Chaeto: at my wits' end

merickson45

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I'm hoping someone can point out something I'm not seeing here. Main problem is the same as many other threads about chaeto dying, but I'm starting to think the reason is something that I don't/can't test for and dose/remove.

Any chaeto I put in my RSR 170 DT sump consistently dies a slow death, first turning white/clear in spots and then into a soft brown goopy mess. I'm running Triton, though the daily dosage is small since my corals are still small. Tank is around 1 year old and nitrate and phosphate are stable ~10ppm and ~0.1ppm respectively, tested with Red Sea Nitrate Pro and Hanna ULR. I've tried dosing chaetogro. I've tried dosing iodine. I've tried adding a small powerhead in the fuge for more flow, and removing it for less flow. I've tried an 18w red/blue Luxbird grow light, a 75 watt 5k flood, a 120 watt 5k flood, and a Kessil H380. I've tried 6h, 8h, and 12h photoperiods on each. Result is always the same, chaeto dies slowly.

Recent ICP tests have shown somewhat elevated tin and low iodine, but otherwise nothing strange. Been doing weekly 15% water changes for the tin, and dosing iodine did nothing for the problem, as I mentioned above.

However, I throw the same exact chaeto in a 5gal bucket, no flow, no water changes, no chaetogro/iodine dosing, simple 18w red/blue grow light or 75 watt 5k and it will grow fine as long as I periodically dose nitrate and phosphate. Sometimes I even forget to top off the bucket for a week and it's all good...

Any idea what's going on? Chaeto is by far the hardest organism to keep alive that I've ever kept in a reef tank, and I feel like that shouldn't be the case...
 

Glenner’sreef

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Having a clean refugium section in your sump isn’t a bad thing. My pod population and nitrates are fine in my 180 reef. It’s just the way it is in this hobby. Half can do or grow something that the other half can’t. Crazy but true. Enjoy the hobby. :)
 
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merickson45

merickson45

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Thanks, I agree, it does seem that anecdotally chaeto is a temperamental diva that either chooses to grow or not and there's nothing we can do about it. However, my scientific side has a problem with that concept, hoping someone has a better understanding and has seen something I've missed.
 

Glenner’sreef

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Thanks, I agree, it does seem that anecdotally chaeto is a temperamental diva that either chooses to grow or not and there's nothing we can do about it. However, my scientific side has a problem with that concept, hoping someone has a better understanding and has seen something I've missed.
I hear ya!
 

afrokobe

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Following along as I am setting up my refugium this weekend. I read several of these threads and most seem to be resolved by dosing chaetogro or some other nutrients. Since you already done so, I'm not sure what else. I did see on another thread, someone suggested putting some in the DT and see if it will grow there instead.
 
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Iron is, imo, a much more important trace element than iodine when it comes to chaeto. Have you checked to make sure that isn't low?
 
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merickson45

merickson45

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Have you ever used vibrant or "tank cleaning" bacteria?

It's funny you should ask, as I was reading the above comments, I started thinking about exactly this. I dosed Vibrant a couple times around 6-8 months ago because of a misguided attempt to solve a different issue. I stopped after getting nervous about the potential problems it can cause and haven't dosed it since. I also dosed Microbacter 7 during initial cycle, a decent amount more than the Vibrant, before I understood later that it possibly contains similar bacteria to Vibrant. However, I also used One and Only and BioSpira to cycle, much more than the Microbacter 7.

From what I understood, the bacteria in Vibrant doesn't stick around and reproduce in reef tank conditions, so I wouldn't expect it to have an effect 6months after the last dose. Is that not true? I do like where you are going with this, since Vibrant is known to knock out macro algae, but I don't know enough about how it works to judge if the chaeto death could be a long term effect of past Vibrant dosing.
 
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merickson45

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Iron is, imo, a much more important trace element than iodine when it comes to chaeto. Have you checked to make sure that isn't low?

Chaetogro lists iron as an ingredient. My ICP always shows zero iron, even when dosing chaetogro, but from what I've read ICP has trouble picking up trace amounts of iron. Also, the fact that the chaeto grows fine for months in a bucket with no water changes and no chaetogro dosing makes me think it's not the issue in my situation.
 

afrokobe

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It's funny you should ask, as I was reading the above comments, I started thinking about exactly this. I dosed Vibrant a couple times around 6-8 months ago because of a misguided attempt to solve a different issue. I stopped after getting nervous about the potential problems it can cause and haven't dosed it since. I also dosed Microbacter 7 during initial cycle, a decent amount more than the Vibrant, before I understood later that it possibly contains similar bacteria to Vibrant. However, I also used One and Only and BioSpira to cycle, much more than the Microbacter 7.

From what I understood, the bacteria in Vibrant doesn't stick around and reproduce in reef tank conditions, so I wouldn't expect it to have an effect 6months after the last dose. Is that not true? I do like where you are going with this, since Vibrant is known to knock out macro algae, but I don't know enough about how it works to judge if the chaeto death could be a long term effect of past Vibrant dosing.
I'm glad I'm reading this thread. I went out and bought some vibrant last weekend after hearing great things about it. Good to know that it will kill off macro. Anyone know how long after dosing vibrant, I can add back in macro or if at all?
 
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merickson45

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I'm glad I'm reading this thread. I went out and bought some vibrant last weekend after hearing great things about it. Good to know that it will kill off macro. Anyone know how long after dosing vibrant, I can add back in macro or if at all?

Glad my suffering can potentially be of some use! :p
 

PeterC99

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Growing chaeto involves 3 things: Nutrients, Lighting, and Flow. Looks like your PO4 & NO3 are ok. So what are you using for lights and schedule and how’s the flow through the chaeto?
 

Dragonsreef

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It's funny you should ask, as I was reading the above comments, I started thinking about exactly this. I dosed Vibrant a couple times around 6-8 months ago because of a misguided attempt to solve a different issue. I stopped after getting nervous about the potential problems it can cause and haven't dosed it since. I also dosed Microbacter 7 during initial cycle, a decent amount more than the Vibrant, before I understood later that it possibly contains similar bacteria to Vibrant. However, I also used One and Only and BioSpira to cycle, much more than the Microbacter 7.

From what I understood, the bacteria in Vibrant doesn't stick around and reproduce in reef tank conditions, so I wouldn't expect it to have an effect 6months after the last dose. Is that not true? I do like where you are going with this, since Vibrant is known to knock out macro algae, but I don't know enough about how it works to judge if the chaeto death could be a long term effect of past Vibrant dosing.
After 6 months i cant see vibrant still being an issue unless youve had alot of algae for it to feed on. The one and only and biospira are nitrifying bacteria and wouldnt cause any issues. I dont know enough about the microbacter 7 but sounds like it was also nitrifying bacteria.

But i see also of people using vibrant and having macro algae issues so i wanted to make sure that wasnt the problem. Sounds like youve tried just about everything. Could you post a picture of the refugium? It might help
 
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merickson45

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Absolutely, will do later, at work right now. I just removed the last batch of dead chaeto yesterday, which lead to this post, so you will see dead bits and pieces all over. Also, I added some Ulva to try a different species. I'll post when I get home.
 
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Dragonsreef

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If we still cant find a solution after id try some caulerpa instead of ulva. That stuff is nearly unkillable and way more hardy than cheato. Ulva melted for me and i grow a few different macros including cheato.
 
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merickson45

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If we still cant find a solution after id try some caulerpa instead of ulva. That stuff is nearly unkillable and way more hardy than cheato. Ulva melted for me and i grow a few different macros including cheato.

Unfortunately I'm in California, where I believe Caulerpa is illegal :-(
 
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merickson45

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Just want to add one more bit of information that might be relevant. Earlier on, when I first set up the tank, there was a time when the chaeto I put in exploded with growth, even under a relatively weak 9-18watt red/blue grow light. However, after growing well for a time, it then also died the same way as mentioned above. At that time, I measured 0 nitrate and phosphate, so I'm pretty sure the problem was the chaeto absorbing all the nitrate and phosphate, which I didn't catch in time, leading to it's death.

This is just to say that chaeto has been able to grow in the system before, but now it never even starts growing, just idles for a while then dies.
 

PeterC99

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See above, I've tried a variety of conditions for both.
To me that means you haven’t found the right conditions. Can you post a pic of your Refugium?

This is my simple egg crate Refugium with Neptune GRO Refugium light.

F76F1B11-D176-4011-8156-542A638D208D.jpeg
 
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