I messed up- killed most of my sps. (Need advice)

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This is gonna be something of an "airing my dirty laundry" post. I'm not happy with myself but rather than avoid embarassment I'm gonna attempt to learn from my mistakes & maybe serve as a warning to fellow reefers. Also hoping to get advice/bounce ideas to fix the mess I made.


History (trying to be brief):
I started a new 100gal mixed reef earlier this year. It's not my first and I took it very slow with this one (at first). Dates are approx, my memory is not perfect.

  • Added water in March (dry rock with bottle bacteria)
  • Added light in May (half tank only). Also added a few easy soft coral: Xenia, palys, gsp, nepthia, and zoas.
  • Added some CuC when algae started to show. Relatively mild ugly period as a result.
  • In July or Aug I added a pair of clowns and my first 2 tester sps- a montipora digitata and a stylophora. I also added some inverts (2xfire shrimp, crabs, 2xcleaner shrimp, urchin). Everything fine so far with no deaths.

I had stable params so in Sep I added more coral and turned on the other half of the tank lighting. Today the right side rocks are still a slightly different color than the left, which is interesting. For SPS I added more digis, several diff types of birdsnest, and one acro. All were started as tiny 1-2 in frags. The sps grew ok but soft coral (palythoa in particar) was growing fast in this tank.

So everything was fine until Oct. First mistake I think was stocking fish too fast. In Oct I added 13 more fish: yellow tang, 4x anthias, pair of firefish, pair of wrasse, pair of gobies and pair of royal gramma. I didn't do it all at once of course but in retrospect I think this is too much in a month. The female royal gramma died within a week of adding (unknown cause). All other fish are good, eat well, with no aggression problems (except maybe a bit of domestic abuse from female clown on male but they've been that way for a year). They were purchased qt'ed (TSM and marine collectors) except the clowns and tang which I had awhile in another tank.

I did not get any ammonia spike, but nutrients started to climb. Up till then I was ~5ppm nitrate, 0.03 ppm phosphate. I dosed neonitro/neophos to keep them detectable. But after adding so many fish nitrates slowly climbed to ~20ppm and phos hit 0.15ppm. The tank still looked ok but I started to get worried about stability. Pics for reference:
20211130_092741.jpg


I started dosing vinegar, increasing by +15ml per week. 6 weeks later I was dosing 90ml vinegar but nitrate was still rising (slowly). Then a couple weeks ago phosphate hit 0.3ppm and I freaked a bit. I've never seen it so high. So I added 1/3 cup "high capacity" gfo from BRS to my reactor. Stupid thing to do.

I tested phos a few days later and it was 0.03ppm. It dropped way faster than I expected and I was worried but coral looked fine at first. Then a few days later some sps looked stressed, and in 24 hrs many were skeletons. I lost nearly all the birdsnest and my first stylo. They had doubled in size in a few months but then I screw up and suddenly dead. *sigh*

The digis are still alive as is the acro (somehow). They do not look stressed atm. Soft coral also looks ok but my alk consumption has plummeted, and pH is totally out of whack. I was dosing 2liters saturated kalk to maintain alkalinity but now I only need 1liter. I no longer see a normal day/night swing for pH either (not much of one anyway) and my daytime peak went from 8.3 to 8.0/8.1.
20211130_092951.jpg

20211130_093017.jpg


So, now what? I am looking for advice to get back on track. I removed the gfo but kept vinegar daily dose steady. Nitrates are still climbing (about to hit 30ppm) and I dose 90ml vinegar/ day. This seems like alot and not in line with my previous experience using vinegar dosing. Usually after this long nitrate takes a dive. I don't understand why it's not doing so.

Questions:
  • Should I stop vinegar, try something else like nopox, or just stay the course? Maybe it just needs more time?
  • Is 90ml vinegar an ok carbon dose for 100 gallons?
  • Should I switch from carbon dosing to macro refugium? Is it ok to do both?

I'm thinking a low risk change I can make is to add filter socks or floss. I didn't need to before but now I have a nutrient issue. I have a refugium but it isn't doing much. I don't think I had enough flow or light. Also I'm using red ogo macroalgae instead of chaeto (wanted fresh veggies for my tang). The red ogo actually has been growing but it's clearly not doing the job. I have some chaeto I could add but this will take awhile to grow in. I added a pump to the fuge (flow was pretty stagnant) and am looking at better lighting.

Any suggestions? TY in advance.
 
REEFTIDE

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If you don't have a way to take the nitrates out by super heavy skimming, fuge, or whatever, then some sand and real live rock will help you more than you know. I don't know why you chose to be bare bottom, but unless it is for aesthetics, there are easier ways to run tanks.

The issue with fuges is that they are kinda self fulfilling... the slow down as nitrates and phosphates get higher right when a tank needs them the most. They are best used in combo with other export methods. Chaeto does seem to have the maximum export and use up more N and P than other kinds, but I have only tried a few dozen.

IMO, the only way to be really successful with heavy organic carbon dosing is an acute method like Zeo, but those tanks are usually super mature, dialed in and are using the method to fine tune and not to do macro adjustments. More times than not, heavy carbon dosing is not going to work... you are trying to be the exception and not the rule, IMO.

I am not saying that what you are doing is not possible, but it puts most of the onus on you and allows for not many ways for the tank to reach equilibrium.
 
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fryman

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I skipped some details for brevity that may need to be stated. There are actually 2 tanks in this build, one on top of the other plumbed together. I do have a skimmer (simplicity 240) and I also have sand in the bottom tank. The bottom tank has very little livestock and no light (yet).

The top tank is bare bottom for now but I'm going for daylight look in top tank with gsp-cover for a rolling hills/grass look. Bottom tank will be low light/ cave look with sand. I expect to take years to achieve the look I want.

I did start with dry rock and this could still be a factor. But I've had dry rock tanks before and not struggled with nitrates like this.
 

nereefpat

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As long as you have a good skimmer, and as long as N&P are both elevated, you can keep slowly increasing carbon dosing. If you dose too much, you'll start to see white slime.

Fuges and carbon dosing actually theoretically work well together. The extra bacteria will feed zooplankton and your corals, sponges,etc.
 

PeterC99

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I recommend a Refugium with chaeto and stop all these external chemicals that try to manage NO3 & PO4. It’s cheap, natural, and I find very effective. Mine Keeps my overstocked 90g PO4 around .08 and NO3 around 5. Built my Refugium out of egg crate and have never purchased any additional chaeto since starting a year and half ago. Find that when my chaeto is growing, my corals are thriving.



9C7401AC-9A77-4482-AF70-BBAA9E3EBAFB.jpeg
 
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fryman

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I recommend a Refugium with chaeto and stop all these external chemicals that try to manage NO3 & PO4. It’s cheap, natural, and I find very effective. Mine Keeps my overstocked 90g PO4 around .08 and NO3 around 5. Built my Refugium out of egg crate and have never purchased any additional chaeto since starting a year and half ago. Find that when my chaeto is growing, my corals are thriving.



9C7401AC-9A77-4482-AF70-BBAA9E3EBAFB.jpeg
How much space is in your refugium? I am concerned I do not have enough, my fuge volume is only like 5gallons.
 

zoa what

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@fryman

I chose not to read thru your entire post bc I've been reefing since 2007 and around 2012 .... I SWORE OFF all SPS Acros.

SPS just take too much micro-husbandry skills to continue to be successful.

You Slack for one week and BAM, major issues with no forgiveness, no making it right again.

I encourage you to pursue LPS, zoas, rics, Acans, mushrooms, palys.... you'll be happier, I am!
 
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@fryman -

1. Please slow down. Remember, almost nothing good happens fast in reefing. Honestly, I would change nothing for a few weeks and let your tank restabilize.

2. While your NO3 and PO4 were trending up, they were not in any sort of danger zone. Actually there are lots of reefers who run as high or higher levels. If your tank was looking good, then don't stress react to it over numbers. A couple that come to mind are Shane Baker at SBB Corals, and Richard Ross (Skeptical Reefkeeping); I know there are many others. They run tanks at or above the level you want.

3. Decide where you want your tank to end up. Then make decisions based on that.

BTW, I'm writing this as much to ME as I am to you. It's hard to go slow and not react to numbers we don't like. :). I'm actually thinking of making December a "No Hands In Tank" month. Making no changes and keeping my hands out should help with stability along with helping my wallet! :). Only allowances are for required maintenance (I.e. filter sock changes, testing, etc).

Anyway, sorry for your coral losses. But you can turn it around. :)
 

PeterC99

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How much space is in your refugium? I am concerned I do not have enough, my fuge volume is only like 5gallons.
My fuge volume is probably not more than ONE gallon. Just make sure it’s in a high flow area of the sump and a good quality fuge light.
 
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2una

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I did start with dry rock and this could still be a factor. But I've had dry rock tanks before and not struggled with nitrates like this.

Have you got some more rock hidden that's not in that pic cos i think that's a good part of the nutrient problem your getting if not, your throwing a bunch of carbon source in but where is all the bacteria to set up home?
Biopellet reactor might be another angle to consider if you want to stay minimal rockwork & don't have a bunch of space for a fuge.
 
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fryman

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Have you got some more rock hidden that's not in that pic cos i think that's a good part of the nutrient problem your getting if not, your throwing a bunch of carbon source in but where is all the bacteria to set up home?
Biopellet reactor might be another angle to consider if you want to stay minimal rockwork & don't have a bunch of space for a fuge.
Yes that's a good point, I have about the same amt of rock in the bottom tank, and marine pure ceramic balls, 1 gallon-worth in the sump. Seems like this should be enough especially with all those ceramic balls

My fuge volume is probably not more than ONE gallon. Just make sure it’s in a high flow area of the sump and a good quality fuge light.
Can you recommend a good fuge light? I have a tunze submersible one, thinking of getting a 2nd one but they are abit pricey. But I like that it can be underwater and hide the cord.
 
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@fryman -

1. Please slow down. Remember, almost nothing good happens fast in reefing. Honestly, I would change nothing for a few weeks and let your tank restabilize.

2. While your NO3 and PO4 were trending up, they were not in any sort of danger zone. Actually there are lots of reefers who run as high or higher levels. If your tank was looking good, then don't stress react to it over numbers. A couple that come to mind are Shane Baker at SBB Corals, and Richard Ross (Skeptical Reefkeeping); I know there are many others. They run tanks at or above the level you want.

3. Decide where you want your tank to end up. Then make decisions based on that.

BTW, I'm writing this as much to ME as I am to you. It's hard to go slow and not react to numbers we don't like. :). I'm actually thinking of making December a "No Hands In Tank" month. Making no changes and keeping my hands out should help with stability along with helping my wallet! :). Only allowances are for required maintenance (I.e. filter sock changes, testing, etc).

Anyway, sorry for your coral losses. But you can turn it around. :)
Yes I agree. I over-reacted with the GFO and am pretty sure that caused the coral loss. It was a newbie mistake, I should know better.
 

PeterC99

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Yes that's a good point, I have about the same amt of rock in the bottom tank, and marine pure ceramic balls, 1 gallon-worth in the sump. Seems like this should be enough especially with all those ceramic balls


Can you recommend a good fuge light? I have a tunze submersible one, thinking of getting a 2nd one but they are abit pricey. But I like that it can be underwater and hide the cord.
Im now Using a Neptune GRO light. Had a cheap LED grow light before but it did NOT grow chaeto well.
 

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First! Please slow down. You sound like an experienced reefer, but yet want to make multiple changes at once. Remember, make a change, wait a month. Make another change, wait another month... Heh. Slow wins the race!

That said, be methodical. Research carbon dosing! The amount of vinegar you're dosing sounds like a ton! I'm vodka dosing my 340 gallon display with 75 gallon sump (half full). With an oversized skimmer and an ATS from TurboAquatics.

I have 26 fish in my system. They produce a ton of waste. One of my tangs is nearing too large for my tank.

My phosphates are .08 ppm and my nitrates are around 20-22 consistently. I think I'm phosphate starved. I suspect my ATS is consuming more phosphates than nitrates. And thus throwing the balance off.

My experience is that Too high phosphates will kill SPS. I had my phosphates up to .55 and I lost a birdsnest and a huge stylapora. (Easily a colony of 10" or wider dead in 3 days). IT was when my phosphates hit .55 (ICP Test) that things went nuts.

I lowered phosphates using phosphate E dosing 4-5 ml a day through a 10 micron sock. I slowly upped it to 10 ml a day after a month of consistent dosing and seeing phosphates slowly come down. I shot for .1 ppm per week (at most). Due to phosphates bound in my rock it actually took 3 months for them to come down from .55 to be under .2 ppm. I uppoed it from 10 ml phosphate-e to 15 ml - phosphate-e for another month to reduce it down to under .1 ppm. Where I reduced my phosphate-e and slowly started vodka dosing. Then as I made the transition I upped my vodka dosing by 1 ml per week! until Nitrate and phosphate stabilized. Then I continued upping it 1ml per week until it stabilized at a happy rate for my reef. I'm currently dosing 15 ml of Vodka per day. PH is between 8.18 and 8.3 daily.

I don't use kalk though. I use Baked Baking Soda and BRS calcium chloride and dose separately. I'm dosing 240 ml of each solution per day. (10 ml per hour). This keeps my alk around 9.8 dkh and calcium at 525.

With the skimmer, ATS, and vodka dosing my acropora are taking off. Growing from tiny 1" frags to taking up a lot more space than I ever expected from acropora. I bought a few just expecting them to die since I couldn't keep stylapora alive. Now, I don't know what to do with what I've got. My frag rack is full stuff is encrusting onto the frag rack itself. It's nuts. . I never thought SPS would do well with nitrates at 20. But I must have found the sweet spot.

I haven't done a water change in 4-6 months. I'm dosing 30 ml of Red Sea A, B,C, and D trace elements once per week.

I say all this to say, I think a few minor tweaks and you may have this nipped in the bud. Use a refugium with a macro proven to pull out nitrates and phosphates, and change your carbon dosing to a mix of vodka and vinegar or just vodka. I'm only using vodka. The 11 ml per day is nothing to keeping nitrates stable. I may increase it slightly again, depending if nitrates continue trending up, but I think my phosphates are limiting the carbon dosing. I don't dose any phosphate-e anymore and haven't for a few months. But, what I'm doing is keeping things stable and whatever it is, my SPS love it.
 
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This is gonna be something of an "airing my dirty laundry" post. I'm not happy with myself but rather than avoid embarassment I'm gonna attempt to learn from my mistakes & maybe serve as a warning to fellow reefers. Also hoping to get advice/bounce ideas to fix the mess I made.


History (trying to be brief):
I started a new 100gal mixed reef earlier this year. It's not my first and I took it very slow with this one (at first). Dates are approx, my memory is not perfect.

  • Added water in March (dry rock with bottle bacteria)
  • Added light in May (half tank only). Also added a few easy soft coral: Xenia, palys, gsp, nepthia, and zoas.
  • Added some CuC when algae started to show. Relatively mild ugly period as a result.
  • In July or Aug I added a pair of clowns and my first 2 tester sps- a montipora digitata and a stylophora. I also added some inverts (2xfire shrimp, crabs, 2xcleaner shrimp, urchin). Everything fine so far with no deaths.

I had stable params so in Sep I added more coral and turned on the other half of the tank lighting. Today the right side rocks are still a slightly different color than the left, which is interesting. For SPS I added more digis, several diff types of birdsnest, and one acro. All were started as tiny 1-2 in frags. The sps grew ok but soft coral (palythoa in particar) was growing fast in this tank.

So everything was fine until Oct. First mistake I think was stocking fish too fast. In Oct I added 13 more fish: yellow tang, 4x anthias, pair of firefish, pair of wrasse, pair of gobies and pair of royal gramma. I didn't do it all at once of course but in retrospect I think this is too much in a month. The female royal gramma died within a week of adding (unknown cause). All other fish are good, eat well, with no aggression problems (except maybe a bit of domestic abuse from female clown on male but they've been that way for a year). They were purchased qt'ed (TSM and marine collectors) except the clowns and tang which I had awhile in another tank.

I did not get any ammonia spike, but nutrients started to climb. Up till then I was ~5ppm nitrate, 0.03 ppm phosphate. I dosed neonitro/neophos to keep them detectable. But after adding so many fish nitrates slowly climbed to ~20ppm and phos hit 0.15ppm. The tank still looked ok but I started to get worried about stability. Pics for reference:
20211130_092741.jpg


I started dosing vinegar, increasing by +15ml per week. 6 weeks later I was dosing 90ml vinegar but nitrate was still rising (slowly). Then a couple weeks ago phosphate hit 0.3ppm and I freaked a bit. I've never seen it so high. So I added 1/3 cup "high capacity" gfo from BRS to my reactor. Stupid thing to do.

I tested phos a few days later and it was 0.03ppm. It dropped way faster than I expected and I was worried but coral looked fine at first. Then a few days later some sps looked stressed, and in 24 hrs many were skeletons. I lost nearly all the birdsnest and my first stylo. They had doubled in size in a few months but then I screw up and suddenly dead. *sigh*

The digis are still alive as is the acro (somehow). They do not look stressed atm. Soft coral also looks ok but my alk consumption has plummeted, and pH is totally out of whack. I was dosing 2liters saturated kalk to maintain alkalinity but now I only need 1liter. I no longer see a normal day/night swing for pH either (not much of one anyway) and my daytime peak went from 8.3 to 8.0/8.1.
20211130_092951.jpg

20211130_093017.jpg


So, now what? I am looking for advice to get back on track. I removed the gfo but kept vinegar daily dose steady. Nitrates are still climbing (about to hit 30ppm) and I dose 90ml vinegar/ day. This seems like alot and not in line with my previous experience using vinegar dosing. Usually after this long nitrate takes a dive. I don't understand why it's not doing so.

Questions:
  • Should I stop vinegar, try something else like nopox, or just stay the course? Maybe it just needs more time?
  • Is 90ml vinegar an ok carbon dose for 100 gallons?
  • Should I switch from carbon dosing to macro refugium? Is it ok to do both?

I'm thinking a low risk change I can make is to add filter socks or floss. I didn't need to before but now I have a nutrient issue. I have a refugium but it isn't doing much. I don't think I had enough flow or light. Also I'm using red ogo macroalgae instead of chaeto (wanted fresh veggies for my tang). The red ogo actually has been growing but it's clearly not doing the job. I have some chaeto I could add but this will take awhile to grow in. I added a pump to the fuge (flow was pretty stagnant) and am looking at better lighting.

Any suggestions? TY in advance.
Add the chaeto, any flow is adequate. Raise/support the chaeto to the surface to maximize par. Get a stupid bright horticulture light
COB LED Grow Light Full Spectrum, CANAGROW 100W Waterproof Grow Lights for Indoor Plants, Plant Growing Lamp with New Technology, Natural Heat Dissipation Without Noise
I dose diy nopox as required with refugium in use.
None of your nutrient numbers were cause for panic.
Dropping your po4 from 0.3 to 0.03 would not hurt corals, but no phosphate for a while would. Many use lanthanum chloride to drop up to 0.5 ppm/ day.
 

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This is gonna be something of an "airing my dirty laundry" post. I'm not happy with myself but rather than avoid embarassment I'm gonna attempt to learn from my mistakes & maybe serve as a warning to fellow reefers. Also hoping to get advice/bounce ideas to fix the mess I made.


History (trying to be brief):
I started a new 100gal mixed reef earlier this year. It's not my first and I took it very slow with this one (at first). Dates are approx, my memory is not perfect.

  • Added water in March (dry rock with bottle bacteria)
  • Added light in May (half tank only). Also added a few easy soft coral: Xenia, palys, gsp, nepthia, and zoas.
  • Added some CuC when algae started to show. Relatively mild ugly period as a result.
  • In July or Aug I added a pair of clowns and my first 2 tester sps- a montipora digitata and a stylophora. I also added some inverts (2xfire shrimp, crabs, 2xcleaner shrimp, urchin). Everything fine so far with no deaths.

I had stable params so in Sep I added more coral and turned on the other half of the tank lighting. Today the right side rocks are still a slightly different color than the left, which is interesting. For SPS I added more digis, several diff types of birdsnest, and one acro. All were started as tiny 1-2 in frags. The sps grew ok but soft coral (palythoa in particar) was growing fast in this tank.

So everything was fine until Oct. First mistake I think was stocking fish too fast. In Oct I added 13 more fish: yellow tang, 4x anthias, pair of firefish, pair of wrasse, pair of gobies and pair of royal gramma. I didn't do it all at once of course but in retrospect I think this is too much in a month. The female royal gramma died within a week of adding (unknown cause). All other fish are good, eat well, with no aggression problems (except maybe a bit of domestic abuse from female clown on male but they've been that way for a year). They were purchased qt'ed (TSM and marine collectors) except the clowns and tang which I had awhile in another tank.

I did not get any ammonia spike, but nutrients started to climb. Up till then I was ~5ppm nitrate, 0.03 ppm phosphate. I dosed neonitro/neophos to keep them detectable. But after adding so many fish nitrates slowly climbed to ~20ppm and phos hit 0.15ppm. The tank still looked ok but I started to get worried about stability. Pics for reference:
20211130_092741.jpg


I started dosing vinegar, increasing by +15ml per week. 6 weeks later I was dosing 90ml vinegar but nitrate was still rising (slowly). Then a couple weeks ago phosphate hit 0.3ppm and I freaked a bit. I've never seen it so high. So I added 1/3 cup "high capacity" gfo from BRS to my reactor. Stupid thing to do.

I tested phos a few days later and it was 0.03ppm. It dropped way faster than I expected and I was worried but coral looked fine at first. Then a few days later some sps looked stressed, and in 24 hrs many were skeletons. I lost nearly all the birdsnest and my first stylo. They had doubled in size in a few months but then I screw up and suddenly dead. *sigh*

The digis are still alive as is the acro (somehow). They do not look stressed atm. Soft coral also looks ok but my alk consumption has plummeted, and pH is totally out of whack. I was dosing 2liters saturated kalk to maintain alkalinity but now I only need 1liter. I no longer see a normal day/night swing for pH either (not much of one anyway) and my daytime peak went from 8.3 to 8.0/8.1.
20211130_092951.jpg

20211130_093017.jpg


So, now what? I am looking for advice to get back on track. I removed the gfo but kept vinegar daily dose steady. Nitrates are still climbing (about to hit 30ppm) and I dose 90ml vinegar/ day. This seems like alot and not in line with my previous experience using vinegar dosing. Usually after this long nitrate takes a dive. I don't understand why it's not doing so.

Questions:
  • Should I stop vinegar, try something else like nopox, or just stay the course? Maybe it just needs more time?
  • Is 90ml vinegar an ok carbon dose for 100 gallons?
  • Should I switch from carbon dosing to macro refugium? Is it ok to do both?

I'm thinking a low risk change I can make is to add filter socks or floss. I didn't need to before but now I have a nutrient issue. I have a refugium but it isn't doing much. I don't think I had enough flow or light. Also I'm using red ogo macroalgae instead of chaeto (wanted fresh veggies for my tang). The red ogo actually has been growing but it's clearly not doing the job. I have some chaeto I could add but this will take awhile to grow in. I added a pump to the fuge (flow was pretty stagnant) and am looking at better lighting.

Any suggestions? TY in advance.
You know, I made a similar mistake a month ago.

my phosphate and nitrates were trending upward all the time and although I've kept reef tanks for 5 years, I instantly tried to correct the problem, with GFO and carbon dosing.

this is a new tank started with dry rock and sand and bottled bacteria

Next thing is my beloved dory ended up breaking out with ich, and then with some thpe of fluke which I blame on a newly added royal gramma which I did not quarantine.

both the royal gramma and dory are now departed despite my best efforts to save them.

when i stopped mucking around and trying to fix the numbers, the tank came good and so far all the rest of the fish seem to be okay.

My advice would be to remember that the tank is a finely balanced chemistry experiment on a tightrope and go slow, and then go 10 times slower.

You're not alone, we all get bitten some time or another.

Regards.
 

Pistondog

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Forgot to mention dosing vinegar will change the ph some, as it is a weak acid.
You might try diy nopox, which is 500ml vinegar, 375ml vodka, 125ml part rodi.
 

gbroadbridge

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Forgot to mention dosing vinegar will change the ph some, as it is a weak acid.
You might try diy nopox, which is 500ml vinegar, 375ml vodka, 125ml part rodi.
I've done the DIY nopox and it works fine provided you are not nitrate or phosphate limited (same as the real thing)

Where I've had problems are with tanks started with bottled bac rather than real live rock from the ocean.

I think the missing biological diversity creates a lot of problems with carbon dosing.

I've had success with probiotics such as those marketed by aquaforest which worked quite quickly to remove PO4 and NO3.


Regards
 
Lazy's Coral House
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