essential nutrients are sufficiently availble. Why the focus is always on inorganic Phosphate and or Nirate?

Why nitrate slowely can build up in a well lit aquarium and is not used up? Why the presence of safely stored and usable nitrogen is considered a problem ?

Corals are heterotrphs needing organic carbon, deliverd by their symbiodinium or and by active feeding. In a natural nutrient poor environment ( organics) corals depend on their holobiont wich is a complex comunity of all kind of organisms working toghether and support the growth of symbiodinium wich is part of the holobiont, delivering organic carbon for the coral, needed to build up the energy needed and for growth. Corals are able to manage their own nutrient supply by excreting mucus. ref : MB Anthias 2019

If one is able to battle specialized algae by limiting the nutrient supply, what about the symbiodiunium and the coral holobiont?

Providing and installing a high carrying capacity is based on growth and growth rates, not by limithing growth. That growth can be managed and harvested as desired.

It has been shown high nitrogen availability may support high growth rates during periods of growth favoring conditions (increasing temp, high DOC availability ) and may cause coral bleaching due to phosphorus starvation ( growing to its dead),. To prevent the nutrient reserve may become responsible I prefer nitrogen to become the growth limiting factor and not phosphate. ref: MB CMF De Haes 2020
High phosphate availability stimulates the calcification rate of corals. ref: MB CMF De Haes 2017-2019

In this optic, what about using Nopox? Is preventing growth and competition the solution?
 

drblakjak55

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Keeping fish fifty years. 90g mixed reef five years.
skimmer and chaeto. I dose nothing. Nitrates at 20. Phos at 0.5 last time I tested. 20% water change now monthly. Using Instant Ocean Reef salt. Turkey baste the rocks weekly to eliminate the debris in the cracks which turns into algae food will eliminate algae problem that you don’t look like you have. What salt are you using? Why is your zinc zero? Adding cuc? Why? Why nopox when nitrates so low? Add a herd of chromis to feed and poop.
 
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ketchup318

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Thanks again for all the replies. I have started reducing noPox with the goal of completely stopping by a month or so. NoPox was/is used to control algae by keeping the nutrients low, and it's worked, which is why I'm still using it. Even though the ICP test says 0 nitrates and minimal phosphates, I still see patches of algae, but it's much better now.

I am looking at the Quantum or the Red Sea Energy to get some nutrients back into the tank. I should have known that the pale colors on the coral were an indication that they were being starved. I guess I was too focused on the algae. I really like that you can dose Quantum as you don't need it refrigerated. But at the same time, if it's vitamins and amino acids, I wonder how Quantum can get away with not refrigerating it.

I am also looking at adding a lawnmower blenny or beefing up my CUC, but I'm going to wait on that to see how the tank reacts first. Although I expect an algae bloom due to the increased feeding and lowering of NoPox, I don't want to do too much too quickly.

My PH is monitored by my Neptune and always hovers around 8-8.1; it swings with the day night cycle. Not sure why Zinc is low. My Manganese and Vanadium is also low. I've been reading about trace minerals, may pick up a trace minerals solution, any suggestions? My Iodine is also low, so I think I need to fix that.

Here are my other two pages of the ICP report.
 

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Jase4224

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Thanks again for all the replies. I have started reducing noPox with the goal of completely stopping by a month or so. NoPox was/is used to control algae by keeping the nutrients low, and it's worked, which is why I'm still using it. Even though the ICP test says 0 nitrates and minimal phosphates, I still see patches of algae, but it's much better now.

I am looking at the Quantum or the Red Sea Energy to get some nutrients back into the tank. I should have known that the pale colors on the coral were an indication that they were being starved. I guess I was too focused on the algae. I really like that you can dose Quantum as you don't need it refrigerated. But at the same time, if it's vitamins and amino acids, I wonder how Quantum can get away with not refrigerating it.

I am also looking at adding a lawnmower blenny or beefing up my CUC, but I'm going to wait on that to see how the tank reacts first. Although I expect an algae bloom due to the increased feeding and lowering of NoPox, I don't want to do too much too quickly.

My PH is monitored by my Neptune and always hovers around 8-8.1; it swings with the day night cycle. Not sure why Zinc is low. My Manganese and Vanadium is also low. I've been reading about trace minerals, may pick up a trace minerals solution, any suggestions? My Iodine is also low, so I think I need to fix that.

Here are my other two pages of the ICP report.
Sounds like you are definitely on the right track :) the Quantum is WAY more concentrated, in fact it costs me $50 for a litre and the same amount of doses from the Red Sea would cost me $500. I also like that the Quantum doesn’t fluoresce in the water as the Red Sea would freak out my fish.

As for your zinc etc it might just be easier to do a few larger water changes rather that buying and trying to dose individual elements. It might even be the batch of salt you have.

Good luck!
 

Deyan

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My personal approach which works fine is to set up a schedule for feeding. I feed corals reef roids, oister feast or coral frenzy 1-2 times weekly below recommended amount fish don’t get fed those days but if I feel like it I feed once flakes. 2 days no food - let the fish hunt and clean up! 2 times a week I feed live brine sometimes 3. This all helps out! But of course you gotta do manual removal and personally there’s always a patch here and there of algae - not horrible since the snails and crabs gotta eat. It’s all a balance seriously
 
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