HELP! MY SPS ARE PALING AND I DONT KNOW WHAT TO DO

Discussion in 'General SPS Discussion' started by Russ265, Aug 11, 2015.

  1. Russ265

    Russ265 Well-Known Member R2R Supporter

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    Ok this writeup is just something I will do to reference everyone who has ulns (ultra low nutrient systems).

    Constantly I am asked in mails, forums, etc how to solve this issue. I will explain how I came up with this solution and how you can overcome this disheartening problem.

    For this post I will go over the acronyms and what I mean when I use them.

    po4: phosphate / phosphorus
    no3: nitrate / nitrogen
    C: carbon
    ulns: ultra low nutrient system
    lns: low nutrient system

    ulns has been used so much I dont know where to begin with what it "really" is. However for the sake of this article it means that you have a no3 and po4 deficit.
    What is a no3 and po4 deficit you ask? It means that if you were to dose phosphorus and nitrogen in to the system that it would eat it up and get you down to 0 ppm without any water changes.

    Contrary to popular belief. A REAL 0 ppm no3 and po4 reading is a major problem. You will witness corals pale, turn bone white, while people tell you to feed more or turn down the lights. There is some truth to this but let us get to the heart of the matter shall we?

    A long time ago some old guy (who is gone now) discovered something called the redfield ratio. (google this for more info as i will do a synopsis)
    Redfield ratio and all it's spin-off theories state that photosynthesis occurs in the ocean at a near universal rate of 106C:16:no3:1 po4.

    Now while I wont get in to the deviations of benthic macroalgae or of other life. It is a REAL GOOD IDEA to use it as a guideline.

    So what does that mean to the aquarist?
    Well it means if you do not have no3, or po4, or carbon.... bye bye corals. They have nothing to photosynthesize. They cant use alternative fuel like lithium or plutonium to synthesize... so they pale. The zooxanthellae which is a dinoflagellate is the same as algae. (in layman's terms). They need it. And you probably have just enough no3 and po4 to get them hold on for dear life.

    How do we solve it?
    Well we know that po4 is the LEAST needed for photosynthesis. So getting it is easy to come by. Even by my tank which sucks up nutrients like a sponge. Every time you feed, touch, or even look at the tank, po4 will be in the water column. The only exception to this is a GFO overdose. If you are overdosing GFO you will basically have nothing for it to photosynthesize. Remember the redfield ratio of 16no3 to 1po4? yeah... it's a marriage. Need em all buddy. So make sure you have some.

    I have observed that po4 measurements of .02ish is optimum. However up to .08 is fine as well. (although some life will get irked)

    no3 should be around 2ppm - 5ppm for optimal coral coloration. If 2ppm or below is observed for longer than a week, corals will pale. Mine will pale within 72 hours. It is essential to keep no3 above po4 to prevent nuisance algae like GHA and to not get in to the cyano trap of po4 being greater than no3.

    How do we avoid this? Well we can use sodium nitrate (the byproduct is salt and relatively safe) or potassium nitrate (byproduct can be potassium and possibly overdose). I choose the latter because I do have a potassium kit and it is readily available within Seachem's Flourish Nitrogen formula. Care should be taken and warning should be given. I have not observed any detrimental effects, however if you want to go the powdered "pure" route, you can look up salt peter or spectracide stump remover from lowes which is essentially the same stuff.

    Alkalinity has been also an issue with ULNS. I have observed alk above 8 to make my birdnest recede and even RTN if approaching the 9s. Many a birdnest I have lost wondering what my issue was until I dropped alk down to the 7s. I personally maintain alk between 7.2 and 7.8 at all times. At 8 or above... my sps get irritable. This could also be the issue with ulns and high alk where burnt tips occur due to the skeletal formation of calcium carbonate forming faster than the photosynthetic ability of the coral via the zooxanthellae.

    LIGHT:
    If you have strong strong light and you have no nutrients, you are really just stressing the heck out of the sps because there is nothing to photosynthesize. You need these nutrients, and the less you have, the lesser your light should be discourage photosynthesis. We are always told more light, more par, more pur, but in the end, if the building blocks are not there... degradation occurs. There is no reason to have a 1000 hp engine, if you have no gas to go somewhere.

    what does 0 no3/po4 look like?

    [​IMG]
    day 1

    [​IMG]
    day 4

    [​IMG]
    day 10

    [​IMG]
    day 15
    2 weeks later... total loss.

    another example @Pete polyp

    before...
    [​IMG]

    after...
    [​IMG]

    after 2 months on the no3 dosing retained at 4ppm @smh254 's results....

    before

    [​IMG]

    after...

    [​IMG]

    before...

    [​IMG]

    after...

    [​IMG]


    Twilliard's thread on spectracide stump remover (most cost effective)

    https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/potassium-nitrate-spectracide-stump-remover-dosing-steps.215730/

    for more information about it contact @twilliard

    For further note... You may want to look in to zooxanthellae and their different lineages. To us hobbyists we refer to zooxanthellae as the "brown stuff" in a coral. Clade C of symbiodinium is most dominant in our systems and has different requirements than say Clade D.

    These all call for some interesting reading, and give the foundation for a successful coral and it's symbionts.

    Additional Information:

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.4319/lo.2007.52.3.1139/full

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.4319/lo.1999.44.3.0716/full

    special thanks to @mcarroll for this one

    https://www.researchgate.net/public...temperate_coral_Astrangia_J_Exp_Mar_Biol_Ecol

    symbiodinium densities in relation to skeleton and transport:

    http://www.biolbull.org/content/141/2/350.full.pdf

    acropora tenuis nitrate uptake dependent on temperature:

    http://www.nature.com/ismej/journal/v7/n6/abs/ismej201312a.html

    this one is paid... but was informative...
    http://rd.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00227-004-1529-x

    Hope this helps
    -Russ

    edit
    1: flourish nitrogen does not contain copper, regular flourish does.
    2: added example time lapse
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2016
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  2. rovster

    rovster Well-Known Member

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    Hours of reading condensed into one post. Good info, and 100% accurate in my experience....
     
  3. chefjpaul

    chefjpaul Well-Known Member R2R Supporter Partner Member 2018

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    Nicely done.
    The building blocks!

    This should be a sticky as there seems to be a lot of posts, not only here, about this issue as of late.

    Do you think we are dumping / running too much "cures / instant gratification" in our systems.....

    Another note; I find, that is not addressed enough, in relation to the health, stn / rtn is that inadequate flow contributing factor.
     
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  4. Russ265

    Russ265 Well-Known Member R2R Supporter

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    i dont know. ive heard inadequate flow will cause rtn but tbh, ive seen acros thrive using just the return nozzles. maybe it is enough? or nutrient consumption is inadequate for our pristine systems?

    gfo can give us a zero reading in no time flat.

    carbon dosing imo is the most dangerous.

    how many threads can we count that state carbon dosing causes cyano? i could post thousands. each and every one of them, they introduced all this carbon in to the system without nitrogen and some phosphorus to feed the fire.

    i really believe a balanced system has alot of carbon, some nitrate, and making sure phosphorus is near undetectable.
     
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  5. rovster

    rovster Well-Known Member

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    To sort of expand on this topic a bit with something that I have been struggling with for the last few months is nutrient balance. I've got or can get really quickly my alk/cal levels balanced and rock steady. I am still struggling with dialing in my nutrients. It seems as if it's been a delicate juggling act as of late.

    For example my tank will start to run clean. Cyano appears and colors pale slightly. I compensate by reducing the gfo, upping the nitrate dosing and upping the feeding of fish and corals. Tank starts to look really good. Coral colors are rich and I back off the feeding and nitrate. Now it swings in the other direction. I might see some loss of luster, maybe some stn, some corals look burnt. Then I put the tank on a diet, increase gfo, halt the additives, then things will go through the sweet spot before swinging in the other direction once again and the cycle begins yet again.

    I'm getting good at recognizing the upper and lower limits but I feel like there is a week or 2 latency period before the effects of what you are currently doing are realized. It's rather frustrating.

    I have noticed that the swings are getting less extreme so in effect I'm working on dialing things in, but I'm having s hard time getting into any kind of long term rhythm. The alk part I've got down pat, it's the nutrient balancing that I feel is the key to taking my reef to the next level.....

    Comments or suggestions regarding this topic most welcome!
     
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  6. Battlecorals

    Battlecorals Aquaculturist R2R Supporter Gold Sponsor

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    Good write up! All to true. We can't fear nutreients! I cant tell you many times I've had the conversation. The solution is always the same: loose the pellets, loose the gfo and loose the magic bottles!
     
  7. Russ265

    Russ265 Well-Known Member R2R Supporter

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    it's rare to find a coral propogater as knowledgable as you adam. (and such a swell guy!)

    but yeah. people read up on forums and believe a true 0 will give them success. problem is that equipment and methods are so good now a days, that we are witnessing the dawn of "too clean".

    corals dont grow off "fairy food". or do they? lol - just a jab at battlecoral's retirement account. ;)
     
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  8. Russ265

    Russ265 Well-Known Member R2R Supporter

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    agreed. and my experiences as well.
     
  9. Arnie

    Arnie Well-Known Member

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    Thanks so much Russ!!! Finally understood the whole nutrient formula for a succesful tank recipe... a lot of work of course to get the "almost balanced" ratio...
     
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  10. Russ265

    Russ265 Well-Known Member R2R Supporter

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    dont chase numbers. my ranges arent redfield compliant and ALL tanks are different. but this is a good blueprint for success imho.

    glad you found value in it
     
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  11. ReefMadScientist

    ReefMadScientist Well-Known Member

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    Good write up Russ.

    I used to keep my kH at 12 once and never experienced any receding. The only time I have experienced RTN is when my alkalinity dropped below 8. I keep my kH at a steady 8.5 now.

    As for PO4, I have zero in my tank. I do feed my corals daily and have Nitrates at 3ppm's. I noticed I have less nuisance algae with my PO4 at 0. I run my GFO 24/7 but I do turn my skimmer off every other day or so. Oh and I do run carbon 24/7 in my reactor.

    What do you think?
     
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  12. chefjpaul

    chefjpaul Well-Known Member R2R Supporter Partner Member 2018

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    It comes down to chasing Numbers and drastically changing methods for no reason in situations.

    I see tanks going through so many quick / rapid changes based on a single test kit number.

    I believe that when someone's corals seem off they jump and start tweaking too many things at once, so they can never get a true conclusion of the underlying issue.

    we need to slow down and truly evaluate.

    Log books and apps, see trends.

    I have had very low NO3 on my current tank since it started. (8mo.) I know why, very small bio load, and it started off extremely sterile. I have slowly been raising it as well as stocking. Didn't need to go drastic, don't run gfo, little carbon, minimal CUC- just enough to consume what mess the tank accumulates.

    As noted above- knowing you upper and lower limits is essential, but patience is required as it takes a long time, most seem to not have any more.
     
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  13. Russ265

    Russ265 Well-Known Member R2R Supporter

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    perhaps the introduction of po4 is greater than the system can handle, hence po4 remains in the column even with gfo on.

    it leads me to believe if gfo was off for a day, that po4 would rise substantially and the gfo bandaid would be needed to retain your healthy state. (as many other reefers need to do).

    do you know how much it will rise with gfo off for 24 hours? or a week?

    this would also coincide with alk below 7 rtning. systems generally run higher alk to get away with higher nutrient loads.

    this is all speculation on my part of course.
     
  14. Russ265

    Russ265 Well-Known Member R2R Supporter

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    i agree with this 100%
     
  15. twilliard

    twilliard I am still alive! 1 summer course in action R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad

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    Awesome Russ !
    I knew one day you would put this straight!
     
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  16. Russ265

    Russ265 Well-Known Member R2R Supporter

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    yeah. ill just point them here from now on. makes writing it over and over again a thing of the past.
     
  17. Arnie

    Arnie Well-Known Member

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    What do you recommend for nitrate dosing?
     
  18. twilliard

    twilliard I am still alive! 1 summer course in action R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad

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    Lol ya I know the feeling. I had to write post after post of the same thing for flatworm eradication.
    I get tired of typing!
     
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  19. twilliard

    twilliard I am still alive! 1 summer course in action R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad

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    Try seachem flourish nitrogen .... Thanks Russ!
     
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  20. Russ265

    Russ265 Well-Known Member R2R Supporter

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    i just have a melanurus wrasse ;)
     

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