Well I ordered a HOG 3xx algae scrubber from santa monica! Yeah. **** just got real! I am NOT playing around with this algae! Before that, I guess the wake-up call was that I pulled out nearly a 32 ounce yogurt container full of algae! After much deliberation, my prevailing theory is that the drop 1.4 eventually became out-competed by the nuisance algae in the display. Now I'm nuking everything back with a double dose of vibrant. Just put in the second double dose today. Once I get the HOG 3xx, I'll turn it on and stop dosing vibrant. Obviously I'm gonna want to see what that bad boy can do! 12 LED's people!
You know what I say? A powerful algae scrubber is a consistent algae scrubber! At least that's my guess at this point. Only time will tell if that is really true. But I'm pretty sure it will be true. The scrubber has to be strong enough to out-compete your display lights. Especially in my case where there are no water changes.
Well today I got my whisper ap 300 air pump for the new scrubber, whenever it decides to get here. They say it'll come the 15th, so not too long of a wait. Though I'm sure these are gonna be some loooong 5 days! But, in the meantime, I turbocharged my old scrubber with the ap 300. It's pretty nuts. The thing floats a bit more now and there's air that has to escape through the tiny gap where the door is. I probably shouldn't do that, but it's like...the thing hasn't been working anyways. I wonder if this turbo-charge is actually significant. I might not have enough time to find out though since the 3xx is coming pretty soon.
I decomissioned the drop 1.4, though still in the sump so the pods can safely escape or do whatever it is that pods do. And now the 3xx is on 20 hours a day. This thing is so powerful that they say it can only do 22 hours a day max! The timing doesn't really make any sense but I don't think it actually matters when it's on. Only how long it's on. So it turns on at about 8 am and turns off in the wee hours of the morning, about 4 am. So looks like I'm never really going to see it off. Though if it bugs me I might change it to a schedule that makes more sense. Like a break in the middle of the day. Haven't really thought about that yet.
Also I don't think they say this anywhere, but the 3xx's 2 power supplies are divided in halves. So you get 6 lights with each of them. Right now of course I have it on "low power mode" aka 1 power supply plugged in. Also the shading cloth (included with the scrubber!) to dim it down a little more. For those who don't know, too much light can actually hamper the growth of algae. Especially in a new scrubber where the surfaces are white.
Ladies and gentlemen, we may have liftoff! This dang scrubber finally has a very tiny amount (honestly you can barely see it!) of algae growth. It really is not much at all. Just barely enough for my eyeballs to even pick up on. But perhaps I do have a trained eye. (Or I'm literally so desperate that I'm seeing things like a mirage! Lol but I don't think so.)
If my eyes don't fail me, this is significant news because it has only been a week. At this rate I might very well be in business pretty shortly! This is such an awesome geeky thing!
Also I've noticed a lot of stingers coming out of my zoas. I may have failed to mention this but my zoas have not been doing well. I thought somehow the nuisance algae was hurting them, but now my theory is that they're too close together. I'll see if I can't move them. Also, I have been neglecting them until last Friday when I gave them pretty much all my coral stuff. Amino acids, and fed them coral chili by syringe. That probably helped but I may have underestimated the power of those stinging tentacles. They don't look that impressive to me but they must really be strong!
Well I saw a little algae on the very top string, so...that told me that the scrubber algae want the shade cloth. So I took it out completely. Still on low power mode so that should help. But yeah now we're really cooking with gas with that cloth off.
Ok I lied. NOW we're cooking with gas. After a few days without the shade cloth on, just from looking, it didn't really respond the way I was hoping it would. So I put the cloth back on. But now I have just removed the shade cloth, this time I think permanently. There is some green on the unit but only in the middle. It has trouble growing on the top because that area is actually a pocket of air. Yes, the air pump is THAT strong. Even under water this thing has about a 1-2 inch air pocket. More like 2 if you leave it for a while. I imagine this effect would be reduced if the scrubber was deeper in the water.
Anyways, looks like it takes about a couple of weeks with the shade cloth on. Now the gloves are off and I'm hoping what growth is there takes off with this increased light! The shade cloth really shades pretty hard. Hard to know without testing how much light it blocks but it's got to be at least 50%. Probably more like 70%.
I guess now the question is, when does the other half of the lights come on? I guess when the growth is significant. This thing is so powerful, it may be that I could be just as well with half the lights as I am with the whole thing! But man, given the scale of how bad my algae problem is, it's hard to imagine scrubbing too hard.
Man, I gotta tell you guys...This is a pretty dark hour for this tank. Still overrun with algae, scrubber still not doing much...If ever there was a time I wanted to just quit, it's now.
You know, if I had this scrubber thing nailed from the beginning it's possible that this could have just been a beautiful tank this whole time. But it seems like my mistakes have just added tons of problems, the effects of which I'm still seeing to this day. The amount of algae I'm still pulling out is so tremendous that it makes it hard to understand where it's even coming from. All I feed is one small cube every 3 days. And I have a tang. And a skimmer, and a scrubber.
The only good news is that a very small amount of hair algae did grow on the scrubber. I've messed with the shade cloth a bit but I've decided the only way to do this is to move it down very slowly. Like an inch a month. And even then, I'm really not sure this is going to work at all. Seems like those rocks are pretty intent on growing algae nonstop.
At his point I've made such a mess of the tank...maybe it's time to actually start over. Not sure how to even do that though. Or I suppose I could sell out and do like 2 80 percent water changes, so practically a 100 percent water change. My original plan was to just cross my fingers and hope that the scrubber can solve all my woes but maybe it isn't going to work if I'm at this point.
Ok, so...I did take the cloth off again. This time I think permanently. There is actually a significant amount of growth in the scrubber now which should act as some kind of obstruction so that it isn't so bright in there that it can't grow. Maybe that's what you really need to take the cloth off. Now whether that even means I'm gonna be scrubbing more, I don't know. It might scrub less again and I might have to put the cloth back on, yet again. But I think I'm gonna go without at least for a while, like two weeks. By then I should be able to tell if I've grown any more.
The algae in the tank is being slower to come back. I guess I should be happy about this but somehow I really don't think this is over! Also the rocks are still horribly ugly. I just don't want to mess with the tank now that it's headed in the right direction. Arguably scrubbing the rocks now could release tons of nutrients back into the tank which could conceivably fuel more growth in the display.
I think grabbing huge tufts of hair algae off the rocks is definitely worth it, because it removes so many nutrients per how much of the rocks and tank you're disturbing. However, my idea of taking like a steel grill brush to the rocks I think is wrong. For all I know, the rock is just hiding even more phosphate underneath a very thin depleted outer layer. So my current theory is that scrubbing rocks is wrong. Or at least not worth doing. Maybe you could get away with it if your nutrients are so low that releasing a bunch of phosphate isn't going to do anything anyways.
One theory as to why my rocks were growing so much algae is that they'd been absorbing phosphate this whole time as a result of my nutrient build-up. Probably once my little drop scrubber stopped scrubbing, the nutrients started getting taken up in both nuisance algae and the rock at the same time. Maybe that shows just how many nutrients can build up in a tank with 0 water changes. Literally so high that the algae can't take it all and rocks themselves start absorbing it. So what I've been pulling out (as algae) is all that phosphate buildup.
Many of these things are things that nobody told me about. Because nobody tries to run a 60 gallon system without water changes (that actually has fish in it). But what have I actually learned from all this? I think that I've learned that algae scrubbing has to be taken very seriously in this situation. If you're trying to pull off a 0 water change tank with next to no nuisance algae, those nutrients are going somewhere. They will be taken up by algae whether it be in your display or in your scrubber. Unless you want to go the complex and probably even more expensive route involving a maze of reactors, which have ongoing costs. But yeah, if you're trying to rely on one singular system to export your nutrients, you're going to need a very powerful scrubber. The moment the balance shifts in favor of the display tank, the display algae will out-compete the algae in the scrubber, rendering it next to useless.
Today I made the decision to get rid of all my rocks and all the sand. And in an act of what surely must be sheer mad-laddery, I ordered nearly 300 dollars worth of pure, black, raw, obsidian! Roughly 18 pounds. Operation Obsidian is now underway!
Dealing with this reef saver rock is just too nightmarish. Obsidian poses an interesting alternative. It's inert and also black, so it might cut down on the amount of light algae recieves. That is, if algae can even manage to attach itself to obsidian! But most importantly, it's not a horrible phosphate battery that sabotages the entire plan of using an algae scrubber.
Needless to say the state of the tank right now is so terrible it's no wonder I would have very little motivation to deal with it or even look at it. I'm hoping the complete removal of all the sand and rock and its subsequent replacement with obsidian will make one heck of a difference! Much of the idea is to keep the phosphate and nitrate in the water column where it can be processed by the algae scrubber.
So now this experiment is expanding to include different rock alternatives. I might go onto a mineral forum (If those even exist) at some point to talk to the people there about possible candidates for other rocks/minerals/crystals that may work in a saltwater aquarium. Also need to increase my general knowledge of rocks. Then again after all that it could still be that obsidian is the best candidate after all. Needless to say I'll be sharing the results one way or another!
Well the obsidian's here. Not that fun yet cuz I still gotta get rid of the old rock. I did put a smaller piece into the tank just to see if anything happens.
The other good news, which is surprising, is that it's not the RO filter's fault. None of this is. It still puts out 0 ppm water! That's impressive! Not sure exactly how long I've had it...somewhere between 1-2 years. I'd previously given away my TDS meter with my freshwater stuff so I've only just now tested it for the first time in ages. Still 0! The container I put it in wasn't even that clean...hopefully it's not just the meter! But surely it isn't that much even if it is more like 1-10 ppm.
Also I can't help but feel I'm kind of taking a concession here with the obsidian. Feels like a step backwards. Normal reef rock might be doable but it's going to take me time to come up with the exact process to cure it, or just use all live rock that already has coraline algae on it. Heck I might get rid of the frags and just turn this into more of a rock experiment. It took me a long time to realize the rocks are a big part of this. Hopefully I'm going to figure something out that's worthwhile.
I wonder if coraline algae will grow on the obsidian. It'll be interesting to see what happens with it. Also, the amount I got is a bit on the low side. It's nice and shiny stuff which is what I wanted but for 300 dollars, yeah...it's expensive. That said we already spend so much on this hobby...honestly what's a few more hundo? If it works of course!
Hopefully this knowledge of rocks advances the use of algae scrubbers. Then again, maybe my current rocks are just terrible! I gotta say, that's a strong possibility. They seem to absorb phosphate way too readily. Just too hard to deal with. The scrubber works for a while, then it doesn't, then the rocks grow like crazy again. I want there to only be one place for phosphate! The scrubber! That's it!
Well I went and done did it. I feel like a complete idiot right now but hopefully this all works out. I mean I guess I do need some kind of change for those rocks. But I literally just gave away a crap ton of rocks and sand. And the gyre got jammed over night so now that I got it going again this morning it's stirring up more crap. Which is good and bad. Fine if the fish can deal with it I guess.
Man...how am I supposed to get the remainder of the sand out? There's a little left. The siphon won't get it. I even got a bigger siphon, the big python one. Nice siphon actually, but maybe it does its job too well and it won't pick up any sand.