Have you observed natural rise and falls in your reef?

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vlangel

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Hi all, my current reef has been up and running since 2016 and the live rock that is in it has been in my tanks since the 1990s.

Anyway it occured to me several months ago that I was not seeing the gazillion micro star arms all over the rockwork when I would feed the tank. That puzzled me because my tank has always had oodles of those tiny starfish. Also my tank coincidentally was in a downward trend at that time, (nothing catastrophic but several coral were languishing as well). Or was it a coincident?

I have been keeping salt water aquaria since 1997 and in that time I have had 3 main tanks. So each tank was up and running 6+ years. When you have tanks that are up that long you have times of exceptional health of all the animals but then it may be followed by a season of some of the Coral not thriving. On occasion I may have been able to attribute it to a lapse in maintenance. However I was an aquarium maintenance tech and rarely have lapses so more often it remained a mystery to me. I have since talked to other reefers whose tanks have been up and running for many years and they too have experienced this.

Is it possible that our mature, stable reef goes through natural seasons of rise and fall? Maybe a pod plague breaks out and kills a large percentage of the pods or in my tank's case it was the micro stars. I am only surmising but what do you all think???
 
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I have had the upgrade disease my entire life and have never run a salt tank more than 5 years without a major change.
I think it is impossible for many if not most of the animals in our tanks to complete their life cycle and replace themselves. This leads to a ecosystem that has extreme winners and losers. Something may eat something and keep it in check but then all the predators die. Things like that.
In the end the happy big tank full of stuff goes away. Then it evolves into a tank full of new winners and losers.
I think this is inevitable unless you made regular additions from the sea.

I have been thinking about this. Something like 30 pounds of live rock every 2 years. Like a blood transfusion for the tank.
 
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TexasReefer82

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Yes, I think our tanks do go through the rise and fall of various species as the years go by. I've seen it happen with various types of algae (especially when the tank is relatively new) that blow up and then disappear never to be seen again. I have cyano that comes and goes away seasonally (late winter into early spring) every year without me changing anything. I've had the stomatella snail population explode when the tank was new, then dwindle away and be gone for a couple years, and then begin to increase again recently... maybe after reintroduction from a new coral.
 

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Yup. Seeing the cycles occuring during the maturing process and similar cycles occur years after a system is set up the idea of "stable" is a bit of a fluid concept. Seeing just one type or class of corals start to decline then thrive again when tests didn't show anything different it seemed pretty obvious there were cycles going on we as hobbyests can't test for.

Here's one paper showing what happens with microbiomes:

 
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ive noticed that in the beginning of my tak there was a ton of cyano, now there is almost none and my corals are outcompeting it along with other macroalgae
That’s just your tank maturing, very different than the booms and busts that you see in a long established reef.
 
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My last two reef aquariums (including my current nano) ran 10 and near 14 respectively. I've always found that the ups and downs without any obvious changes a very interesting phenomenon. Even with the more advanced diagnostic/testing tools that we have today they often do not provide reason(s) in many cases. IMO, this phenomenon is due to the interaction of all life within a complex ecosystem being in a state of dynamic equilibrium.
 

bestfishes

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Look up "old tank syndrome". It seems some biological systems do collapse if not maintained. EG deep sand beds need to be refreshed with removing some sand and adding fresh sand from time to time. https://www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk/features/how-to-avoid-old-tank-syndrome/

Corals do compete for the limited space in your tank and sometimes the selection of corals impacts success (eg one commits chemical warfare on the other or just grows faster and takes over some nutrient/space others need).

Potential causes of OTS

  • Inadequate water changes.
  • Overstocked fish levels.
  • Dirty gravel.
  • Uneaten food.
  • Unwashed filters.
  • Dead fish/shrimps/snails.
  • Decaying plant matter.
  • Low GH or KH water supply.
  • High nitrate water supply.
 

Tankkeepers

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Look up "old tank syndrome". It seems some biological systems do collapse if not maintained. EG deep sand beds need to be refreshed with removing some sand and adding fresh sand from time to time. https://www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk/features/how-to-avoid-old-tank-syndrome/

Corals do compete for the limited space in your tank and sometimes the selection of corals impacts success (eg one commits chemical warfare on the other or just grows faster and takes over some nutrient/space others need).

Potential causes of OTS

  • Inadequate water changes.
  • Overstocked fish levels.
  • Dirty gravel.
  • Uneaten food.
  • Unwashed filters.
  • Dead fish/shrimps/snails.
  • Decaying plant matter.
  • Low GH or KH water supply.
  • High nitrate water supply.
To add to this even if you did all this you may still run into OTS as in a closed loop system there is no rise and fall of things only things out competing other things and killing them off

Eventually leading to a single dominate type of life

Even the bacteria in our tanks do this
Once this happens without sufficient biodiversity your tank will crash

The best treatment for this iv found is to make a small section jn a sump etc and house enoff rock there to house all the bacteria you need then replace this with fresh rock some dry some live once a year

The rest of the system will compensate while this area reestablish but this Gove room for new growth to happen limiting the need for competition between bacteria and since you added some fresh live also an boost of bacteria you are missing

Closed loop systems enless extremely large and well balanced will eventually crash

The small systems most of us keep can never get around this fact so somthing has to be done and this is especially creating a yearly Rockfall just like when a rock fall in the ocean happens some things die and are washed away new rock is exposed and some old remains
 
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Nano sapiens

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Look up "old tank syndrome". It seems some biological systems do collapse if not maintained. EG deep sand beds need to be refreshed with removing some sand and adding fresh sand from time to time. https://www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk/features/how-to-avoid-old-tank-syndrome/

Corals do compete for the limited space in your tank and sometimes the selection of corals impacts success (eg one commits chemical warfare on the other or just grows faster and takes over some nutrient/space others need).

Potential causes of OTS

  • Inadequate water changes.
  • Overstocked fish levels.
  • Dirty gravel.
  • Uneaten food.
  • Unwashed filters.
  • Dead fish/shrimps/snails.
  • Decaying plant matter.
  • Low GH or KH water supply.
  • High nitrate water supply.

IMO, OTS (or 'LARS') tends to occur when reef keepers don't mimic at least some of the natural events that occur on a natural reef. Even the most pristine natural reefs are subjected to all kinds of natural occurrences that can severely impact the ecosystem (storms, typhoons, upwellings, underwater earthquakes, etc.). Disturbances are actually beneficial (as long as they are not too frequent) as they clear out built up detritus and other reef clogging materials and reset the species hierarchy so that no one species dominates the reef on a continuous basis (species diversification).

In my small mixed reef system I provide weekly substrate stirrings with the water changes and live rock blastings. I don't think the system would have made 14 years in the good shape it's in without this type of maintenance procedure.
 

Nano sapiens

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To add to this even if you did all this you may still run into OTS as in a closed loop system there is no rise and fall of things only things out competing other things and killing them off

Eventually leading to a single dominate type of life

Your premise is essentially correct in the sense that if the aquarist doesn't intervene just a few species will tend to dominate over time in our relatively stable reef systems. But, in reality, diligent reef keepers tend to selectively hinder the spread of overly successful organisms. Paul b's 50 or so year old reef system is a good example as he has maintained a good variety of sessile organisms for longer than many on here have been alive :).

Even the bacteria in our tanks do this
Once this happens without sufficient biodiversity your tank will crash

The best treatment for this iv found is to make a small section jn a sump etc and house enoff rock there to house all the bacteria you need then replace this with fresh rock some dry some live once a year

The rest of the system will compensate while this area reestablish but this Gove room for new growth to happen limiting the need for competition between bacteria and since you added some fresh live also an boost of bacteria you are missing

Closed loop systems enless extremely large and well balanced will eventually crash

The small systems most of us keep can never get around this fact so somthing has to be done and this is especially creating a yearly Rockfall just like when a rock fall in the ocean happens some things die and are washed away new rock is exposed and some old remains

I've seen this sentiment echoed for decades, but does it really hold water (pun intended) :) Let's take a look at just a few examples that I am most familiar with that buck the 'inevitable crashed reef' trend.

1. Paulb's medium/large sized reef for around 51 years without a crash.

https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/my-reef-reached-49-years-old-this-week.696064/

2. Sanjay Joshi has a softies dominant reef tank that's around 24 years old without having a crash.

https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/sanjay-joshi’s-nano-reef-tank-breaks-all-the-rules-video.315761/

3. My nearly 14 year old true mixed reef 12g that has never crashed.

https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/nano-sapiens-12g-ye-olde-mixed-reef.90171/

And there are quite a few more in the 20-40 year old range here on R2R that have never crashed. Of course, there are an awful lot that have crashed, too, for various reasons. But the point is that if even a relatively small subset of reef aquariums can run for extended periods of time without crashing, then perhaps we must reconsider the idea that all reef aquaria are eventually doomed.

On the topic of biodiversity, I had an Aquabiomics microbiome test done around 2 years ago on my Nano and it has more biodiversity than 60% of all reefs tested (up to 5 years old). Most of the LR and LS are 25 years old and there has been no conscious effort to add anything specifically to boost the system's biodiversity.
The system is 'filterless' (other than LR & LS) and has never seen a commercial chemical in it's lifetime (that should get people thinking a bit) ;)
 
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Tankkeepers

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Your premise is essentially correct in the sense that if the aquarist doesn't intervene just a few species will tend to dominate over time in our relatively stable reef systems. But, in reality, diligent reef keepers tend to selectively hinder the spread of overly successful organisms. Paul b's 50 or so year old reef system is a good example as he has maintained a good variety of sessile organisms for longer than many on here have been alive :).



I've seen this sentiment echoed for decades, but does it really hold water (pun intended) :) Let's take a look at just a few examples that I am most familiar with that buck the 'inevitable crashed reef' trend.

1. Paulb's medium/large sized reef for around 51 years without a crash.

https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/my-reef-reached-49-years-old-this-week.696064/

2. Sanjay Joshi has a softies dominant reef tank that's around 24 years old without having a crash.

https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/sanjay-joshi’s-nano-reef-tank-breaks-all-the-rules-video.315761/

3. My nearly 14 year old true mixed reef 12g that has never crashed.

https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/nano-sapiens-12g-ye-olde-mixed-reef.90171/

And there are quite a few more in the 20-40 year old range here on R2R that have never crashed. Of course, there are an awful lot that have crashed, too, for various reasons. But the point is that if even a relatively small subset of reef aquariums can run for extended periods of time without crashing, then perhaps we must reconsider the idea that all reef aquaria are doomed.
O know there are examples of this not being the case but I'm going by what happens in most tanks and ways to make sure it does not rather then leaving anything to chance

But yes very good writeup

And I do not belive all reef aquaria are doomed I ran a closed loop system of 300 plug gallons for 10 years 8 if which no water changes

But in my 32 biocube I doubt this will be possible just not enoff surface area

So why not take steps that nature would do anyway

We already protein skimmer aka waves hitting the beach
 

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IMO, OTS (or 'LARS') tends to occur when reef keepers don't mimic at least some of the natural events that occur on a natural reef. Even the most pristine natural reefs are subjected to all kinds of natural occurrences that can severely impact the ecosystem (storms, typhoons, upwellings, underwater earthquakes, etc.). Disturbances are actually beneficial (as long as they are not too frequent) as they clear out built up detritus and other reef clogging materials and reset the species hierarchy so that no one species dominates the reef on a continuous basis (species diversification).

In my small mixed reef system I provide weekly substrate stirrings with the water changes and live rock blastings. I don't think the system would have made 14 years in the good shape it's in without this type of maintenance procedure.
Could not of said it better myself and exactly what I was trying to say very nicely written
 

Nano sapiens

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O know there are examples of this not being the case but I'm going by what happens in most tanks and ways to make sure it does not rather then leaving anything to chance

But yes very good writeup

And I do not belive all reef aquaria are doomed I ran a closed loop system of 300 plug gallons for 10 years 8 if which no water changes

I had a 55g mixed reef that ran for 9-1/2 with maybe a 10%/year water changes, no skimmer, just salinity testing and 100% Kalkwasser as top-off (I retired it during the 2008/2009 economic disaster hit). While not the prettiest tank around by an stretch of the imagination, it did open my eyes to the resilience of our more hardy corals. It did have a 'Sea Cucumber Stuck in the Powerhead While on Vacation' crash, but as they say 'Stuff happens' :)

But in my 32 biocube I doubt this will be possible just not enoff surface area

So why not take steps that nature would do anyway

We already protein skimmer aka waves hitting the beach

Personally, I don't think of volume as a gauge for a reef aquarium's lifespan. IME, what's more important is maintaining a consistent and sufficiently effective maintenance routine that keeps the system somewhere within reef aquarium acceptable parameters and abstaining from doing anything to the system that skews/alters the established system and coral microbiomes.

I ran skimmers for a little while when I first started reef keeping in the mid 80's, but found that I could run a typical reef system just fine without one. However, I wouldn't discourage anyone from running one (especially in Acro dominant systems).
 
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