Redo Taking Lessons From My Failures - The Dino's won Round1

NS Mike D

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I am I the process of breaking down my 29gal mixed reef tank, doing a complete scrub and starting somewhat anew. I'll link my tank thread for background, but in a nut shell, I started about 5 years ago on a whim with a 29gal petco tank, some live rock and a pair of clowns. The tank did pretty well with the exception of a few coral loses, adding more tank mates, a HOB sump and a nice mix of corals (soft, lps and sps). But I got greedy and decided to see if I could keep a mandarin, adding DIY below tank sump to push the pod colonies and deal with the extra nutrients from the additional feeding. About this time I experienced a pump short circuit which nukes two anemones which triggered a tank crash wiping out two deliveries of new corals. Uggh.

The tank was rebounding nicely, but post crash, the battle with GHA and red turf algae (and occasional cyano) was creating repeat minor set backs way too much disturbance from the radical rock scrubbing.

And then the dinos took over and without the time to do a @brandon429 complete scrub, the dinos won eventually overtaking and killing my sps and lps corals and several zoa colonies. The tank was dying and ugly death.

Part of my problem is that I originally put too much rock in the DT, of which 2 pieces were way to big, resulting in a number of problems, Firstly, the surface area was way too much to cover with corals (at least with my budget) and so it left lots of open space for algae to call home. Additionally, it impaired water flow and thus become detritus traps. This was compounded by my initial decision to use very fine sand. At first the snow white sand bed was beautiful , but quickly became a problem, trapping organics and working its way into the rocks as it was easily stirred up.

So, in a radical move, I pulled out all the rocks with the remaining corals (some mushrooms and zoas). I didn't have a way to save the corals so they became casualties.

I still have my culpera/cheato packed HOB running and the sump has a basket of rubble rock proving filtration.

I have removed about 80% of the sand bed.

IMG_1787 2.jpg
 
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NS Mike D

NS Mike D

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a few more pics.


Rocks in a solution of One Step. (brewery oxy cleaner).
IMG_1788 2.jpg


The mandarin feasting in mysis and brine. A big concern of mine given the removal of all teh rocks where pods would be.

IMG_1795.jpg



The current live stock.

2 ocelaris clowns
2 chromis
1 coral beauty drawf angel
1 purple dottyback
1 cleaner shrimp
5 astrea (turbo) snails
2 nassarius
1 Tuxedo Urchin


I ripped the rocks, most sand and coral out a week ago, the fish and cleanup crew appear healthy.
 

Sandman99999

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Sorry for the losses. A few points to consider:

The algae outbreaks are most likely a symptom of a tank imbalance. Start slow and stabilize every time that you add anything to the tank.

The amount of space open in your tank does not equate to the probability of an algae breakout. It's mainly related to nutrient load and nutrient export.

Irradicate algae as soon as you see it. There are many good videos on the net about controlling outbreaks. Since you are working with a small tank, remove the infected rock and treat is ASAP.

If I were to setup a fish/coral tank, i would start with the coral. Get them happy (oh, they are picky). Adjust your lights, flow etc. Again....make sure that they are extending and happy. Keep feeding to a minimum and nutrient export to a maximum.

Next, add one fish. The bioload of one fish is huge compared the to the corals. Once balances add another. Keep an eye on phos and no3. They will go up.

Make sure that you have enough herbivores in the tank. 1 snail or crab per gallon minimum.

Good luck with your rebuild!
 
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NS Mike D

NS Mike D

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Goals
1. Eradication of Dinos and remaining nuisance algae/bacteria
2. Restock plan with more open space, with low maintenance fast spreading inverts

Plan/tasks.

1. Continue to sanitize rocks that will go back in tank. I plan on drilling holes and using acrylic rods to hold rocks in place, yet permit removal from tank for scrubbing as needed.

2. Full drain of existing water and replace with new salt water (likely Imagitarium Pacific Ocean)

3. empty and clean sumps

4. Anemone??? My clowns have hosted in both BTAs and Carpet anemones. I would like to feture the host/clown/anenome in this rebuild. I would scale back my coral plans to give the anemone sufficient room. Thoughts on BTA v carpet?

5. Corals, not withstanding item 4. I would love color and flow. I like zoas, frogspawn, trumpets and I would like to retry growing GSP on the tank back wall. I had success with blue and green mushrooms, but I'm not sure I will go back to them.

when the tank is empty:

6. If possible, and I am not sure I can confirm if my tank is tempered glass, but if not, I'd like to drill a hole in the overflow box and get rid of the current outside box and siphion set up.

7. remove the cheap 9and torn) plastic background and paint the back of the tank black (or blue).

8. Using very fine wet sand paper, buff out the scratches.
 
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NS Mike D

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Sorry for the losses. A few points to consider:

The algae outbreaks are most likely a symptom of a tank imbalance. Start slow and stabilize every time that you add anything to the tank.

The amount of space open in your tank does not equate to the probability of an algae breakout. It's mainly related to nutrient load and nutrient export.

Irradicate algae as soon as you see it. There are many good videos on the net about controlling outbreaks. Since you are working with a small tank, remove the infected rock and treat is ASAP.

If I were to setup a fish/coral tank, i would start with the coral. Get them happy (oh, they are picky). Adjust your lights, flow etc. Again....make sure that they are extending and happy. Keep feeding to a minimum and nutrient export to a maximum.

Next, add one fish. The bioload of one fish is huge compared the to the corals. Once balances add another. Keep an eye on phos and no3. They will go up.

Make sure that you have enough herbivores in the tank. 1 snail or crab per gallon minimum.

Good luck with your rebuild!

thanks.

We did a good job with NO3/PO4. A bit of algae doesn't bother me and small tanks don't permit the use of tangs and other herbivores that keep it in check like in larger tanks.

As for fish load, well that is not an option, as I already have the fish and my plan is to salvage them. My sumps are doing a good job so far with the removal of the DT rock.

It was the dinos that did in the tank.
 

Sandman99999

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thanks.

We did a good job with NO3/PO4. A bit of algae doesn't bother me and small tanks don't permit the use of tangs and other herbivores that keep it in check like in larger tanks.

As for fish load, well that is not an option, as I already have the fish and my plan is to salvage them. My sumps are doing a good job so far with the removal of the DT rock.

It was the dinos that did in the tank.
I took another look at you fish load. Too much for a 20 gallon reef with coral IMO. Also, your critter count is way too low for the tank. Based on the load, I think it crashed due to the number of fish.

You would be more succesful if you went for a fish only tank with anemones for the clowns.

Keep in mind that your tank will ALWAYS have dino, cyano, and gha. The challenge is to keep them in check. To combat the dino, you could also try a UV light in the return circuit.

I recommend a lot of research keeping in mind that most of the information out there is subjective....it may not always work as planned. A good one on you youtube is Bulk Reef Suppliers (BRS). There are many more.
 
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NS Mike D

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I took another look at you fish load. Too much for a 20 gallon reef with coral IMO. Also, your critter count is way too low for the tank. Based on the load, I think it crashed due to the number of fish.

You would be more succesful if you went for a fish only tank with anemones for the clowns.

Keep in mind that your tank will ALWAYS have dino, cyano, and gha. The challenge is to keep them in check. To combat the dino, you could also try a UV light in the return circuit.

I recommend a lot of research keeping in mind that most of the information out there is subjective....it may not always work as planned. A good one on you youtube is Bulk Reef Suppliers (BRS). There are many more.





It's. 29 gallon tank. Plus 15 gallons of sump. Thanks for you opinion, but the fish have been in the tank for nearly 5 years and were added judicially. In the 5 years they have not displayed any signs of stress or stress induced disease.

Additionally, the filtration has kept NO3 and PO4 at 1-2ppm and 0.06 - 0.08ppm respectively. The notion the problems were simply bio-load don't hold the proverbial water.

Nuisance algae/bacteria breakout in all sorts of parameters and there are lots of tanks in the high nutrients range without issues to pin it simply on NO3 and PO4.

I suspect that my issues was more related to trapped detritus in the rock work and sand bed and the disruptions removing the nuisance. Eventually, conditions were ripe for a dino explosion. My radical tank scrubbing is addressing this and the rebuild will be addressing the detritus traps.

UV is not in my plans as I don't have room for another piece of equipment and I value the micro fauna that is, IMO, a huge part of the ecosytem that feeds the corals. I'm not seeking to run a sanitized system (not withstanding the risk of dinos).
 
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NS Mike D

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Week 1 update

The fish and inverts are doing well and the dino seems to have disappeared for now (at least visually).

I have been feeding a mix of mysis and brine and in the empty tank the mandarin has been feeding more aggressively chasing down the food and getting his/her fair share before its tankmates consume it.

The front glass still builds up a film of algae after a day or two, giving the snails and urchin a food source.

After a week of dosing oxy into the rock bucket, the GHA is still holding tight to the rocks, so today I changed the water and dosed chlorine beach. I presume it ill take several weeks to get the rocks free of organics so I can start the next phase.

The little sand that I have left in the tank for now does get a slight coating of cyano, but that doesn't concern me for now, as I haven't decided to go with a more course sand bed or to go bare bottom. It hasn't matted up nor spread beyond it's current coverage and I haven't changed my lighting which is probably overkill for a fish only tank for now.

My sumps are doing well, with the culpera out competing the cheato. This is something else that I will eventually address. The culpera was likely a sneaky hitchhiker and over took the HOB sump and making it's way into the DT. My concerns about that macro is that it can go asexual if I don't keep it trimmed and I don't notice the pods crawling on it the way that I see on the cheato. Since I have a mandarin, it's a high priority to cultivate pods in my sumps.

In any case the sumps are doing their job as a biological filter and nutrient uptake. That was my biggest worry when I decided to radically remove all the rock, the corals and most of the sand bed.


While it's hard for me to look at the photos of my tank when it was loaded with life, I am looking forward to a tank with more open space for the fish to swim about and better flow patterns. Also,empty space used correctly can be pretty eye appealing. It will be fun incorporating empty space in my new rockwork.


thanks for reading and the feed back
 
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NS Mike D

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Transitioning from rip clean to re build.


I removed the rest of the sand, did a 5 gallon water change, added CaribSea Arag-Alive Natural Reef (3mm - 5mm) and rock that finished the disinfection process. I switch from Ref Crystals to Instant Ocean salt mix. I don't need the high alk of Reef Crystals and it's closer to the Pacific Ocean Water that I get from Petco when I'm not up for making salt water.

I added a carpet anemone for the clowns and much needed invert life.

Since I have a basket of rubble rock in the sump, lots of existing water and the addition of the live sand, I expect the bacteria to populate the rock fairly quickly. I will dial back the light schedule - enough for the nem, but not so much to give the rock time to cure and cover with coraline before algae sets in. This is also why I decided not to do a full water change. It wouldn't get all the dinos out, and could have actually stripped the water column of beneficial bacteria that could keep the dinos in check.

I have more rocks in the pail in H202 - I am not sure I want to add more rock than what I have now. I like the open minimalist look a think the fish prefer to swim that spend the day avoiding rock walls. I might sculpt and bond together the remaining rock to form some sort of zoa tower structure for the back middle .

Any suggestions for nem rock assuming the nem stays there? It has sort of a two tier shape that I think I can add coral to the lower section while avoiding a coral war.



FTS

IMG_1806.jpg



Carpet Nem

IMG_1800.jpg



Mandarin exploring the new sand bed. It's been aggressively feeding on mysis and brine since I began the rip clean. Fingers crossed that I'll be able to re-build the pod population sooner than later.


IMG_1803.jpg





I don't know if I need all four pumps. I had so much rock work that I needed them, but with the open space, it might be nice to thin the DT hardware. I don't think I will need a pump dedicated fo flow over the sand bed like in the past, and that the mandarin would prefer a calmer sand bed, so the lower left pump is at the top of the hit list.


As for the dinos. My research leads me to believe that I will not be able to totally rid the tank of the nasty dinos that did the damage (killing corals and snails) without a full tank shut down for several months (not feasible since I want to keep my fish).

My plan is to (1) reduce the surviving dinos to a manageable level, (2) focus on keeping parameters that will enable bacteria, pods etc to flourish that form a natural defense against the dinos and (3) rock work that can easily be removed for rip cleaning without damaging corals.

So far no signs of dinos , especially their going sticky mucus stage that form their mats/strings.

While I removed the last of the old sand bed which was still forming light cyano mats. I wouldn't be surprised if it shows up in the next few days, but cyano doesn't bother me much. I've been able to keep that in check and expect that the large grain sand will make that even easier. So long as I don't let it mat up on the rock work and limit it's presence on the sand bed to small low flow areas, and my NO3 PO4 are in acceptable levels, I wouldn't do anything that could disrupt the tank's biological balance (which is what I did to create a dino paradise).


N03/PO4 testing tomorrow.
 
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NS Mike D

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I rethought the rock work - something didn't sit right with me. I think because the tower drew my attention to the center. So I moved it to the right, covering the pump and pipe to the HOB, and them built an arch to the left. I'll give it a day or two before I epoxy the arch.

what do you say?

IMG_9183.jpg


Edit swapped on pic for white light
 
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NS Mike D

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today's update.

Param's are expectedly whacky, but given the major surgery, not the end of the world. I have a starting point.

SG. 1.024.
Alk. 7.0
Ca. 500
Mg. didn't test
NO3. +4ppm
PO4. .16 ppm
NH3. 0 (using API)
Ph 8.14

As expected the next 3 - 6 months will be like threading a needle. While I bleach the DT rocks, I still had rubble rock in the sump, most of the pre-breakdown tank water and I added live sand to help reestablish the bacteria colonies. lack of detectable NH3 is encouraging.

I expect the rocks to become colonized fairly quickly. Coraline to fend off algae will be another story. I ordered bottle of ARC Purple Helix Coralline Algae to help this along. It was shipped and expected to arrive in 3 days.

Alk is low, and with the high NO3 & PO4 I am not comfortable with the number. I'd like to get that to 8.5 over the next week or so. 3 caps (1/2 cap a day) of SeaChem Fusion Part 2 should work.

Calc is high but when I start to do water changes again, I'll let it drop on it's own.

I'll be using instant ocean as my salt mix.


NO3 PO4, I wasn't expecting the fuge to respond right away. I'll stay on top of filter sock changes, trim back the caulerpa to inspire growth and give the cheato a chance. I can run GFO with may activate carbon, but I decided not to fiddle with the media reactor for the time being. The mandarin poses the same challenged as before, overfeeding to ensure it eats, elevated NO3 and PO4. Given that I have observed it eat the frozen aggressively, I think I can cut back on the feeding a little.

I am getting light dusting of algae on the tank. I always did. Right now I am cleaning m ost of it but leaving some for the snails and urchin.
 
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NS Mike D

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Added a bottle of ARC Purple Helix to the tank tonight. It's going to be a race between these new spores taking hold and the tuxedo urchin. I've been a bit concern since stripping the rock clean and bleaching it would leave the urchin to starve. While it may take a little longer for the rocks to cover entirely, I'm confident that they will over time and the urchin will have a food supply in the meantime - lot's of pebbles in the new sand bed for spores to attach for the urchin. If only he/she could work the glass corners.

@ARCreef
 
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NS Mike D

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Time to attack the 5 gal HOB sump. A few things over time. When I added the DIY below tank sump, the primary purpose of this sump was for pod production. Over time, the caulerpa that arrived as a hitchhiker has overtaken the cheato in the sump leaving just a few strands of cheato. In the past I would see pods crawling all over the cheato but there has been little to no signs of pods since the caulerpa took over. I trimmed back the caulerpa today putting back a handful and will keep that in check until I can get my hands on a good bunch of cheato and pull the caulerpa and restock with tigger pods.

I emptied the sump. Over the year a 2" sludge has built up, likely all that oolite getting pumped in. So much that you couldn't even see all the rubble rock. I scraped the walls, cleaned out the tank, removed all the sludge and rinsed the rubble rock.

IMG_4551 2.jpg


Two days ago I took the protein skimmer out of retirement to help with nutrient export given the barren state of the tank as I restart.

While it's a tight squeeze, the clean out enabled the skimmer to fit perfectly. It's hard to see but it fits just below the sump lights. The blue clip keeps the air hose in place.

IMG_1859.jpg



Another look with the DIY overflow when I added the lower sump. You can see the HOB pump near the bottom. I had fabricated some plumbing to lower the pump when I added the over flow. The overflow removes from the top into the filter socks. This still bothers me as the HOB can become a detritus collector. The HOB is not designed for filter socks. I might just siphon the bottom of the HOB directly into the lower filter socks as part of my routine maintenance.


IMG_5032 2.jpg


Since I had the sump off the tank, and I had a can of blue spray paint, I did a last minute mod and removed the ugly plastic back wall covering

IMG_1108.jpg



I've been dosing Fluval Sea Alk this week. The past week I raised from 7.0 dkh to 8.4.

The frags and nem are doing well. I'm concerned a bit about the sump clean, but it had to be done ASAP and if everyone survives the next couple of days, I am confident about the long term prospect for the tank.


While it's barren, no coraline covering on the rocks and the diatoms are doing their thing, I am so happy looking at the tank and not seeing that ugly infestation of dinos, GHA etc.
 
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NS Mike D

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mid-week update.

First casualty, the frogspawn died. I presume the tank tinkering after I got it was too much.
IMG_3062.jpg



The kenya tree and the pink zoas are doing fine. The GSP fell off the back wall twice, so I removed the old crazy glue and attached to it's own rock. When I pulled the rock out to do this, I realized the side I had buried in the sand was flat, to I glues the gsp to that side and now it sits in the tank like a coffee table. I think that that will look nice.


I pulled the Cualepra out of th hang on back sump. That doesn't leave much macro, but it needed to be done to give the cheato a chance to do it's thing. I didn't like cualepra in my tank in the long run.


I pulled the skimmer again and am looking for a new one. The Hydor nano is nice, but it takes too much room in the display and while it fits in both sumps, neither is deep enough for he water line to reach the outflow slots. I wish they had included the min-water depth in their product sheet when I bought it and not just it's dimensions.

without the skimmer and cualepra, nutrient export is going to be a challenge until the cheato tales off and I get a skimmer that will fit.

diatoms are doing their thing and coming right off with vacuuming the sandbed and the rock is staring to turn light green and I think I am starting to see little dots of coraline. I was hoping to see more coraline dots with the ARC helix but with the fish load in the tank, I wasn't able to avoid blowing the diatoms off the rock (I assume coraline spores an well) and putting filter socks bak on after a few hours. There is enough coraline of the rubble rock on the sumps that eventually (years) I'll have nice purple DT rock.
 
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NS Mike D

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Quick Update

Todays water test

SG. 1.025
Temp. 78.8°
pH. 8.28
Alk. 7.7*
CA. 430
Mg. 1560
NO3. 20
PO4. 0.16


I put the protein skimmer back in the HOB. Even though the water flow is not up to specs, there is some flow and it does pull out skim. Given that I pulled out the cualepra leaving a small cheato ball, NO3 & PO4 export via macro algae is materially reduce right now. As mentioned earlier, given I have to feed a mandarin, I'll be threading a needle. Returning the skimmer, and refreshing the GFO a few day ago should help.

Time to replace the test kits, especially the alk. I've been dosing Fluval ALk which should have sent my ALK way above 11. No visible precipitation and sufficient Mg to keep it in solution.
 
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NS Mike D

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I tackled the lower sump today.

With the hardware and the egg crate of rubble rock removed. Lots of build up there.

IMG_0030.jpg



makes you think about about what builds up over the years down there.

IMG_4574.jpg




Sump, pumps, lines etc cleaned and ready to to reassemble


IMG_5259.jpg




Back in business. The plastic clip that held the BRS DIT ATO float switches in place disintegrated over the years so I fashioned now holders out of egg crate I had lying around (not pictured) and I like the placement better that the original.




IMG_3969.jpg



So I have decided to stop using kalkwasser in my ATO. The build up was far more than I want as as a nano. manual 2 pt dosing is not a bother. Also, I am not expecting much uptake for now. I'd rather be able to see inside the sump going forward and using the wet vac (thanks to the R2Rwers who posted in my wet vac thread) to do regular sump cleaning.


So here it is. The DT, the HOB and the Under the Tank Sump have all been cleaned. I think I am ready to dose tigger pods into the sumps and get those colonies to populate again.
 
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NS Mike D

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quick update: I saw red starting to cover the HOB Sump cheato ball with about 2 or 3 red strings about 1 1/2". Are dinos back? I pulled the cheato, giving a good rinse and removed the pieces where I could see any shade of red. Put it back and keeping a close eye on it. The cheato in the lower sump looks ok. A new fuge light for the lower sump should arrive next week.

I tinkered with the aquascape (thanks for input from R2R in my scape thread) so a fts
IMG_4118.jpg
 
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NS Mike D

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I couldn't leave well enough alone. The I deal of a zoa tower might have sounded good, but the more I looked at it, for some reason it bothered me.

I kept with the basics of off center balance , with the longer side taller. I did add a more cave and passages for the fish, while keeping the plenty of open space for them to swim. This sort of changes my plans for a zoa garden. Back to the drawing board for the coral plan.

IMG_5818.jpg


IMG_0758.jpg
 
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