I'm depressed with the progress of my tank... What's going on???

Phyber

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Stats first:
  • 65 gallon display (36"w x 18"d x 24"h), 20 gallon sump. ~65g water volume after rock, sand, etc.
  • ~40# dry rock, ~40# Caribsea live sand
  • Salt: Reef Crystals, 20 gallons changed once every two weeks
  • Water: BRS 4 Stage RODI unit made with my well water
  • Filtration: Reef Octopus Classic 110 skimmer cup cleaned every few days, BRS felt filter socks swapped about every 3 days, BRS carbon in a bag with every water change
  • Flow: Ecotech MP40 on reef crest mode
  • Lighting: 36" AquaticLife Hybrid (two ATI Blue+, two ATI Actinic) running 10 hours a day, and two AI Prime HD's running the BRS AB+ programming for 12 hours a day
  • Water Parameters:
    Sal: 1.026
    Temp: 78*f
    pH: 8.11 average, 8.02 min/8.26 max per Apex
    Alk: 9.6 (Salifert)
    Cal: 480 (Salifert)
    Mag: 1395 (Salifert)
    Nitrate: Undetectable (Salifert)
    Phosphate: Undetectable (Salifert)
  • Dosing: Apex Dos, set to 24 hour schedule for Alk and Cal. I use BRS 2-Part and was dosing about 9ml/day of both to maintain levels.
  • Livestock: fed twice a day via Eheim feeder with API Marine Flake food. LRS Reef Frenzy about twice a week.
    3x Clownfish
    1x Banggai
    1x Yellow Tang
    1x Firefish
    2x Cleaner shrimp
    Various turbo, nassarius, margarita and astrea snails

My tank has been running since June 2019. This is my second time reefing, and I have been diligent with a religious water change schedule and controlled livestock feeding. Despite my wife's wishes, I took my time in cycling the tank and waiting before adding in the first fish and corals. My first round of reefing was like many; I had a ton of soft corals and a plague of xenia. I had decided this time I was going to have more selective interests in what I want; which is a healthy mixed reef tank.

I can't keep zoa's alive. I'm not sure what happens to them, but they just disappear. I've bought several frags of different kinds, and moved them all over the tank to no avail. They usually stay closed up and then disappear. My LPS seem to be doing great though, my elegance, torch, acans, scoly, etc. all show good extension and feeding tentacles at night. My derasa clam looks great and shows lots of visible "new growth" on it's shell. HOWEVER, my sps frags are giving me fits. When I buy them they all seem great in color and tissue coverage. But within a few months in my tank their colors have washed away to either white or now brown. A staghorn went from a bright neon green and purple to white. A brilliant acro went from slimer neon green to pale brown despite still having great polyp extension. My Hollywood Stunner went from a deep rich purple and green to a pale pink and green but is still growing and eating well.

I've tried increasing my water change volume/sessions, doing no water changes, feeding more and feeding less. Some sort of red and/or green cyano seems to take effect when I slack up on husbandry. I usually have to clean the glass every two or three days as the buildup makes the tank hazy but there's no real accumulation.

I thought my problem was my water levels so I got the DOS to maintain more consistent levels, which it has done great at, but I can't see the impact on livestock. I thought that my original lighting (just the two AI Primes) wasn't enough for my livestock, so I added in the t5 hybrid and the sps' seemed to start losing color faster (not sure if that's actually related or not, but worth mentioning). I do notice with these lights that everything just looks more bland and washed out, yet bright in terms of volume, compared to when I just had the Primes which yielded better color, just not maybe enough PAR? I thought I was trying to keep the tank "too clean" so I started skimming way dry and ignoring water changes for about a month which caused some sort of algae outbreak.

One thing that I DO know, is that this isn't an "easy" hobby. I also am a beekeeper and generally if the hive has a queen, some comb, some nectar stores, you're going to be fine. But this isn't that sort of "autopilot" hobby. BUT, am I just doing something wrong? Am I running the wrong equipment? Is this just how corals go??

Pictures are worth 1000 words...
Tank today:
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MTBake

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Undetectable nitrate and phosphate can be an issue with higher alk levels. I would either try to increase no3 and po4 a little bit or let your alk level drop to a level closer to natural seawater(7dkh). No3 and po4 being low can also induce a dino bloom. So there's another reason the keep a little nutrients in the tank. I shoot for a slight pink tinted on my salifert test kit for no3 and 20-30ppb phosphorus on the Hannur ulr phosphorus checker.
 
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Phyber

Phyber

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Nitrate and phosphate is too low with alk too high. Lower your all to about 7ish and get the other two up a little.
I currently have the DOS turned off to let the values drop, but when I picked up feeding I still never got a reading on nutrients before the algae started looking horrible.
 

MTBake

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I currently have the DOS turned off to let the values drop, but when I picked up feeding I still never got a reading on nutrients before the algae started looking horrible.
Rather than up feeding, try turning your skimmer off for a few days and see if nutrient levels raise. I've seen the same alage issue from over feeding.
 

AdamB

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I agree with everyone above. I am having the same issues with 0 nitrates and phosphates. Thinking about adding fish . Pulling out chaeto . I have been over feeding for 2 weeks now and still at 0.
I know it’s frustrating
 

Scdell

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I currently have the DOS turned off to let the values drop, but when I picked up feeding I still never got a reading on nutrients before the algae started looking horrible.
It's a curse. The algae uses the nutrients faster than you can detect them. I'm currently having that issue with GHA. It's frustrating!
 

ScottR

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I currently have the DOS turned off to let the values drop, but when I picked up feeding I still never got a reading on nutrients before the algae started looking horrible.
Algae is a sign of a healthy tank. If you have zero algae, you’re going to have zero corals. I’m assuming you’re not running into hairy or bubble algae - just film type algae? Green dusting on rocks? If so, let it grow.
 
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Phyber

Phyber

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Algae is a sign of a healthy tank. If you have zero algae, you’re going to have zero corals. I’m assuming you’re not running into hairy or bubble algae - just film type algae? Green dusting on rocks? If so, let it grow.
Yes, no hair or bubble. Had something like stringy cyano, along with regular that could be siphoned out easy. Of course I had diatoms in the beginning too.

As soon as I get a little brown fuzz on the rocks my snails take care of it so I don't worry about it except the low flow spots.
 

Hop2jr

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My tank is 7 months old and I had the same problem with zoas have one sps and it is doing good and all my softy’s and lps are doing good. What I was told by more than one reefer in my home town is my tank is still new and too clean. Don’ t let algea take over your tank but stop trying to make it perfect, it’s hard to do my ocd screamed no but in not trying to be perfect my fish, corals and I am happier. Still test and keep things stable but I stopped trying to keep everything perfect 24/7 if that makes sence. in doing that had a blank Zola frag start to regrow and one I bought is open and growing. Good luck with your reef an never give up in the long run you will love it!
 
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Phyber

Phyber

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I'd put my money on the undetectable nitrate and phosphate. As soon as I got mine up my tank exploded. Colors and growth off the charts.
Seems like the million dollar question; how can I get a dirty tank? Lol I've focused so much on being diligent with water changes and etc that it seems hard to get dirty and not stress everything out.
 
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Phildago

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Seems like the million dollar question; how can I get a dirty tank? Lol I've focused so much on being diligent with water changes and etc that it seems hard to get dirty and not stress everything out.
Personally, I'd just stop doing water changes for the next month, and be diligent about dosing trace elements.

Go to the LFS, grab a few hermits and 10 snails. Start slowly ramping up light intensity the week after your first skipped water change and keep up with testing nutrient levels. You can always dose some red sea reef energy.. or go the route of others and just dose nitrate.

I try not to do water changes at all if I can get away with it.. but at this point I can kind of just eye ball it and decide when things look like they need to be perked up.
 

Tamberav

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It's harder with a young tank and dry rock. Once my rock was matured and covered in coralline and benificial critters crawling all over it. I can let my nitrates increase to 25 and PO4 to 0.8 without algae problems. If I push it higher then that I get some cyano...but as soon as I do a water change to get nitrates below 25...it vanishes.

Corals and zoas grow well...the more I neglect the tank.. the faster they grow.
 
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Phyber

Phyber

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Personally, I'd just stop doing water changes for the next month, and be diligent about dosing trace elements.

Go to the LFS, grab a few hermits and 10 snails. Start slowly ramping up light intensity the week after your first skipped water change and keep up with testing nutrient levels. You can always dose some red sea reef energy.. or go the route of others and just dose nitrate.

I try not to do water changes at all if I can get away with it.. but at this point I can kind of just eye ball it and decide when things look like they need to be perked up.
Is Reef Energy just Red Seas two part product, or do you mean aminos? I was debating on getting some acropower but I'm one of those who doesn't want to put too much in the tank. I thought aminos could help me but then again I'm blasting the tank with new water every other week, it's bound to be up on that.
 
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