Issue with Coral Die off when Heat to House is turned on

Discussion in 'Reef Aquarium Discussion' started by Biglurr54, Dec 5, 2018 at 11:31 AM.

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  1. Biglurr54

    Biglurr54 Active Member

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    For the last two years, right when I switch from burning our wood stove to radiant oil heat, I have a large die off of coral. The coral loses color, looks terrible then algae takes over parts of the coral. When this occurred in the past, I have changed water, blamed it on heaters, blamed it on everything under the sun. This year I have been monitoring everything with my APEX and have done weekly water tests. I am wondering why this would be occurring. Could it be a PH issue due to dissolved oxygen? That is the only thing that I am not testing (PH). Could the wood stove starve the tank of oxygen, drop the PH, and then when it is shut down the Oxygen returns, drives up the PH and cause the die off?


    This occurred with my 60 gallon reef in previous years. This year I upgraded to a 175 and it happened again. My parameters have been rock solid (Alk 9.5-10, Calc 420-440, Mag 1350, Nitrate 2-5ppm, Phosphorus 0.03ppm) My salinity did drift from 35 to 37 but that was over time and corrected back to 35. My temp has been stable between 77.5 and 78. My ATO is configured to top off 4 times a day and never runs dry. The whole system is controlled by APEX. I’m baffled!
     
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  2. Katrina71

    Katrina71 Valuable Member R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award R2R Secret Santa Hospitality Award

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    I have had a similar situation the last 2 years. It was suggested to me to use a CO2 scrubber.
     
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  3. mdbannister

    mdbannister Ahh...the Reef Life Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter Photo of the Month Award R2R Excellence Award Partner Member 2019 R2R Secret Santa Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor

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    I think CO2 is probably your issue. It tends to be a problem for folks this time of year, especially in colder places. If you can run a CO2 scrubber or (perhaps even better?) run your skimmer airline outside so that it pulls in fresh air, that would likely help a lot.

    Btw, I added a poll to the post to help get more view/interaction. :)
     
  4. roberthu526

    roberthu526 Valuable Member

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    Do you actually burn the heater in the house? If not I can’t understand why CO2 would be an issue. Could it be some kind of gas gets released in the air from the heater and get sucked into the skimmer then blended with water?
     
  5. KrisReef

    KrisReef Well-Known Member

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    Poll asks “do yo experience problems with coral loss...”
    Yes I do, anytime of year.
    Always makes me sad.

    My tank is in my garage so the electric heaters run when it is cold out and the chiller runs in the summer. I have noticed annual cycles in past tanks with algae. I had Caribbean live rock that sprouted algae every year about the same time each year for 3 years after I collected it. The algae only grew on the same specific live rocks each year.
    I have also had caulerpa that emerged from a polyp rock that I got at a lfs about a year after it was added to my tank. I removed the caulerpa and it remained clean for a year and the caulerpa erupted again from the same rock. I removed that rock at that point because I had no other caulerpa ever in that tank And I didn’t want it getting a foothold.

    So I have noticed cyclical eruptions of algae from rocks that seemed to host specific algae, and coral loss always makes me sad.
     
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  6. Biglurr54

    Biglurr54 Active Member

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    So the wood stove is inside and we use that from October to middle of November. In November we switch over to the oil radiant heat. The oil radiant heat does not ahve any combustible appliance inside. The boiler is in a different building. Also the sump is in the basement. The basement is a 1830 dry laid stone foundation. There is plenty of air flow in the basement.... Lastly, this year, I did not run the Skinner as my nutrients are on the low side and I'm trying to raise them slightly.
     
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  7. rossco

    rossco .

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    I would get a pH probe and verify your hypothesis before chasing numbers.

    For years, I have had periodic, almost cyclic acro die off, usually but not always in the late summer. Acros that were growing and encrusting suddenly and usually overnight started receding as the base, always starting at the edge of the fresh encrustment. Here is what I have concluded:

    My pH will still sometimes get down to 7.65 overnight when my kalk reactor start getting depleted. I spent a ton of money chasing pH by adding a Kalk reactor and also a second chamber for my calcium reactor, and I drilled a hole in my house for the skimmer intake. Keep in mind, here in Northern California, summertime is the time of the year the house is sealed up tight because it is over 100 degrees much of the time. Still to hot in the evenings to open the windows. The doors and windows are actually left open more here in the winter. pH may have been an issue, but I still had dieoff with the pH corrected. Keep reading..

    The periodic die off and recession I had, the late summer occurrence , I have attributed it to our usually annual forest fire smoke. I took my skimmer offline before the fires this year and didn’t have a significant issue. The summer of 2017, I lost a lot of mature Acro colonies when I was on vacation and wasn’t home to react to the smoke. The majority of my acros had withdrawn polyps and had darkened way up , kind of an ashen gray / brown, all the way to the previously growing tips. Kind of like when you have a frag go dormant. Sat that way for a week or so and then fairly quickly started dying from the base up. Only was able to save a few one inch frags from 6 inch colonies, and those frags sat for quite a while before they started growing again. The acros that I lost were throughout the whole system, frag area in the sump included. It was coral specific, for example my mature Pink Lemonade colonies died all at the same time in the display and frag area as well as the frags that were growing.

    I still had periodic die off, not exactly cyclic jut randomly, and sometimes a water change actually made it worse. Changed my RO/DI filters even though they were reading zero TDS. Still happened.

    I had never really tested phosphates, I had a friend test them periodically and they were always pretty low. I am not a big feeder, the fish get fed flakes twice a day and frozen maybe once or twice a week. Reef roids twice a week for the corals. I got serious about testing this fall and realized that my nitrates and phosphates were zero. Tested with a Hanna ultra low phosphorous checker and Red Sea nitrate pro kit. So when I changed water thinking something was off, I probably was dropping the nitrate and phosphate level from low to dangerously low through dilution.

    I had dosed nitrate in the past, so I started dosing nitrate again along with phosphate and in the 6 weeks since, all of my acros are thriving. Frags that were just existing have erupted with new growth. I still haven't brought my skimmer on line, it has been removed for 4 months. Maybe the issue is multi-faceted with both nutrients and pH being involved?

    This all being said, my tank is very mature. It has been running since the fall of 2011. There is a huge biomass of sponges and tube worms underneath the rock work and almost all the rock without acros on it is covered in some type of zoanthid. All this life is sucking up the phosphate and nitrate supplements as fast as I put it in so this may not be an issue that most have, but it is worth consideration.
     
  8. Biglurr54

    Biglurr54 Active Member

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    Rocco. Very interesting. I see you commented on my kalk thread. I still ahvent got it online yet. I have the carx and I'm in the process of building a regulator for it. I will most likely do the switch at once. I wonder if the pH change due to season along with the lowest nutrients overloads the stress on the acros. I need to start dosing nitrate to get nutrients up.
     
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  9. rkpetersen

    rkpetersen walked the sand with the crustaceans R2R Supporter Reef Squad R2R Excellence Award Partner Member 2019

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    If the problem is CO2 accumulation due to wintertime closed spaces, you should see that as a persistent decrease of your pH level as compared to before. You should be able to assess for this kind of thing easily with your Apex. However unless you have particularly severe inside CO2 levels, like 1000 or higher, I doubt it would drive your pH low enough to actually kill things (although growth would slow for sure.)

    I can't see how the oil radiant heat as you describe it would raise CO2 levels or affect your aquarium directly in any other way aside from room temp.

    I'd actually be more concerned about the wood stove. First, burning wood gives off tons of CO2 and can definitely raise your inside CO2 air level. Also if you can smell the smell of wood burning in your house when it's in use, some of those combustion products are also getting into your aquarium water (although less so if you don't run a skimmer.) If that's the case, maybe you're seeing a delayed effect from exposing them to that for 6 weeks? Also, the comment just posted by @rossco about forest fire smoke killing his acros may support this as the source of your problem.
     
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  10. JDtimk

    JDtimk Member

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    Throw a pH monitor on your apex if pH/low oxygen is your working theory. Unless it's a serious pH drop and oxygen depletion, which it doesn't sound like it is based on your naturally ventilated stone foundation, I doubt normal seasonal pH drops would cause such devastation.

    Could be it's something really weird like your copper plumbing is sweating and dripping into your basement sump when you turn on the radiant heat.... So many things could be at play in the scenario you described it's tough to say.

    Maybe an ICP is needed to rule out elevated levels of some element that can cause problems if out of the NSW range.
     
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  11. Flippers4pups

    Flippers4pups Fins up since 1993 R2R Supporter Reef Squad Leader R2R Excellence Award Reef Tank 365 Build Thread Contributor

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    If the oil burning furnace is outside and there is sufficient air flow into the house because it's a old house and this is the only time it happens.....

    Could soot/smoke particals from the oil burning be entering the house?
     
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  12. jsker

    jsker Reefing is all about the adventure Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Partner Member 2019 R2R Secret Santa Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor

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    He stated that the boiler is in another building:)

    Great topic.

    There are Co2 Monitor for the house link

    I have learned that the Apex probes are not always reliable except for the temp probe.;) I test with separate units now and us the Apex reading as base either way. I do have the Apex Classic
     
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  13. Flippers4pups

    Flippers4pups Fins up since 1993 R2R Supporter Reef Squad Leader R2R Excellence Award Reef Tank 365 Build Thread Contributor

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    I understand that it's in another building, The flue pipe has to exit that building. If that building is close, It's soot would settle low to the ground and could enter the house was my point. Just like my neighbor and his 2 stroke lawn mower. When he cuts his yard, its exhaust easily reaches my house and if my windows are open, it's in my house.
     
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  14. Flippers4pups

    Flippers4pups Fins up since 1993 R2R Supporter Reef Squad Leader R2R Excellence Award Reef Tank 365 Build Thread Contributor

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    Ph wouldn't be different because it's cold or hot outside. Fresh air is fresh air. High pressure over you region could hold in airborne contaminants such as smog/pollution, but this could occur at anytime during the year. If the oil burning furnace building is close by, I bet that's why.
     
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  15. jsker

    jsker Reefing is all about the adventure Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Partner Member 2019 R2R Secret Santa Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor

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    Good point
     
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  16. Katrina71

    Katrina71 Valuable Member R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award R2R Secret Santa Hospitality Award

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    @Scurvy does this ring a bell?
     
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  17. Scurvy

    Scurvy Pirate Reefer R2R Supporter Partner Member 2019 Reef Tank 365 Build Thread Contributor

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    Can’t say I’ve had a “die off” of corals but I definitely see a PH drop once the windows get shut and the oil starts burning. Same thing with AC in Summer.

    I tried the CO2 scrubber for a while which worked pretty well but I found simply keeping an exhaust fan in a 2nd floor, spare bedroom window year round did about the same as the scrubber. It’s only removed during blizzards, heavy driving rain or sub zero temps...otherwise it runs 24/7. Do I lose some heat? Yes. Is it substantial? No. Cheaper than the CO2 media was every 3 or 4 months.

    I’m leaning towards Flippers4pups on this one and there likely being a contaminant contributing to the die off.
     
  18. Biglurr54

    Biglurr54 Active Member

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    The wood stove deffinetly has a smokey smell when burning. It's an older cook stove that isn't as tight as it was when new. The boiler is actually a outdoor wood boiler. It's 120ft from the house and has a stack.
     
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  19. Scorpius

    Scorpius Valuable Member

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    Closed up house means higher co2 levels, which in turn drives ph lower, which in turn reduces corals ability to build skeleton, which means if you don't reduce your dosing your going to spike your alkalinity in a hurry.
     
  20. vetteguy53081

    vetteguy53081 Well known Member R2R Supporter Partner Member 2019 R2R Secret Santa Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor

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    Ventillation and air exchange is key. Not expensive but more in planning. A simple tube will aid with this, but a matter where to route the tube without placing a hole in the house or wall. An ozonizer may very well work with this versus expense of a scrubber unit
     
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