Help Me Figure Out Why My SPS Keep Dying

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Biokabe

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I've read it somewhere on here that STN from the base up could be due to lack of Iodine/iodate. I've searched to try to find the exact thread but have been unsuccessful. I'm sure it was mentioned by RHF, but can't find it now. Consider adding a bit of iodine/iodate. RHF doesn't like Lugol's.

I'll ask for myself and others. Do you run GFO? Is so, for how long and how fast do you reduce phosphate with it?

How many fish? I can find only one in your pics.

My ICP test did call out my Iodine for being low, and honestly I can't remember a time when it hasn't called out my iodine for being low. Testing for iodine is such a pain that I've been loathe to dose it (I don't like dosing when I can't test it easily... and while accurate, I'd hardly call ICP testing easy since the turnaround time is so long), but it's worth trying and I do have iodine on hand (not Lugol's).

I don't run GFO by itself, but I believe that Chemipure Blue has GFO in its mix. Since I added the Chemipure to my filter cup, my phosphate has gone down by 0.2 ppm over the course of about 4 weeks.

There are currently six fish in the tank:

  • Melanurus wrasse
  • Pink skunk clown
  • Forktail blenny
  • Japanese golden hawk
  • Purple firefish
  • Tomini tang
There was also a blue sapphire damsel until last week, when the hawk murdered it.

I’ve always kept my alk between 7-7.5dkh
And have read maintaining higher alk takes a highly skilled aquarist .

Lighting ... what lighting are you using ?
Seams to be very white , start with lower placement and slowly work the way up to where you want them .

to rule out parameter swings such as alk .
test every day at the same time and see how much everything fluctuates .

the goal is to aim for stable alk , cal and mag .
Ph will fluctuate between day and night as c02 isn’t consumed as much at night .

I would like to keep my alk between 7-9. I'm not dosing - it creeps up regardless of what I do. I test 4x a day (Apex Trident), and it'll slowly creep up between 0.1 - 0.2 dKh per day. I would like to have everything relatively stable - and technically, my numbers are stable right now. They're just higher than I want them to be.

My pictures appear significantly more 'white' than the real-world light does; I adjust the white balance to better show contrast, otherwise everything is just blue on blue on blue. I also sometimes use a filter over the lens to counteract the blue. I'm not exactly an expert, though, so it's a little tough to get the balance just right. Regardless, don't take the pictures as indicative of the lights. I use Ecotech's AB+ template on my Radeons, and my T5 bulbs are 2x Blue Plus, 1x Actinic and 1x Purple Plus.

Without correcting white balance:
Close-up Auto Balance.jpg


After correcting white balance:
Close-up 5600.jpg
 
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stephj03

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Forgive me if I missed it but:

1.Has stray voltage been ruled out?

2. Has Salinity been checked on multiple tools and verified accurate.
 
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Biokabe

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Here's what I would do if I were you in this situation since it doesn't appear to be a single red flag that we can solve for. I would not discount the potential microbiology being an issue. I equate it to the idea that just because we're older doesn't mean our gut is healthier. Similarly age of rock in water doesn't necessarily mean it's good rock and that the microbiology is good. This is timely because I was watching a 2017 MACNA presentation from Joe Yaiullo last night where he noted how a sps colony would just die and there was no rhymer reason but it would regrow elsewhere in his 20,000 gallon tank. But we don't know much about what the "right" microbiology is so let's just settle on the fact that we don't know much.

So onto what I'd do in your shoes... Uninstall all your frivolous equipment like the Trident and maintenance your equipment like the skimmer by uninstalling it, cleaning it thoroughly (even taking apart the entire pump assembly). You can do this one by one over the course of 1-2 weeks. Then start to implement 20% water changes. Bring your water parameters back to the natural level of your new salt water via water changes; don't try to be mad scientist and try to change each one individually.

So where you'll end up is a full detox of your equipment and hopefully you don't find any weird rusting on any equipment. Then you'll start to go back to basics with weekly water changes. In doing these water changes, siphon our parts of your sand bed every time (maybe siphon 1/4 of your sandbed each week so after a month you would have cleaned the entire sandbed).

Now in reinstalling all your equipment, try to limit it to the bare essential. Maybe filter socks and a skimmer. No need to go gangbusters here with a ton of stuff. Use water changes to maintain parameters for a while. To set expectations, you'll probably go through a downward spiral through the first part of this process as you are doing a deep clean and disturbing your tank's biology. But sometimes a bit of disruption can be good to introduce a different equilibrium and perhaps a better one suited for SPS.

Hopefully after doing this for 2 months after the deep cleaning of equipment, you can start to add back some starter SPS like monipora digitata, stylos, and birdsnests.

There really isn't frivolous equipment running at the moment - the Trident is just for testing and doesn't control dosing at all. Other than that - powerheads, skimmer, return pump, refugium , heaters, lights.

Extraneous equipment aside, I can't find fault with the rest of your advice. I don't clean my equipment as often as I should - our house is somewhat small and the area where the tank rests is somewhat cramped, so opening things up and snaking the power cords out and pulling equipment out to service it is a bit of a pain. I've gotten a little lazy in servicing my equipment in general - though, coincidentally, skimmer has gotten several complete cleanings within the last few weeks. The return pump could probably stand to be cleaned, and my sump definitely has a buildup of mulm that could be cleaned out.

I could also stand to step up my water change schedule. I just did a 15% water change on Sunday, which is larger than I usually do. I've been about 10% every two weeks. My mixing station could just barely accommodate a 20% change, so that's certainly doable. I did notice a temporary dip in alkalinity after the large water change, though it has started rising again.

I'll build myself a proper sand vacuum so that I can vacuum the sand bed as long as I need to... I can't get much of the sand bed done each water change, so not having the limit of removing X gallons will help with that.

By the way, everyone, thanks for the ideas and the advice. A lot of it is advice I've given others over the years, but it's too easy to fall into bad habits or arrogantly think that somehow your tank will be the exception to the rules of reefkeeping. Occasionally I need a kick in the pants to maintain good habits.
 
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What was the TDS on your RO/DI when you discovered the silicate problem?
When was that?
What percent water change do you do and frequency?

TDS was and always has read as 0. I'm not sure that the meter is terrifically accurate, according to my last ICP test before I replaced my DI resin, silica was at 2.41 ppm in my RO/DI water. So just based on that, my TDS should likely have read between 2-3.

Forgive me if I missed it but:

1.Has stray voltage been ruled out?

2. Has Salinity been checked on multiple tools and verified accurate.

I haven't tested for stray voltage. I honestly hadn't thought of that... I'd be somewhat surprised if that were true (why would it only be the SPS corals affected), but it doesn't hurt to rule it out.

Salinity has been checked through three different sources (ICP test, BRS manual refractometer, Milwaukee digital refractometer). I'm thinking of adding a 4th (Tropic Marin hydrometer) just to have a straightforward analog standard that I can use to verify that the easier testing method are accurate.
 

ScottB

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Must admit I am kinda stumped. You've covered the first 20 bases I would normally drill down on. The only thing that puzzles me is the RISING alkalinity. I don't understand why it would go up when ur not dosing. High Ca is a nothing -burger.

If the acros are coming from 7 dkh (for example) into your 10 dkh that will be some stress but you have comparable light and sufficient nutrient so I would not expect 6 week mortality.

You are doing all the right stuff (ALK aside IMO) so something else is up but I am not getting it yet.

Last ditch. Is the copper still measurable? Have you run a remover for the trace amount?
 
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ycnibrc

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First of all there are really good diagnosis among the reefer in here. I just want to add a few points
1) u never mentioned what brand of salt?
2) if u have cyano then your nitrate is low. Your corals look starving and dry. Corals utilized nitrate as food. Your rock looks really clean almost like new so I suspect your nitrate kit is not accurate. Lets turn off skimmer and feed 3x more for a couple weeks. As far as your parameters just keep it stable high calcium and magnesium wont kill the corals.
Your fish are small so they dont add much waste to your tank so u can feed more.
Between the skimmer , water change and chemi clean you make your tank water even more clean while u need to make it more dirty.
 

stephj03

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First of all there are really good diagnosis among the reefer in here. I just want to add a few points
1) u never mentioned what brand of salt?
2) if u have cyano then your nitrate is low. Your corals look starving and dry. Corals utilized nitrate as food. Your rock looks really clean almost like new so I suspect your nitrate kit is not accurate. Lets turn off skimmer and feed 3x more for a couple weeks. As far as your parameters just keep it stable high calcium and magnesium wont kill the corals.
Your fish are small so they dont add much waste to your tank so u can feed more.
Between the skimmer , water change and chemi clean you make your tank water even more clean while u need to make it more dirty.


I almost went with this and I agree. For the age of your system and given you seeded with live rock I'm really surprised that your rock looks so clean a yr into the game.

I think it's possible you are more nutrient deprived than you realize based on your residuals.

This would fit with having a low fish load for most of the last yr.

You may have ok residuals are n the presence of low nutrient throughput.
 
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Biokabe

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Must admit I am kinda stumped. You've covered the first 20 bases I would normally drill down on. The only thing that puzzles me is the RISING alkalinity. I don't understand why it would go up when ur not dosing. High Ca is a nothing -burger.

If the acros are coming from 7 dkh (for example) into your 10 dkh that will be some stress but you have comparable light and sufficient nutrient so I would not expect 6 week mortality.

You are doing all the right stuff (ALK aside IMO) so something else is up but I am not getting it yet.

Last ditch. Is the cooper still measurable? Have you run a remover for the trace amount?

The copper still shows on my ICP tests, but I think it's low enough that it wouldn't show on the tests I can perform myself. On my most recent test, it was 0.005 ppm, which is fairly close to natural seawater. I've run Cuprisorb in the past, and certainly have no opposition to running it again.

First of all there are really good diagnosis among the reefer in here. I just want to add a few points
1) u never mentioned what brand of salt?
2) if u have cyano then your nitrate is low. Your corals look starving and dry. Corals utilized nitrate as food. Your rock looks really clean almost like new so I suspect your nitrate kit is not accurate. Lets turn off skimmer and feed 3x more for a couple weeks. As far as your parameters just keep it stable high calcium and magnesium wont kill the corals.
Your fish are small so they dont add much waste to your tank so u can feed more.
Between the skimmer , water change and chemi clean you make your tank water even more clean while u need to make it more dirty.

I did mention the brand of salt at some point, but it's Tropic Marin Pro.

Re: Nitrates, I have trouble getting a firm feel on it. I have a very productive refugium in terms of growing chaeto (one of the few things that is growing well right now), but it's possible that all the nutrients are going to the chaeto instead of the water. I'll typically harvest at least a softball's worth of chaeto from the tank each week, sometimes more.

How often do you have to clean your glass? How much skimmate do you dump every wk?

I usually feel the need to clean my glass about once a week. I don't typically have a lot of film algae; usually it's a more calcerous green algae. There is of course some film present, but my snails do a fairly good job of keeping the glass cleaned.

Skimmate is entirely dependent on how heavy I'm skimming. I have a Red Sea RSK-300 and will typically pull out about a quart of skimmate (maybe 2) every 1-2 weeks. It's fairly finicky to set up and there have been times when I haven't run it for a while due to contaminants in the water (typically residue from coral putty) causing it to overflow badly even when it's dialed back to the lowest setting.
 

ycnibrc

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I did mention the brand of salt at some point, but it's Tropic Marin Pro.

Re: Nitrates, I have trouble getting a firm feel on it. I have a very productive refugium in terms of growing chaeto (one of the few things that is growing well right now), but it's possible that all the nutrients are going to the chaeto instead of the water. I'll typically harvest at least a softball's worth of chaeto from the tank each week, sometimes more.

Look like you are exporting more nutrients than import. Like i mention above feed more , turn off skimmer for 2 to 3 weeks make sure log down your test result vs the appearance of your tank so u can have a reference later.

After 3 weeks if conditions is not improving then u can try a different approach. Dont do water change just try to keep the parameters stable. If nutrients is not the culprit then u can look at other angle.
 

knockwood

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So, my SPS keep dying. Big surprise, I gave it away in the title! Anyhow, I'm trying to figure out what it is that I need to change to have this not happen. I've kept SPS successfully before, so in general I know what I need to do... but there's obviously something that's missing.

First off, the problem. The exact same pattern repeats regardless of species, placement, water change schedule, etc. I'll get the coral and place it wherever it's going to go. For about a week, it's all good. Then, small bits of skeleton will start poking through. Eventually the bare spots spread, and finally the coral loses all tissue and is left with just a skeleton. It typically starts at the tips of branches, but I've had start on the body/trunk of the corals as well.

It's a slow process - from first tissue loss to complete bare skeleton will typically take 6-8 weeks - but nothing I've tried has ever managed to stop it.

I've been battling this issue for over a year now... I'd had a very bad cyano problem a while back, and I'd thought it was related to that... but I managed to get rid of the cyano 3-4 months ago and my SPS are still doing the same thing.

So that's it for the problem, here are the details on my tank (a Red Sea Reefer 350).

First off, the water parameters:

PH: 7.9-8.2 (usually a 0.2 daily swing, and my daily highs will fluctuate between 8.1 and 8.2)
Alkalinity: 10.15 dKh
Calcium: 577
Magnesium: 1323
Nitrate: 5-10 ppm
Phosphate: .08 - 0.12 ppm
Salinity: 1.024 - 1.026

I don't dose anything right now. Haven't been dosing in 3-4 months.

对于照明,请在Aquatic Life Hybrid T5灯具中使用3个Radeon XR-15(两个G4,一个G5 Pro)。第三个XR15是新的,几周前才添加。为了流通,我在水箱的后壁安装了一对海王星WAV泵。

作为参考,以下是其中一种珊瑚的视觉进展:

初步介绍,11月下旬:
First Coral.jpg


大约一周后:

实际的11月Coral.jpg


大约一周后:
十一月天Coral.jpg


几天后:

十二月Coral.jpg


在我最终将其从水箱中取出之前,它是什么样的:

最终Coral.jpg


在最后一张图片中,您可以看到受同一事物影响的手写笔。我已经看到了相同的模式出现在杂技演员,手写笔,蒙提普洛和psammacora上。

关于根本原因有什么想法吗?
Coral's response has lagged behind. We need to find out the reason in the past few weeks, but now the injury has been found by human eyes. On the other hand, the phosphate content should be less than 0.05, otherwise it will be subject to high element stress. Scientists found that 50% of coral diseases have microbial community changes in the early stage. The current program: change water 50%, measure pH KH Ca Mg K PO4, adjust to the qualified range, add coral life support system bacteria, add coral food and coral special amino acids, for nutrition supply!
 
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Biokabe

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Well, a short little update for everyone:

Since my last post, I've done two 15% water changes, and I built myself a continuous siphon sand vac (adapted from this video) to vacuum out the sand in a little more deliberate fashion. I got about 1/3 of the tank before my last water change, and I'll do another 1/3 before my next water change. I've also started feeding frozen more often and added back in my old XF230 gyre pump. I also added a little iodine (1.5 ml) and manganese (0.75 ml) to my tank.

My two remaining acros (an ORA Blue Voodoo and a KP Stag) are both still doing decently and haven't taken any turns for the worse. The Blue Voodoo is actually displaying fantastic polyp extension, and I think I see some tissue growth back over the spots where I cut off the little spots that had lost tissue. It's now been in the tank for over a month, and previous acros at this point were already looking patchy and dying. The KP stag also seems to have polyp extension, but the polyps on it are much smaller, so it's hard to say for sure. My other corals also seem to be much happier - better polyp extension, puffier flesh on the acans, etc.

And for the first time in months, I've actually seen a steady, day-over-day alkalinity drop without a water change. Calcium is still staying high, but the alkalinity is finally moving in the direction I would expect it to move without dosing.

Hopefully I haven't jinxed myself with this little update.
 

ScottB

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Well, a short little update for everyone:

Since my last post, I've done two 15% water changes, and I built myself a continuous siphon sand vac (adapted from this video) to vacuum out the sand in a little more deliberate fashion. I got about 1/3 of the tank before my last water change, and I'll do another 1/3 before my next water change. I've also started feeding frozen more often and added back in my old XF230 gyre pump. I also added a little iodine (1.5 ml) and manganese (0.75 ml) to my tank.

My two remaining acros (an ORA Blue Voodoo and a KP Stag) are both still doing decently and haven't taken any turns for the worse. The Blue Voodoo is actually displaying fantastic polyp extension, and I think I see some tissue growth back over the spots where I cut off the little spots that had lost tissue. It's now been in the tank for over a month, and previous acros at this point were already looking patchy and dying. The KP stag also seems to have polyp extension, but the polyps on it are much smaller, so it's hard to say for sure. My other corals also seem to be much happier - better polyp extension, puffier flesh on the acans, etc.

And for the first time in months, I've actually seen a steady, day-over-day alkalinity drop without a water change. Calcium is still staying high, but the alkalinity is finally moving in the direction I would expect it to move without dosing.

Hopefully I haven't jinxed myself with this little update.
Hard to go wrong with more flow and more fish poop IME. Give it a try and watch closely.
 

DesertReefT4r

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Hopefully you have found the issue with your tank and it sounds like you are heading on the right path. I would agree this isn ooking like the situation of a tank too clean and too young to fully support more sensitive sps. I would suggest the same approach of increasing nutrients. Skim less, feed more even turning down the lighting in the fuge can be effective at reducing nutrient export.
I feel like I need to touch on biodiversity and the Chemiclean issue. With the shut down of Fiji causing a 0 supply of live rock for the hobby we are now forced to use dry rock. Live rock provided so much biodiversity from the ocean reefs that we just cant reproduce with dry rock. Even after seeding from other reef tanks and years of maturing dry rock tanks dont have the same diversity as a live rock tank. We can get close though by seeding with wild corals, fish and rock or media from mature tanks. If you know anyone with a reef that used live rock try to get some sand or rock rubble from their tank. When it comes to Chemiclean and treating for cyano I used to use it whenever I had cyano and recommended it to others for many years. All that changed recently when I used Chemiclean as normal but did not have the normal effects. It caused a bacterial crash in my reef and left the door wide open to amphidinium dinoflagellates. Toxins crashed my tank, all sps died, all snails died and all micro fauna died. It was not a good time and required resetting the tank and building back up the biodiversity. All this IMO points at dry rock sterile tanks and the lack of bacterial and micro fauna diversity. This makes keeping corals like sps that rely on certain bacteria to survive very challenging or causes the outbreaks of bad organisms like dinos to plague these types of tanks.
 

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Hopefully you have found the issue with your tank and it sounds like you are heading on the right path. I would agree this isn ooking like the situation of a tank too clean and too young to fully support more sensitive sps. I would suggest the same approach of increasing nutrients. Skim less, feed more even turning down the lighting in the fuge can be effective at reducing nutrient export.
I feel like I need to touch on biodiversity and the Chemiclean issue. With the shut down of Fiji causing a 0 supply of live rock for the hobby we are now forced to use dry rock. Live rock provided so much biodiversity from the ocean reefs that we just cant reproduce with dry rock. Even after seeding from other reef tanks and years of maturing dry rock tanks dont have the same diversity as a live rock tank. We can get close though by seeding with wild corals, fish and rock or media from mature tanks. If you know anyone with a reef that used live rock try to get some sand or rock rubble from their tank. When it comes to Chemiclean and treating for cyano I used to use it whenever I had cyano and recommended it to others for many years. All that changed recently when I used Chemiclean as normal but did not have the normal effects. It caused a bacterial crash in my reef and left the door wide open to amphidinium dinoflagellates. Toxins crashed my tank, all sps died, all snails died and all micro fauna died. It was not a good time and required resetting the tank and building back up the biodiversity. All this IMO points at dry rock sterile tanks and the lack of bacterial and micro fauna diversity. This makes keeping corals like sps that rely on certain bacteria to survive very challenging or causes the outbreaks of bad organisms like dinos to plague these types of tanks.
Agree with all of this.

If you read a few hundred posts in the "Are you tired" mega thread on dinoflagellates, two-thirds of the posts start with "Well I was battling cyanobacteria a couples of weeks ago...". Why folks still dose this antibiotic to their tanks is beyond me. Heck, why not dump a little bleach in there? It'll clean things right up. (That is mostly sarcasm folks; don't try that at home without supervision.)
 
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