dry food = NO3/PO4 = no vacation

pseudorand

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Tank: 120g mixed reef + 20g sump w/ chaeto. ~20" of fish spread across 8 fish. Misc corals, but nothing expensive.

In preparing for a vacation, I switched from 2 cubes frozen per day to dry (mix of brs pellets, Hikari Marine Herbivore Pellet + random flake I had). After one week NO4 is at 30ppm and PO4 is a 0.2ppm. Before this, the tank has been pretty consistent at 5ppm NO3 and 0.1ppm PO4 for over a year. I think I can't go on vacation. :(

Does anyone else get similar results with dry food?

There are compounding variables, but I still suspect the food. Specifically:
* I'd used up my Nyos nitrate test kit and replaced it with Red Sea. This is my first time using the Red Sea. The color is hard to read, but it looked like it was between the 20 and 50 ppm color marks. I also tested with an old (but not expired) API kit (yes, I shook both bottle 2 and the test well for a full minute) and got between the 20 and 40 ppm range. So I'm guessing ~30ppm.
* Two weeks ago I had a doser mishap and raised my Ca to 750+. I've done a water change, and other threads say that's probably not a big deal. It's fallen to 570.
* For unknown reasons, but probably overdosing due to misreading a test, my Mg is unknown but quite high. I switched from Nyos to Red Sea for Mg too, but the Red Sea is reading 3900, 1580 and 3700 this week. Obviously I'm doing something wrong, but I do suspect Mg is high. Other threads say that's also probably not a big deal either.

Some of my zoas and a kenya tree look a bit unhappy (water change happens tomorrow). There does seem to be more algae on the rocks this week too.

I'm supposed to be gone for 2 weeks in July, but I'm thinking making it just one. I thought of turning up my skimmer, but the worst tank disaster I had was mis-adjusting that after a water change, resulting in skimmer overflow and partial tank drain. At least I confirmed my emergency shut-off mechanisms worked, but no flow for a week because the return pump power gets cut would be worse than the nitrates/phosphates.

I can't be the only one with this problem. Or perhaps everyone else with a reef tank spends too much on corals to afford a vacation (I'm almost there, but we're pulling it off this year by visiting family).
 
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monkeyCmonkeyDo

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This is with the feeder feeding everyday? How many times a day?
U can go on vacation...for a week. Lol.

Id make sure to do a wc prior to leaving. Maybe spread the feedings out to every other day so u can enjoy ur vacation?

Good job test running prior to the vacation. Lol
D
 

Suohhen

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I went from feeding only frozen and heavily mysis based which is .01% phosphate to mostly pellet, a mix of TDO and Seaweed Extreme. That mix is somewhere around 20x higher in phosphate and yet the phosphates in my tank never move from .03ppm regardless. It is possible that my tank is just heavily filtered but when I dose sodium phosphate the daily drop is only .05ppm so for me at least pellet food makes 0 difference.
I however am concerned with the dosing accidents. Those numbers might or might not be concerning but dosing usually happens fast and that sudden change can be quite the shock to a system. Zoas are incredibly tuff especially when they are settled in. In fact many corals can seem bulletproof when they adapt to a system but I would suspect the microfauna and other things that make for such biodiversity in a reef tank may have suffered far more especially since you mentioned an increase in problem algae.
I would recommend that you get the dosing locked in and establish some redundancy to make sure overdosing doesn't happen again and as for testing, are they redsea pro kits? If so I would watch some videos on how to use the tests to make sure your doing it correctly and if not I would buy better kits. And lastly get the algae under control because that would be my biggest concern to you going on vacation. It is best to take care of it now and get thing back in balance.
 
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pseudorand

pseudorand

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Maybe you misjudged how potent dry food is compared to frozen food that is mostly water. :)
Yes, obviously. But if I put less in, the big fish gobble it up before the little fish get a bite. Frozen floats around the tank for 3+ minutes and everyone gets some. I have supposedly neutrally botany pellets, but the sink or get eaten pretty quick. And plenty ends up on the substrate where my firefish, royal gramma and wrasse don't eat it.
 
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Suohhen

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Yes, obviously. But if I put less in, the big fish gobble it up before the little fish get a bite. Frozen floats around the tank for 3+ minutes and everyone gets some. I have supposedly neutrally botany pellets, but the sink or get eaten pretty quick. And plenty ends up on the substrate where my firefish, royal gramma and wrasse don't eat it.
It is very possible that your fish just aren't that into pellet right now and you will need to feed it to them for a while before they develop a strong feeding response. It usually takes a few months for me to convert fish to pellet. For reference about a 1/8 tsp of pellet drops for each turn of my auto feeder and I have a 100 gal system.
 
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pseudorand

pseudorand

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It is very possible that your fish just aren't that into pellet right now and you will need to feed it to them for a while before they develop a strong feeding response. It usually takes a few months for me to convert fish to pellet. For reference about a 1/8 tsp of pellet drops for each turn of my auto feeder and I have a 100 gal system.
How do you get that little? I have mine on the smallest slot and I bet I get at least half a teaspoon.

My firefish will just have to starve I guess. To put enough in that he gets some, my nitrates will be off the charts and all my corals will die. I can't catch him to give him away. And if I cancel my vacation, my wife will probably catch him -- and make fish sticks. It's a cruel hobby.

I'll probably dose copepods a few times before I leave and hope for the best. Anyone have any advice on that front? Any types or other live foods that survive for a while that firefish supposedly eat?
 

tehmadreefer

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Take a vacay, your fish won’t starve...They will eat off pods and algae, but no they won’t starve and die.
 
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I've automated my tank and still have reservations about vacations as well.

However, it's more a matter of trust and safety measures.

I'm not sure I would worry too much about increased NO3/PO4. My bet is your tank just needs more export, vacations or no vacations.

My 100gal tank gets 3x a day dry food mix and about two cubes of food. My NO3/PO4 is pretty stable at NO3 < 5ppm and PO4 < .05ppm.
 
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mdb_talon

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I would say drastically cut back on number of feedings rather than amount(so everyone still gets some). They may not be happy about it, but if they only get food every few days for a couple weeks i think the vast majority of fish will be fine.
 
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pseudorand

pseudorand

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If you’re gone for two weeks the fish will not starve I promise you. I’ve seen fish go for 1-2 weeks and be fine (clowns tangs etc) I’m sure some more difficult fish would have some problems depending on the tank but most would do fine I bet.
I'd like to believe you, and based on what I've read, I myself would likely live longer were I to fast for two weeks. However, I used to have two firefish, and one disappeared after a 1-week vacation with an auto-feeder. I'm sure my fat and happy clowns would be fine, but a these shy dartfish just don't end up as overfed.

I'm not sure I would worry too much about increased NO3/PO4. My bet is your tank just needs more export, vacations or no vacations.
Almost certainly true. But I feed only two cubes of frozen per day (until the dry-food test). I have skimmer, a chaeto-filled sump, I change phosguard every 4 days (per package instructions) and I've been pretty religious about 15% water changes every two weeks for at least 5 months now. What else is there? I guess I could do a GFO reactor and/or an auto-water change system, but then I couldn't afford the vacation. Besides, I hear there are lots of successful reefers with higher stocking and more feeding that still don't use those methods. What magic step have I not read about yet?

I do have a RFUG (in addition to the sump and a canister) which are supposedly "nitrate factories", but that doesn't quite make sense to me. Food in == nitrate out. Without the undergavel, wouldn't I get the same amount of nitrate, though possibly it would take longer and say a bit higher even after I stopped overfeeding?


I would say drastically cut back on number of feedings rather than amount(so everyone still gets some). They may not be happy about it, but if they only get food every few days for a couple weeks i think the vast majority of fish will be fine.
I was a 1 per day. I have yet to find an auto-feeder that does anything less frequent than that without a Apex or similar. And I'm sure the majority of my fish will survive. It's just this little guy I'm worried about.

Anyone have hints on fattening him up before I go? Like live food he'll get his fair share of?
 

ying yang

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You need a tank sitter
+1 on this.
Get someone you trust to feed your tank.prepare each days feed you want to be fed in individual bags.and write clear instructions on the operations of the mechanics of tank if anything goes wrong.and make sure they got your phone number so if any problems they can video call you and you can see whats happenning and tell them what to do
 
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Suohhen

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How do you get that little? I have mine on the smallest slot and I bet I get at least half a teaspoon.

My firefish will just have to starve I guess. To put enough in that he gets some, my nitrates will be off the charts and all my corals will die. I can't catch him to give him away. And if I cancel my vacation, my wife will probably catch him -- and make fish sticks. It's a cruel hobby.

I'll probably dose copepods a few times before I leave and hope for the best. Anyone have any advice on that front? Any types or other live foods that survive for a while that firefish supposedly eat?
I use the Ehiem everyday feeder set to slot 2 and it is a mix of medium TDO, med and small Seaweed Extreme. The larger bits tend to clog it up a bit I guess so less comes out. Sometimes less comes out and sometimes more but not drastically so. I also only put a weeks worth of food in at a time.
Regarding why my tank can handle it. It is 18 years old, I have a productive cuc, run filter socks, have a lot of live rock with crazy amounts of coralline, run a quantum nyos skimmer and a refugium powered by an h380. My tank is heavily filtered to where I have to dose No3 and Po4. So it isn't really a point to say what is to be expected but that it isn't always so simple as dry food = problem
Canister filters are nitrate factories because they promote denitrification but you can change the filters in them to be more reef focused.
 
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pseudorand

pseudorand

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I use the Ehiem everyday feeder set to slot 2 and it is a mix of medium TDO, med and small Seaweed Extreme. The larger bits tend to clog it up a bit I guess so less comes out. Sometimes less comes out and sometimes more but not drastically so. I also only put a weeks worth of food in at a time.
Regarding why my tank can handle it. It is 18 years old, I have a productive cuc, run filter socks, have a lot of live rock with crazy amounts of coralline, run a quantum nyos skimmer and a refugium powered by an h380. My tank is heavily filtered to where I have to dose No3 and Po4. So it isn't really a point to say what is to be expected but that it isn't always so simple as dry food = problem
Canister filters are nitrate factories because they promote denitrification but you can change the filters in them to be more reef focused.
So I get that canister and UGF promote denitrification (convert organic waste into nitrate), but isn't that just because they pump lots of water through high surface area were bacteria live? Why wouldn't a sump with media or any tank with plenty of live rock and flow do the same?

And what's the alternative? You can skim it out before it decays, but I've got the biggest skimmer I have room for. And you can use it with photosynthesis, but I've got as much chaeto as I have room for, corals only do so much and one only wants so much cyano and similar.
 

Suohhen

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So I get that canister and UGF promote denitrification (convert organic waste into nitrate), but isn't that just because they pump lots of water through high surface area were bacteria live? Why wouldn't a sump with media or any tank with plenty of live rock and flow do the same?

And what's the alternative? You can skim it out before it decays, but I've got the biggest skimmer I have room for. And you can use it with photosynthesis, but I've got as much chaeto as I have room for, corals only do so much and one only wants so much cyano and similar.
Live rock has deep low oxygen areas that finish the nitrogen cycle and it has other bio diversity which breaks down food so it can get to the skimmer. Canister filters trap waste in a high flow high oxygen environment designed to make bacteria thrive.
I have never run a canister on a reef tank but I have heard that there are good alternatives or you could just scrap the thing but the sudden change in filtration could hurt so what a lot of people do is slowly pull out the bioballs or whatever filter media is in there.
 
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