Helpful Method for Identifying Dinoflagellates

sonnus

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There have been dozens (probably hundreds) of posts from people trying to identify dinoflagellates in their aquarium. I have posted this in other threads but figured it might be helpful to start a thread explaining this method.

Dinoflagellates are single-celled organisms that aggregate to form visible colonies on surfaces in our aquariums. They are typically described as a brown slime algae.

Correct identification of dinoflagellates is important since different algal blooms have specific treatments that are most effective depending on which type of bloom you're dealing with. Many posters have suggested that microscopic identification is necessary but this is obviously not reasonable for most of us.

I accidentally stumbled on this phenomenon many years ago while siphoning dinos from my tank through a filter sock into a bucket. The water was essentially clear in the bucket but after sitting in the bucket outside I noticed brown slime algae "growing" in the bucket. After stirring the bucket water vigorously the algae disappeared completely only to reappear a little while later.

To identify dinoflagellates you'll need to siphon some algae into a container preferably with a lid or cap. After filling up the container shake the water up vigorously to break up the algae. Then filter the water through a paper towel or filter sock, the water should be rather clear. Leave the water exposed to ambient light in this container for 30-120 minutes. In my experience dinoflagellate algae will be the only type that aggregates back together quickly in the container.

Here's the sample water after filtering through a paper towel


And here's the same water after about an hour of sitting in ambient room light
 

brandon429

why did you put a reef in that
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I do like that a lot. Finding ways to manipulate microscopic organisms at the macro level to afford any kind of physical ID consistency is truly helpful. Cyano will not pass that same aggregation test above, simple = nice and very repeatable I bet, well done.

Many posts spend a few pages just differentiating between cyano and dinos if the cyano was a golden hue type.
 

brandon429

why did you put a reef in that
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look at how they reform, make a phalanx like the 300 against the weapons we throw at them. a strong element for them is colonial support, burn the outers and the inners live on to repopulate next diurnal cycle that's a neat regathering shot above.

I don't think anyone writing on the web has strong command over dino infested tanks, rather there are a set of repeating tools across 3-5 good techniques that forum posts have shown to be useful. the greatest gift any dino expert can give is to make a thread inviting dino wrecked tanks to show up and then cure them. as of the last decade, dino cure threads are a hodgepodge of works vs non works we are in the wild west stage of dino cures.

the main factor I like to consider in dino challenge tanks is that they are requisite hitchhikers, so whatever is through is the key. when dinos are truly removed, no change in tank parameters will reinstate them, which only shows a goal at the end of the finish line, how to get there is still worthy of much debate. Dinoflagellates are probably the #1 worst tank invader we all face. neomeris is worse but very rare to come across, my own LFS has never had it on any substrate in almost two decades.

in my opinion, the current #1 contender against dino invasions is the direct treatment dinoxal.
 
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sonnus

sonnus

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In my experience, this is also a good way to distinguish between the different types of brown algae. There are a lot of variables so these methods might not be fool proof but they have been very reliable for me.

Dinoflagellates will disperse in the container completely after being shaken and will pass through the filter almost completely with only detritus remaining in the filter. Once the filtered water has been left sitting in ambient light for about an hour they will organize back together into their typical slimy appearance. Dinos seem to be the most neutrally buoyant of the three.

Cyanobacteria will typically stay matted together even after shaking the capped container vigorously with lots of small bits resembling torn paper. Most of the algae will be caught in the filter with the detritus but the filtered water will still be discolored. The algae will not organize back into colonies after an hour. The water tends to stay brown but sometimes the cyano settles on the bottom of the container. Cyano seems to be close to neutrally buoyant most of the time.

Diatoms will disperse much more than cyano when shaken vigorously into a brownish tint but sometimes tiny bits stay together like the cyano. Much more of the diatoms will pass the filter compared to the cyano. The diatoms will not reorganize after the filter and they tend to be more negatively buoyant than the cyano or dinos so they settle on the bottom of the container faster.

I think all of these algae can change their buoyancy so this might vary but the diatoms are constantly less buoyant than the others.

The Bzillion Dollar question is..... How do you get rid of it....Permanently?
I have been 100% successful with raising the pH, this will kill the dinos within 2-3 days and you do not need to turn off the lights. I have done this on dozens of tanks and it has always worked for me. Having an Apex to control the pH is very helpful but not necessary.

I have posted this in other threads before, this is my method for raising pH with kalkwasser. I have done this in fully stocked SPS reef tanks with lots of expensive and sensitive fish and I've never experienced any losses. Of course there is risk whenever you dose kalkwasser and this is no different.
This is a much slower method than I personally use. I typically raise the pH up to 8.6 within 2 days, once the pH reaches 8.6 the dinos are gone. Sometimes the pH needs to go higher.

Day 1:
Add about 1.0 teaspoon of kalk per gallon of RODI top off water. This will typically bump up the pH about 0.1-0.3 after 24 hours.

Day 2:
After 24 hours your pH will hopefully be around 8.1-8.4. If your pH is not 8.5 then increase the saturation to 1.5 teaspoons per gallon of RODI top off water. This will typically bump up the pH another 0.1-0.3 after 24 hours.

Day 3:
After 48 hours your pH will hopefully be around 8.2-8.5. If your pH is not 8.5 then increase the saturation to 2.0 teaspoons per gallon of RODI top off water. This will typically bump up the pH another 0.1-0.3 after 24 hours.

Day 4:
After 72 hours your pH will hopefully be around 8.3-8.6. If your pH is not 8.5 then increase the saturation to 2.5 teaspoons per gallon of RODI top off water. Now the kalk water is supersaturated so you will either need to manually shake it every hour or add a powerhead to the top water to keep the kalk suspended in the solution.

Day 5:
If your pH isn't up to 8.5 yet then you will need to increase the saturation to 3.0 teaspoons per gallon of RODI top off water. You will either need to manually shake it every hour or add a powerhead to the kalk water to keep the kalk suspended in the solution.

Notes:
  • The limewater must be dripped into the tank continuously. It can never be dumped into he tank! Ideally you could use an Apex to dose the limewater. I do not recommend an ATO for this because if it malfunctions you will kill your coral and fish (I've learned this the hard way).
  • Siphon as many dinos out before you start this treatment. You will need to dispose the water, straining the dinos through a filer sock and back into the tank will not work.
  • A pH increase of 0.2 per 24 hours is typically considered very safe for your fish.
  • You will ultimately need to raise the pH up to 8.5-8.7 (daytime) for about 2 weeks to kill the dinos. It's ok if the pH drops lower than that during the night.
  • This is a rough guide, you really need to watch the tank closely to make sure the pH isn't rising too quickly.
  • You might need to go above 3 tsp/gal of kalk, every tank is different.
  • It is best to dose the display tank directly to prevent your skimmer and return pump from seizing up.
  • Once you figure out how your tank responds to the kalk you can usually increase the kalk saturation faster depending on how fast your pH rises.
  • Saturated kalkwasser is about 2 teaspoons per gallon

This is the Apex code I use for my Kalk doser. I usually use a Tom's Aqua Lifter for a dosing pump. If you have an electric float switch in your sump you can also tell the pump not to dose if the sump is full.

Fallback OFF
OSC 000:00/000:30/004:30 Then ON
If pH > 8.20 Then OFF

Of course you will need to increase the pH limit 0.1 about every 12 hours.

Also, I don't think that raising the pH is necessarily the best method for treating dinos, it has just worked for me and I'm comfortable and confident when I use this method.
 

brandon429

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that's a great summary above, the mere ability to physically separate in a common container w paper towel the above three rascals w help tremendously in ID that is really well thought out. hadn't seen it that simply put before.

regarding the pH cure, that is in line with some formal articles on them for sure, but it ranks almost unused among dino threads and that leaves room for advancement, because those threads in no way imply they are doing all possible...merely logging trends. The next time we get a strong challenge like Russ' tank from r2r I will show them this for an option, it is a valid attack plan. It is lacking though in the larger threads so in that lies a little bit of a challenge, an invader this rough makes people -seek- cures and what they are reading to try isn't typically the pH spike

anything that can be harnessed among the varying tanks of res publica to beat dinos will be ranked as prob the best reefing discovery of this decade. in my readings no clear winner yet, the reefcentral/chem forum dinos thread from DNA is a powerful reference some 70 pages now iirc, there's some really powerful documentations in there and in the ones we've collected here at r2r. the summary of all those pages is nothing consistent but 3-4 treatments emerge: blackouts, additives like peroxide or 'xal, a few grazers mentioned having worked, and there are some pH fluxers too.
 

arman

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In my experience, this is also a good way to distinguish between the different types of brown algae. There are a lot of variables so these methods might not be fool proof but they have been very reliable for me.

Dinoflagellates will disperse in the container completely after being shaken and will pass through the filter almost completely with only detritus remaining in the filter. Once the filtered water has been left sitting in ambient light for about an hour they will organize back together into their typical slimy appearance. Dinos seem to be the most neutrally buoyant of the three.

Cyanobacteria will typically stay matted together even after shaking the capped container vigorously with lots of small bits resembling torn paper. Most of the algae will be caught in the filter with the detritus but the filtered water will still be discolored. The algae will not organize back into colonies after an hour. The water tends to stay brown but sometimes the cyano settles on the bottom of the container. Cyano seems to be close to neutrally buoyant most of the time.

Diatoms will disperse much more than cyano when shaken vigorously into a brownish tint but sometimes tiny bits stay together like the cyano. Much more of the diatoms will pass the filter compared to the cyano. The diatoms will not reorganize after the filter and they tend to be more negatively buoyant than the cyano or dinos so they settle on the bottom of the container faster.

I think all of these algae can change their buoyancy so this might vary but the diatoms are constantly less buoyant than the others.


I have been 100% successful with raising the pH, this will kill the dinos within 2-3 days and you do not need to turn off the lights. I have done this on dozens of tanks and it has always worked for me. Having an Apex to control the pH is very helpful but not necessary.

I have posted this in other threads before, this is my method for raising pH with kalkwasser. I have done this in fully stocked SPS reef tanks with lots of expensive and sensitive fish and I've never experienced any losses. Of course there is risk whenever you dose kalkwasser and this is no different.
This is a much slower method than I personally use. I typically raise the pH up to 8.6 within 2 days, once the pH reaches 8.6 the dinos are gone. Sometimes the pH needs to go higher.

Day 1:
Add about 1.0 teaspoon of kalk per gallon of RODI top off water. This will typically bump up the pH about 0.1-0.3 after 24 hours.

Day 2:
After 24 hours your pH will hopefully be around 8.1-8.4. If your pH is not 8.5 then increase the saturation to 1.5 teaspoons per gallon of RODI top off water. This will typically bump up the pH another 0.1-0.3 after 24 hours.

Day 3:
After 48 hours your pH will hopefully be around 8.2-8.5. If your pH is not 8.5 then increase the saturation to 2.0 teaspoons per gallon of RODI top off water. This will typically bump up the pH another 0.1-0.3 after 24 hours.

Day 4:
After 72 hours your pH will hopefully be around 8.3-8.6. If your pH is not 8.5 then increase the saturation to 2.5 teaspoons per gallon of RODI top off water. Now the kalk water is supersaturated so you will either need to manually shake it every hour or add a powerhead to the top water to keep the kalk suspended in the solution.

Day 5:
If your pH isn't up to 8.5 yet then you will need to increase the saturation to 3.0 teaspoons per gallon of RODI top off water. You will either need to manually shake it every hour or add a powerhead to the kalk water to keep the kalk suspended in the solution.

Notes:
  • The limewater must be dripped into the tank continuously. It can never be dumped into he tank! Ideally you could use an Apex to dose the limewater. I do not recommend an ATO for this because if it malfunctions you will kill your coral and fish (I've learned this the hard way).
  • Siphon as many dinos out before you start this treatment. You will need to dispose the water, straining the dinos through a filer sock and back into the tank will not work.
  • A pH increase of 0.2 per 24 hours is typically considered very safe for your fish.
  • You will ultimately need to raise the pH up to 8.5-8.7 (daytime) for about 2 weeks to kill the dinos. It's ok if the pH drops lower than that during the night.
  • This is a rough guide, you really need to watch the tank closely to make sure the pH isn't rising too quickly.
  • You might need to go above 3 tsp/gal of kalk, every tank is different.
  • It is best to dose the display tank directly to prevent your skimmer and return pump from seizing up.
  • Once you figure out how your tank responds to the kalk you can usually increase the kalk saturation faster depending on how fast your pH rises.
  • Saturated kalkwasser is about 2 teaspoons per gallon

This is the Apex code I use for my Kalk doser. I usually use a Tom's Aqua Lifter for a dosing pump. If you have an electric float switch in your sump you can also tell the pump not to dose if the sump is full.

Fallback OFF
OSC 000:00/000:30/004:30 Then ON
If pH > 8.20 Then OFF

Of course you will need to increase the pH limit 0.1 about every 12 hours.

Also, I don't think that raising the pH is necessarily the best method for treating dinos, it has just worked for me and I'm comfortable and confident when I use this method.
thank you for giving methods.

Is kalk wasser different from kh buffer or not???

Ive bought red sea writing on it "calk".But it had mentioned it is the alternative to kalkwasser,calcium,and calcium chloride.
ANd it said that it doesnt have effect on ph.
Please help me in this matter.
 
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sonnus

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Is kalk wasser different from kh buffer or not???
Short answer, they are different. Kalkwasser is calcium hydroxide which is pickling lime. I think most KH buffers are different combinations of calcium carbonate and bicarbonate. The calcium hydroxide is needed to raise the pH without pushing the alkalinity too high.
 
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sonnus

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Also, to the OP, cyano will do the same in a glass as dino's.
I have tried this many times with cyano and I don't ever see reaggregation of the algae after it is filtered. Can you describe how long before you see the aggregation of the cyano? It seems like the dinos colonize back together rather rapidly, maybe timing this can help differentiate between dinos and cyano.
 

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Short answer, they are different. Kalkwasser is calcium hydroxide which is pickling lime. I think most KH buffers are different combinations of calcium carbonate and bicarbonate. The calcium hydroxide is needed to raise the pH without pushing the alkalinity too high.[/QUOTE
I dont have a PH control devise is it not very dangerous for me to use this method??

If it is can i just siphon the algae and for 3 days give them complete darkness??
Will this work??
 

arman

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I dont have a PH control devise is it not very dangerous for me to use this method??

If it is can i just siphon the algae and for 3 days give them complete darkness??
Will this work??
 
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sonnus

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So I tested this method again with some brown cyano so I could get a few pictures.

Here's the cyano after filtering through a paper towel.


And here it is after sitting for about 4 hours, there is a little bit of stuff settled at the bottom.


I dont have a PH control devise is it not very dangerous for me to use this method??
I would not recommend using the pH method without a pH probe..
 

brandon429

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this id technique for filter/watch for regroup is really good im recommending it as we speak.

if this is dinos, its first red strain ive ever seen in 8 yrs. Your separation test seems to capitalize on regrouping/nonregrouping morphology between these common invaders, its a smooth test man. Color alone isn't enough many times in ID, not everyone can get scope/cellular pics to post, we needed some repeating physical easy tests and you've posted one.

we get enough dino vs cyano tanks to have really tested this in the upcoming mos I bet. if it pans out across tank variables the public presents with, stamp it in a formal article and go to town.


http://reef2reef.com/threads/dinoflagulates.218325/
 
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sonnus

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this id technique for filter/watch for regroup is really good im recommending it as we speak.

if this is dinos, its first red strain ive ever seen in 8 yrs. Your separation test seems to capitalize on regrouping/nonregrouping morphology between these common invaders, its a smooth test man. Color alone isn't enough many times in ID, not everyone can get scope/cellular pics to post, we needed some repeating physical easy tests and you've posted one.

we get enough dino vs cyano tanks to have really tested this in the upcoming mos I bet. if it pans out across tank variables the public presents with, stamp it in a formal article and go to town.
Yeah, I would be very interested in others testing this out, especially if they've already identified it with a microscope.

I have also posted this on other forums and several other aquarists have shown it to be reproducible.
 

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I was reading randy holmes article about dinos.
He had mentioned that snails will die if they eat dinos.
My fishes are not intereted in eating them but ive bought teo snails that one of them eats these algae very much.(Although i think that im sure its dino)
One other question is that these dinos smell like hell,dont they??
 

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