How to successfully keep SPS Corals!

Discussion in 'General SPS Discussion' started by revhtree, Oct 3, 2011.

  1. revhtree

    revhtree Owner Administrator Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Photo of the Month Award Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor Partner Member 2018

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    This is a thread for you to share what you do to be successful. Please tell us your dosing, lighting type and schedule, what levels you shoot for, all the way to the frequency of your water changes, aquarium size, and everything else in between! Please only post your specs and info if you meet the following requirements.

    1. You are successful at growing most/many types of sps corals.
    2. You have been successful for an extended period of time. (more than a year at least)
    3. You are successful at producing the BEST colors from your sps corals. (no brownies)
    4. You have successful colonies of sps corals and not just frags.

    Don't get me wrong. I know new people can be successful but in this particular thread I am looking for those with the criteria above that will share their experience for all.

    Also if you will please share a photo of your sps aquarium.

    Thanks.
     
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  2. swissgaurd

    swissgaurd Well-Known Member

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    looking forward to this thread
    great idea rev


    vic
     
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  3. FaviaFreak

    FaviaFreak Weir Everywhere R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award

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    there should be plenty of heavy weights in this division, can't wait for the info I am particularly interested in the type of lighting used and most interested in the duration of photoperiod
     
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  4. soccerbag

    soccerbag Chalices did this to me!! R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Spotlight Award

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    Aquarium size: 256g display (72"x33"x24"), 40g frag tank (40"x30"x9"), 75g sum = 360g+ total water volume

    Parameter levels:
    Ca - 450ppm (Hanna)
    Alk - 8.0 (Salifert)
    pH - 8.1-8.3 (Apex)
    Mg - 1380 (Salifert)
    NO3 - .5 - 1ppm (Salifert)
    PO4 - 0 (Salifert)
    Salinity - 1.025 (Refractometer)

    Lighting: Sfiligoi XR6 (3 250W 20K Radiums) + 8 39w T5's (all ATI actinic).
    I change Radiums every 8 months - T5's once a year

    Schedule:
    Sunrise - 10AM - 11:30 - All 8 T5's ramp from 0-100% (then off at 11:30)
    11:15 - 12:15 - Halides ramp from 0 - 100%
    12:15 - 8:15 - Halides running 100% (T5's off)
    8:15PM - 9:15 - Halides ramp down from 100% to 0%
    9:00PM - 10:30 - T5's ramp down from 100% - 0%

    Water Changes: 30g change every 2 weeks (Tropic Marin BioActiv)

    Controller: Apex

    Dosing:
    2 part from BRS via LiterMeterIII
    Mag - TechM (Kent's) - find this helps keep bryopsis at bay)
    Zeo Sponge Power - 2 drops per day
    ZeoBak - 10 drops per week
    Pohl's Xtra - 2ml per day
    Lugol's - 3 drops per day
    BRS biopellets - 1 cup (just started this 8 weeks ago - starting VERY slow - so far, so good)
    BioPellet Reactor - Reef Octopus from BRS

    Skimmer: Royal Vertex Alpha Cone 300

    Food: Rod's Food, Various types of algae for tangs, OysterFeast (3 times per week), PE Mysis

    Misc: Sump contains a few pieces of liverock, skimmer, heater, and powerhead - VERY simple.

    I think that's everything about my system. Here are some older pics. Current tank has been setup for just under a year now. It has grown in quite a bit (need to take some updated pics). Link to the AdvancedAquarist tank article is below in my signature (LOTS of pics and more info there). Hope this helps : )

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    Last edited: Oct 3, 2011
  5. ronnie

    ronnie Acro addict

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    I did this writeup on our local board. A little copy and paste from there:
    A quick writeup with my experience of SPS corals over the last three and a half years:

    SPS are finicky - at least for me they are.

    "Nothing good happens fast in a reef tank" - this saying pretty much sums up my philosophy.
    SPS= Stability Promotes Success - the other part of my philosophy.

    Swinging parameters, high nutrients, poor lighting, lack of flow: All of these factor into the success of a tank that is trying to grow SPS. They can stunt growth, cause STN/RTN (slow tissue necrosis/rapid tissue necrosis), brown polyps, or just flat out kill them.

    Parameter checks:

    Salinity - I check my salinity monthly with a refractometer. If you don't own a refractometer, do yourself a service and get one. $40 in this hobby is cheap, and salinity is critical to the success of any reef aquarium. Don't rely on the swing arms - they simply have too many variables and are typically pretty inaccurate.

    pH - I run a calcium reactor, and probably have low pH. However, I don't measure it in my actual tank, just my reactor. This is my preference. If anything starts going wrong, and I've exhausted all other possibilities, then I may look into pH.

    Calcium - 420 all day long. You can run it higher, but from what I've read, it doesn't do that much more for calcification of hard corals. Any lower than 380, and I've seen the negative effects start to occur - lack of growth namely.

    Alkalinity - I run m Alk around 9.0-9.5 dKh. This is one parameter that has quite a bit of play in it. I've seen people running 15 dKh, and people that run ULNS (ultra low nutrient systems), like Neo, typically run their Alk closer to natural seawater, or around 7 dKh. Any lower than 7, and I've experienced zero growth and STN. I have also raised my Alk too high, too fast. I did this about 15 months ago in my 75. I nearly crashed the tank, cemented the sand bed, and caused STN in my SPS for several months. I lost quite a few really nice pieces, but overall, I managed to pull out of it with pretty good luck. I have a few coral that are still recovering from the Alk spike. I test Alk weekly, or daily if/when I make adjustments to my reactor

    Magnesium - I run my Mg right around 1300. I test Mg bi-monthly, as I run NeoMag in my calcium reactor.

    Nitrates - I prefer under 10ppm for nitrates. Any time I go over that number, I seem to experience browning out of coral and slowed growth. I maintain nitrates with water changes, feeding only pellet, nori (for tangs and foxface), occasionally mysis, and an oversized protein skimmer.

    Phosphates - I don't have a good test for phosphates (not a fan of test kits for phosphates, they just don't do a good enough job). Under .03 is great for SPS. I have the Hanna handheld meter, and feel like it does a good "ballpark" job of measuring. I mostly go by the amount of algae and overall color of coral to "feel out my phosphates".

    Trace elements - I don't dose anything - unless I get some phyto donated :) Other than the calcium reactor, I don't manually add any chemicals to my tank. I've tried them, and haven't had great success with them, so I've reverted back to skimmer and water changes only.

    Other factors

    Lighting - Another factor that has a lot of variance in it. I've ran MH almost my entire SW experience, from 175s to 150s to 250s, to T5, and eventually I'll be LED. All have their drawbacks, and all have their advantages. 175s probably have the lower advantage, IMO, as they are single end only. When I was running them 7 years ago, all they really had were spider reflectors. They've since came out with some really great SE reflectors, some that rival the best double end reflectors. 150s are great for shallower tanks, and have a great advantage of lower heat. 250s are great for faster growth, but the tradeoff is more heat output into the tank. I've experienced about a 4 degree increase in temperature since I've upgraded tanks. T5s work equally as well as 250s in my experience. The growth is the same, but the colors are much better! I'm building out my LED light in the next few weeks, so I'll be able to see how that goes as well. Lighting wasn't the only factor, but it does play a big part.

    Flow - This topic has many variables as well. Throughout this hobby, there are several things that people do differently. You just need to find what works best for you, and you are comfortable with. For flow, I run a closed loop (3600gph), two powerheads (2100gph & 800gph), as well as my return of about 900gph, along with an MP40 Total that up for about 10000gph through my 120. I've been contemplating adding another vortech or two, but the cost on those seems to be my limiting factor. Other than the price, I don't see a downside to the vortechs.

    Skimmer - Get the biggest skimmer you can afford! This is an integral piece of equipment to success for SPS. A skimmer that is too small for an SPS system will cause nitrates and phosphates to spike. This can cause SPS to recede tissue or RTN/STN. They can also brown out or just completely die. Skimmers are very important. Don't skimp!

    Bioload - I prefer to run a very light bioload for SPS tanks. This helps reduce the amount of nutrients going into my system, which means I don't have to pull as many nutrients out. I keep two clowns, a yellow and blue tang, a foxface, and a wrasse. I'd probably be okay adding a couple more fish, but they would be small and add very little to the bioload. I will eventually trade the blue tang in for another once he outgrows the tank.

    Quarantine - I am living with AEFW, so I can't say enough about this. You MUST QT every coral. I plan to run numerous frags through my QT once it is set up and then into the frag tank they will go. Once I have backups of everything, I'll dose the main tank with Levamisole. Not QTing is playing russian roulette. I dipped everything before it went into my tank, and that clearly didn't work. So set up a QT and learn to use it!

    Overall, I'm very pleased with my transition to a nearly all SPS tank. There have been several struggles, but they have been great building blocks over the last couple years. I look forward to the future advancement of technology and equipment to help make SPS tanks more "user friendly".

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    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 3, 2011
  6. re-fin-away

    re-fin-away Well-Known Member

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    Great thread and great knowledge. I will keep on following this thread.
     
  7. swannyson7

    swannyson7 Moderator/Acro Aficianado Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Spotlight Award CTARS Member Photo of the Month Award

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    I'm definitely a lightweight in this discussion, but I've had my 180g up for just over a year and it was first real attempt at keeping SPS. I've been successfully keeping saltwater tanks for over a decade, but previous reef tanks were LPS & Zoa dominated. Over the first year, my growth and coloration has been good and my tank is quickly filling in.

    Dosing:
    For dosing, I dose 2-part via dosing pumps and magnesium manually. Once every month I adjust my dosing amount according to the system needs. I run a ULNS, so I've found that 15 drops of Brightwell's CoralAmino brings out the best coloration in my corals and prevents the pastels found in starving corals found in some tanks. I also dose 3 drops of lugols each day due to it's potassium content to help maintain blues & purples in my tank. My ATO runs through a kalk reactor to help keep Ca & Alk steady.

    Water Quality:
    I do 40 gallon water change every 2-3 weeks using RC salt. As far as filtration goes, I run a fuge with a DSB, Chaeto, and LR rubble. My skimmer is a Octopus Extreme 200 upgraded to a Bubble Blaster 3000 pump. I run WM EcoBak, Rowaphos, and Carbon in reactors 24/7.

    Lighting:
    I run 450w of LED (ReefFiltration Gen2 fixtures) along with 468w of T5. I'm confident that the LEDs can grow coral on their own, but I like having the piece of mind with the T5s producing a broader spectrum. The T5 fixtures houses 12x39w bulbs currently comprised of six ATI Blue+, two ATI Purple+, two UVL SuperActinic, and two Current 10k. Here's my light cycle:
    7:00 AM: Actinic T5s ON (Actually two UVL Superactinic & two Blue+)
    9:00 AM: LEDs ON
    11:30 AM: Daytime T5s ON
    1:30 PM: Daytime T5s OFF
    4:30 PM: LEDs OFF
    7:00 PM: Actinic T5s OFF

    Coral Feeding:
    I broadcast feed a mix of ReefNutrition Oyster Feast & Coral Frenzy every three days. Once per week I feed my tank with baby brine shrimp. Although this is predominantly for the LPS & fish, some feeder response is noticed in the SPS as well, so I'm assuming that they are feeding on the BBS.

    Parameters:
    I keep salinity at 1.026 and my temperature range is 79-80 F. Calcium is kept in the neighborhood of 430-450 and I keep my alkalinity at 8 DKH. While this is on the low end of preferred alk levels, I've read that maintaining higher alk levels in an ULNS can be probelmatic. Magnesium is kept between 1300-1350 and pH fluctuates between 8.3-8.5 depending on the time of day. I strive to keep nitrates, nitrites, and ammonia at zero, but many aquarists have noticed improved coloration when maintaining NO3 levels in the 5-10 range (I offset this loss of color by dosing amino acids and through supplemental feeding of my corals). I try to keep phosphates as close to zero as possible and they usually measure between 0 and 0.02 on a Hanna calorimeter.

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  8. Reef UP

    Reef UP Well-Known Member R2R Supporter

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    Great thread I'll contribute in just a few!
     
  9. Aqua fire/medic

    Aqua fire/medic Well-Known Member

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    Amazing pics swannyson7.............what is that bluish/purple mille you got there?
     
  10. reefkoi

    reefkoi Well-Known Member

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    awesome pics swanny! those top downs are awesome and I love the mixed corals look for sure!
     
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  11. swannyson7

    swannyson7 Moderator/Acro Aficianado Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Spotlight Award CTARS Member Photo of the Month Award

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    That's a no namer. It was a maricultured piece and I got a frag a year ago from a local reefer. When it was small, it was far from impressive, but as it's grown and my system has matured, it's gained the contrast in the polyps and now it's a real eye catcher.
    Thanks Chris!
     
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  12. cabi

    cabi Active Member

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    Good info!!
     
  13. Braves Fan

    Braves Fan Well-Known Member

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    This thread is a great idea, already a few surprises for me, how small the water changes are. Soccer has 360g system and only does a 30g water change every two weeks, the other pros also have small water changes but didn't say the size of their tanks. None are using Calcium reactors, this surpries me.
     
  14. soccerbag

    soccerbag Chalices did this to me!! R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Spotlight Award

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    Should be a good thread, I agree. I'm not sure about everyone else but I had a calcium reactor for just over a year on my last tank. I had nothing but problems with it. I hear of others have phenomenal success with them but I just couldn't get mine dialed in. I would leave town with a 20 drip-per-minute rate and come home a few days later and it would be down to 3 drips. Alk swings all over the place and it was doing nothing but stunting my growth. I attribute alot of this to user error...lol. But I could not get it worked out.

    I got tired of trying and switched to 2-part with a LitermeterIII and have had ZERO issues ever since. They can definitely be a great piece of equipment but 2-part with a reliable doser will always be my choice.
     
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  15. ronnie

    ronnie Acro addict

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    I agree with Craig - the reactors are tough to dial in.

    I am running one currently - my success is due to the regulator. I'm running an electronic regulator which is a breeze to dial in. If I hadn't bought it, I would have switched back to dosing pumps as well.
     
  16. swannyson7

    swannyson7 Moderator/Acro Aficianado Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Spotlight Award CTARS Member Photo of the Month Award

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    I've never tried a calcium reactor, but the possibility of alk swings has scared me off. Too many people seem to have problems dialing them in and I've read more than enough horror stories of tank crashes due to huge alk swings. I find two part with kalk in my top off provide rock solid parameters with less chance of problems.

    @ Braves Fan - My DT is a 180g and I have a 55 gallon sump with a 10g frag tank plumbed in. The larger frag tank is a seperate system.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 3, 2011
  17. bige

    bige Well-Known Member

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    This is some eye candy for sure. I loved seeing that gbta next to all those happy coral.
     
  18. lars

    lars Well-Known Member

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    i don't post much, but here goes.

    tank- 120 oceanic, lights- tek t-5 5 blue+, 2 pink+ and one aqua blue special.
    add kalk through the ato for calcium, alk and ph control. also a luft pump for 3 minutes every couple of hours after the lights go out.
    eco mag. twice a week.
    10% water change every 3 months or so.( i know, but it works)
    tank is a little over 5 years old. there is another 30 gal lps cube plumbed to it.
    also have a nice size mangrove in the sump.pro clear protein skimmer. no vortechs. can't bring myself to spend the money.
    i think thats it, but if you have any other questions just ask. thanks[​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2011
  19. Aquaph8

    Aquaph8 Love The Fish Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award

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    You guys running two part and kalk together are you using recipe one or two?
     
  20. lars

    lars Well-Known Member

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    i only add kalk. two teaspoons or so for every gallon mixed then poored in the ato tub. i don't add any two part. this only keeps my calcium at 400 or so. give or take a little. i never get those 500 numbers like people get with the calcium reactors but i feel it's safer.
     
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