ReefGrammie's 90-Gallon Reboot

ReefGrammie

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My tank is embarrassing. I almost didn't start a build thread, but ironically my 6-year "memory" picture on a popular social media site this morning was right after I upgraded from my 46-gallon bowfront to the 90-gallon tank in December of 2013. A lot has changed since then, and about 2 years ago, I decided to get out of the hobby. My decision was to keep the tank going until my inhabitants passed on. I kept feeding and doing occasional water changes, but that's about it. My coral had already died off, probably due to the failure of my LED controller and bad husbandry. I decided not to replace the light. Why would I buy another expensive LED if I was tearing the tank down anyway? During this time, our kids had grown up and moved out, we had college graduations, weddings, and now grandkids. Life has been busy!

Fast forward to now. After thinking we were going to downsize and possibly move (one of the main reasons I was going to take down the tank), we decided to stay here. After some house renovations, my husband asked if I really wanted to take down the tank and my answer was an immediate "NO." I knew I had a daunting task ahead of me because the tank looked like crap. One of my major regrets was getting lazy during this time and adding an autofeeder with flake food. I had always fed frozen, but the autofeeder was great when we traveled. My mistake was leaving it in even when we weren't traveling! Meanwhile, I replaced my LED, cleaned up the skimmer, and started regular water changes again. The damage was done, though, and I started experiencing a HORRIBLE hair algae outbreak a few months ago. Nitrates were slightly high, but my fish were doing fine, and the nitrates came back to 0 with the water changes. I'm sure phosphates were out the roof, but they weren't even registering because I'm sure the hair algae was having a field day with the phosphates.

I started the phosphate reactor back up, changed the skimmer cup regularly, started dosing Phosphate Rx, and added a new CUC. When the hair algae started turning white, I did as much manual removal as I could, more water changes, more Phosphate Rx. I've been deliberately underdosing the Phosphate Rx because of my paranoia over my tang and wrasses, but they haven't show signs of stress. I knew this would be a long, painstaking process, but I am gradually seeing improvement and the die-off is continuing. I have also added pods several times to the refugium, and my chaeto (that somehow survived) is about the size of a soccer ball now. I'm horrified to even post these pictures, but hopefully they will help/encourage somebody else who decides to reboot a neglected tank. I'm hoping posting pictures along the way will also be encouragement for me, because right now, I HATE the way everything looks!!

First of all, my tank right after the transfer 6 years ago, which makes me want to cry:
6 years.JPG

"Baby Clown" in that picture was my original tank inhabitant from the 46-bowfront, which I started just over 11 years ago! I was glad he photobombed the picture. He is my only surviving fish from 11 years ago.

The tank 2 months ago (I can't believe I'm posting this ;Inpain) with as usual, Baby Clown!
IMG_5470 (3).JPG


I will be doing a water change this afternoon and more manual plucking/siphoning. I hope to post a more positive picture later on. I won't describe all of my inhabitants now, but I will give honorable mention to a few of them and how long I've had them.

O. Clown, 11 years
Red serpent star, at least 8 years
Yellow tang, 6 years
Pygmy angel, 6 years
 
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ReefGrammie

ReefGrammie

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You're on the right track and I have a feeling that your tank will thrive again! I look forward to following along!
Thanks! I need all the encouragement I can get right now! I'm going to do another water change probably tomorrow, along with more pruning, and will post a picture of the still horrible, but less horrible, GHA.
 
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A little bit of info about my tank (other than it has a nasty hair algae problem):

2.jpg


Under the hood. Everything in here goes at least back to my upgrade to the 90 about 6 years ago.

3.jpg


Acrylic reservoir for my Tunze ATO system.

4.jpg


View from the top with the canopy open. The only recent change has been the new light, ReedBreeders Photon 50-V2+. It is my 2nd ReefBreeders LED and I must say, this one is so much better! It is much lighter and slimmer. I chose this light because it would be mounted inside my canopy, plus ReefBreeders is a great company to work with! I was actually able to raise the light a few inches inside the canopy with the thinner design.

5.jpg


The hair algae today. At one point, the rock was completely covered. I didn't take a picture then because it was so disgusting!



7.jpg

You can see the hair algae turning white (and also my pretty linespot flasher wrasse). I'm off work tomorrow and will probably do more manual removal.

That's all for now!
 
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IMG_1322.jpg


Merry Christmas! Who does a water change and hair algae removal on Christmas Day? - ME! I feel like I'm finally winning the war. The left side of the tank started out with the worst of the hair algae, but now the worst is on the right side. The good news is I'm not seeing new growth on the left side. I'm still running the phosphate reactor and dosing Phosphate RX at a much lower dose than normal, only about 8 drops at a time. I have also started dosing Vibrant 10 ml twice a week. I probably wouldn't chance both if I had any corals, but since I'm back to square one, I figured it couldn't hurt since they work in totally different ways. No signs of any fish stress, so I may keep dosing both for now. I do have a polyp or 2 of a blue mushroom, which survived the tank apocalypse...I think those things can survive most anything, though!

Also of note, I have noticed a definite decrease in skimmate production recently. When this fiasco started, the skimmer was working in overdrive and the production was very dark, almost black. I actually had to turn it up yesterday, which I take as another good sign. It's back to the normal "tea" color.
 
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ReefGrammie

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The hair algae continues to turn white. Once it's starts turning white, it's SO much easier to remove from the rock! I am continuing with manual removal, water changes, underdosing Phosphate RX, and dosing Vibrant at the recommended level. It's been about 3 weeks since I started dosing Vibrant at 10 ml twice weekly and I feel that has definitely accelerated the hair algae die off. I have no corals at this time, and the lifestock seem to be fine (I was worried about my tang and wrasses). The inverts also seem fine. I have a number of hermit crabs, several emerald crabs, and a very loud pistol shrimp. Looking back at my yucky pictures is actually encouraging because I'm seeing the progress!

My tank-loving son was also in town for New Year's and we rescued the little cleaner shrimp from the overflow box and moved it to the refugium to grow up a bit. We then proceeded to suction out "stuff" from the overflow box and the sump. He also removed a few nasty sponges that I wasn't even aware were in the refugium! Progress is being made, slowly but surely.

Left side of the tank:

IMG_1563.jpg


The right side, which is the worst part now:

IMG_1567.jpg


FTS:
IMG_1572.jpg
 
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Those earlier pictures make me cringe!! I'm seeing great improvement in the hair algae now. I'm still dosing about 10 ml of Vibrant twice weekly and a few drops of Phosphate RX daily. Manual removal is getting more difficult because there's less to pull (a good sign, for sure). I just recently got rid of an old Koralia powerhead and added the OctoPulse OP-2. As soon as I turned it on, the amount of crap that blew all over the place was insane! I literally clogged a filter sock in less than 24 hours. I have definitely also noticed that the sand seems much whiter...maybe from the Vibrant or maybe from the accelerated flow?

Here are a few pictures:

The FTS (and tang butt). You can barely make out the OP-2 powerhead on the left. I still have an MP-40 on the right side.
IMG_1606.jpg


Emerald crab, along with pincushion urchin carrying a rock:
IMG_1590.jpg


Flasher wrasse hiding in the rock. He's doing much better since the six line went back to the LFS and is hiding much less.
IMG_1364.jpg


The lone ricordea, my only coral. Probably the only thing I'll take a chance on until I'm sure my hair algae problem is gone!
IMG_1593.jpg


My little dragonet, who will be getting a new dose of pods tonight after lights out!
IMG_1366.jpg
 
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ReefGrammie

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Looking good! I too have had periods where I would walk past my tank and cringe. Feels good to get it right again though.
Thanks!! My sister's family was in town recently for a quick overnight stop. My brother-in-law asked to see the tank. Thankfully, the lights were already out!! I told him there was no way was he looking at the tank....
 
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What do you do on a rainy, crappy Saturday in January? A water change, online coral shopping, and clean out 11 years of reefing stuff! My "fish room" is the wet bar around the corner from my tank. I found old manuals for things I no longer have, misc. plumbing stuff that I've never used, 6 bottles of superglue gel (I thought I was out), multiple air stones (was looking for one the other day and couldn't find one), pipettes, pumps, airline tubing, frag plugs, rocks, and my favorite, an old expired credit card from 2010 that was used to scrape coraline!

Before :eek::
savingPNG.jpg


After :D:
IMG_5843.JPG


Now if I can just keep the "after" looking like the after...
 
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Here we go. Time for another update! The hair algae continues to slowly disappear. I am still performing manual removal at least once a week before the water change. I decided to decrease the Vibrant slightly. I had been doing 10 ml twice weekly for an extremely dirty, disgusting, nasty tank. I don't think I'm quite to just plain "dirty," so I'm going to back off to 10 ml every five days and see how that goes. My biggest fear is the disappearance of the GHA will cause something else to bloom, so I intend to make changes ever so slowly! The lone ricordea still looks good. At least I don't want to cry when I look at my tank now!

Left side with the damsel glaring at me:
IMG_1666.jpg


Right side, which is still the worst:
IMG_1658.jpg


The lone ricordea:
IMG_1678.jpg


FTS:
IMG_1672.jpg
 
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Things are definitely looking up and that riccordia looks super happy! Will you start adding corals pretty soon?
Thanks so much!!! I went a little nuts at the Legendary Corals live sale last weekend, but am limiting myself to ricordeas and zoanthids for the moment. I'm not about to attempt anything difficult until I'm absolutely sure my parameters are where I want them and all of the algae is gone. I have definitely wanted more color than more poor lonely ricordea! When the other pieces come in, I'm going to glue them to a separate rock and put them in the corner on the bottom for now.
 
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New arrivals expected tomorrow! I'm excited and ready! One thing I regret from my previous tank was not gluing frag plugs to rubble...small enough to move around, but large enough to keep my pincushion urchin from wearing them as a hat and then dropping them in a place I can't reach. I took a large piece of base rock, wrapped it in a dish towel, and then whacked it with a hammer. I hate frag plugs, but some of my goods will be 1-polyp zoas, so I'll just glue the plug to a piece of rubble and then I can move it around. I'm definitely going to spend more time and effort on placement this time, instead of just randomly gluing frags to rocks.

IMG_0019.jpg
 

Ron Reefman

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Rhonda, thanks for posting in my build thread. It got me to look through yours. You have made a huge amount of progress since your reboot.

Your algae issue looks like the same algae I'm dealing with now, and I don't have as much as your first pic, but I'm close. And mine is growing all over corals (mostly zoas) that moved to my new 90g tank from my old 40g tank. I spent an hour yesterday picking it out and it looks better... but I know it will be a long battle.

That is a very classy looking ATO reservoir you have!

We share the same experience with leds. I started with EverGrow leds and they are the company that makes Reef Breeders leds. I worked for a couple of years for Ocean Revive, another led company and they were also made by EverGrow. For a Chinese company, they are very forward looking and realize they sell to a world market and need to build quality into their products. I have 2 Photons over my tank.

Gluing frag plugs to rubble is a great idea! I took all my rocks and drilled 100+ holes for frag plugs. The holes that don't get used disappear pretty quickly in a camouflage of coraline and diatoms so you don't even notice them. But putting frag plugs into rubble is brilliant!

Things appear to be getting better and better in your tank. If you want some color (I'm all about fluorescence under blue leds) consider a Rock Flower Anemone. They are quite hardy and can be extremely colorful. I started with 5 and 3 years later I have 45+ and I've only bought 3 and brought only 1 home from snorkeling in the Keys. All the others are babies from my original 5. If you put them in a PVC pipe end cap and set it in the sand, they almost never move. After a few weeks you can even push the end cap down below the surface of the sand so you don't see it. The RFA will pull itself under the sand if disturbed, but come back up happy that it has what it thinks is a great hole in a rock (the end cap).
 
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Rhonda, thanks for posting in my build thread. It got me to look through yours. You have made a huge amount of progress since your reboot.

Your algae issue looks like the same algae I'm dealing with now, and I don't have as much as your first pic, but I'm close. And mine is growing all over corals (mostly zoas) that moved to my new 90g tank from my old 40g tank. I spent an hour yesterday picking it out and it looks better... but I know it will be a long battle.

That is a very classy looking ATO reservoir you have!

We share the same experience with leds. I started with EverGrow leds and they are the company that makes Reef Breeders leds. I worked for a couple of years for Ocean Revive, another led company and they were also made by EverGrow. For a Chinese company, they are very forward looking and realize they sell to a world market and need to build quality into their products. I have 2 Photons over my tank.

Gluing frag plugs to rubble is a great idea! I took all my rocks and drilled 100+ holes for frag plugs. The holes that don't get used disappear pretty quickly in a camouflage of coraline and diatoms so you don't even notice them. But putting frag plugs into rubble is brilliant!

Things appear to be getting better and better in your tank. If you want some color (I'm all about fluorescence under blue leds) consider a Rock Flower Anemone. They are quite hardy and can be extremely colorful. I started with 5 and 3 years later I have 45+ and I've only bought 3 and brought only 1 home from snorkeling in the Keys. All the others are babies from my original 5. If you put them in a PVC pipe end cap and set it in the sand, they almost never move. After a few weeks you can even push the end cap down below the surface of the sand so you don't see it. The RFA will pull itself under the sand if disturbed, but come back up happy that it has what it thinks is a great hole in a rock (the end cap).
Thank you so much, Ron!! You're taking me on a trip down memory lane. My ATO reservoir is a custom acrylic I had made years ago. I can't even remember the company, or I'd give them credit!

I remember the EverGrow LEDs. I was very pleased with my first Reef Breeders LED, but I really love the new one. It's much more sleek and appears more suited for my canopy.

I love your idea on drilling the rock for frag plugs! I'm going to post a few pictures of my old 46-gallon bowfront. Part of the reason I decided to do the frag/rubble was my zoa colonies, which were overrunning the rock! Not a bad problem to have, right? At first, I was going to leave zoas out altogether, but they're so beautiful and my son had a fit about that! I just wanted to be able to control them a little bit better.

I've never had a rock flower anemone...that sounds intriguing!
 
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Since @Ron Reefman made me think about this, I'm going to post a few pictures of my original tank, a 46-gallon bowfront. I absolutely loved it and was so excited to upgrade to the 90 in 2013. I feel like I have a clean slate with the 90, so I'm encouraged. The pictures are from 2012. I started that tank in 2008, so the pictures were 4 years from starting that tank.

I LOVED this brain coral. I had it for probably 5 years. Picked it up at a reef trade show. I wish I had it now!!

DSC_0021a (2).jpg


Green ricordea and Tubbs blues. I had a HUGE colony. More Tubbs blues coming next week!
a1.jpg


Some of my previous zoas. This is my reason for gluing frags to rubble. I want a little more "control" of the zoas, if that's even possible!
DSC_0108 (3).JPG


My previous green apple monticap. It was a signature piece and one of my favorites. My hammer to the left had gotten HUGE!
IMG_7966.JPG


Baby Clown (my 11-year-old clownfish) loved that Duncan in the middle. That's Baby Clown in my avatar pic in that Duncan. Loved that candy hogfish, too!
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Wow, now it really grosses me out to look at my original tank pictures from a few months ago. BUT, now I know what I have to work towards. For anybody new looking at these, having a beautiful reef tank doesn't happen overnight and it takes patience, patience, and more patience!! I've had to work through this disgusting hair algae outbreak for close to 4 months now and have finally reached the point where I feel like I can start over. Fortunately, my fish/inverts did just fine during the algae outbreak, but I took things VERY slowly. I'm still dosing Vibrant, but have started backing it down ever so slightly.
 

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