Serious Phosphate Problem

ryshark

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My tank was cruising along nicely parameters were perfect acros were looking good and then bam, I started seeing a couple small patches of GHA. I figured no biggie I’ll just buy more snails and crabs. So I bought a bunch of algae eaters including turbo snails and scarlet hermit crabs. At this point my PO4 was around .12 and Nitrate 5-10. Pretty good.

The cleanup crew arrived but the gha kept spreading. So, I bought more cleanup crew, this time a bunch of astreas and emerald crabs and my PO4 was about .14, nitrate the same 5-10. GHA kept spreading and was encroaching on my acros, especially the “nubs” which cost several hundred.

I realized it had been several months since I turkey basted my rocks, so I did this and they were very dusty. GHA kept spreading and started smothering my small acro frags, so I took a tooth brush and scrubbed the bases of all my acros. While I was at it, I took a big brush and scrubbed all my rocks which made a huge mess in the tank. At this point in time my PO4 was .14, however the day after the scrubbing my PO4 spiked to .24 and most my acros bleached (I’m assuming from the PO4 spike). They got bleached/pale quick, like within 24-hours of the spike.

Still trying to avoid GFO I then decided to buy some Prodibio Biodigest and Bioptim, essentially bacteria and carbon source to lower PO4. This didn’t work so then I decided keep dosing Prodibio but also dose KZ Coral Snow Plus which is also supposed to lower PO4, but it also isn’t doing much. The “Plus” is thought to be Lanthanum Chloride.

PO4 is steady around .24 - .26 and 15% water changes don’t do much at all.

Now about 90% of my rocks are covered in 1/2”+ of hair algae, it’s actually more of a brown color and I’ve been basting almost daily which always creates a big cloud. So, still trying to avoid GFO I bought some KZ Bio-Mate which will arrives next week. This bacteria is supposed to lower PO4 and clean the mulm on my rocks.
Most of my big Turbo snails I bought are dying, I don’t think they like this algae. Which is not helping my situation since they are pretty big and getting eaten up.

With that said, I’m pretty sure it’s not byropsis, as I don’t see anything fern-like.

That brings the story up to yesterday. I’ve been daily dosing Coral Snow Plus for a week and cut my feeding down a long time ago to where my less assertive fish are getting very skinny.

Today I did another scrubbing of just the frags since I had my first RTN of my smallest nub which got smothered by algae.
Most my acros are still pale/bleached but still have some PE and luckily some hardy acros look good still, like BK Chem Froot Loops.

2-hours after scrubbing today I took a PO4 reading and it was .30. It’s possible I create a spike every-time I scrub or baste.
Skimmer runs 24/7. Alkalinity has luckily been pretty steady around 8.6 and consumption also steady. I stopped adding any new corals since before I saw the first sign of GHA.

I’m very tempted to setup my GFO reactor this weekend. Thoughts? Suggestions?
 
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JWsticks

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Carbon dosing will not directly address your phosphates issue and would probably have to dose nitrates to get phosphates down while carbon dosing.

Previously, I've vodka dosed into a DIY nitrate reactor which made nitrates near 0 but Po4 was 0.30 PPM.

75W LED to light some chaeto addressed the nutrients issue overall with added benefits of raising PH and low maintenance.
 
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ryshark

ryshark

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Carbon dosing will not directly address your phosphates issue and would probably have to dose nitrates to get phosphates down while carbon dosing.

Previously, I've vodka dosed into a DIY nitrate reactor which made nitrates near 0 but Po4 was 0.30 PPM.

75W LED to light some chaeto addressed the nutrients issue overall with added benefits of raising PH and low maintenance.
I was hoping since there is 5-10 nitrate that the PO4 would come down with the BioDigest/Bioptim.
I forgot to mention. My refugium light was at at 12.5 hours before this started and I’m up to 14-hours now. Still growing Chaeto.
 

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My tank was cruising along nicely parameters were perfect acros were looking good and then bam, I started seeing a couple small patches of GHA. I figured no biggie I’ll just buy more snails and crabs. So I bought a bunch of algae eaters including turbo snails and scarlet hermit crabs. At this point my PO4 was around .12 and Nitrate 5-10. Pretty good.

The cleanup crew arrived but the gha kept spreading. So, I bought more cleanup crew, this time a bunch of astreas and emerald crabs and my PO4 was about .14, nitrate the same 5-10. GHA kept spreading and was encroaching on my acros, especially the “nubs” which cost several hundred.

I realized it had been several months since I turkey basted my rocks, so I did this and they were very dusty. GHA kept spreading and started smothering my small acro frags, so I took a tooth brush and scrubbed the bases of all my acros. While I was at it, I took a big brush and scrubbed all my rocks which made a huge mess in the tank. At this point in time my PO4 was .14, however the day after the scrubbing my PO4 spiked to .24 and most my acros bleached (I’m assuming from the PO4 spike). They got bleached/pale quick, like within 24-hours of the spike.

Still trying to avoid GFO I then decided to buy some Prodibio Biodigest and Bioptim, essentially bacteria and carbon source to lower PO4. This didn’t work so then I decided keep dosing Prodibio but also dose KZ Coral Snow Plus which is also supposed to lower PO4, but it also isn’t doing much. The “Plus” is thought to be Lanthanum Chloride.

PO4 is steady around .24 - .26 and 15% water changes don’t do much at all.

Now about 90% of my rocks are covered in 1/2”+ of hair algae, it’s actually more of a brown color and I’ve been basting almost daily which always creates a big cloud. So, still trying to avoid GFO I bought some KZ Bio-Mate which will arrives next week. This bacteria is supposed to lower PO4 and clean the mulm on my rocks.
Most of my big Turbo snails I bought are dying, I don’t think they like this algae. Which is not helping my situation since they are pretty big and getting eaten up.

With that said, I’m pretty sure it’s not byropsis, as I don’t see anything fern-like.

That brings the story up to yesterday. I’ve been daily dosing Coral Snow Plus for a week and cut my feeding down a long time ago to where my less assertive fish are getting very skinny.

Today I did another scrubbing of just the frags since I had my first RTN of my smallest nub which got smothered by algae.
Most my acros are still pale/bleached but still have some PE and luckily some hardy acros look good still, like BK Chem Froot Loops.

2-hours after scrubbing today I took a PO4 reading and it was .30. It’s possible I create a spike every-time I scrub or baste.
Skimmer runs 24/7. Alkalinity has luckily been pretty steady around 8.6 and consumption also steady. I stopped adding any new corals since before I saw the first sign of GHA.

I’m very tempted to setup my GFO reactor this weekend. Thoughts? Suggestions?
Do you have any good pictures of the algae?
 

JWsticks

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I was hoping since there is 5-10 nitrate that the PO4 would come down with the BioDigest/Bioptim.
I forgot to mention. My refugium light was at at 12.5 hours before this started and I’m up to 14-hours now. Still growing Chaeto.
Your nitrates are fine.

A common theme I see is display is lit with 300W of LED but refugium is lit with a cheap 23 W bulb. (Not sure about your case)

Light the chaeto the same way you grow SPS and your problems will go away.
 
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ryshark

ryshark

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ryshark

ryshark

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Your nitrates are fine.

A common theme I see is display is lit with 300W of LED but refugium is lit with a cheap 23 W bulb. (Not sure about your case)

Light the chaeto the same way you grow SPS and your problems will go away.
Yeah, I like my nitrate at 5-10 and PO4 ideally .08 to .12
I use this for my refugium. It’s a small refugium but this light grew my Chaeto from a small tennis ball size to filling up most the chamber. I prune it every other week while doing my water change.
 

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Yeah, I like my nitrate at 5-10 and PO4 ideally .08 to .12
I use this for my refugium. It’s a small refugium but this light grew my Chaeto from a small tennis ball size to filling up most the chamber. I prune it every other week while doing my water change.
When Export > Import of nutrients, your numbers will go down.

How long are you running your lights? Try running it longer.

if that is working, but nitrates goes down beyond your range. Dose nitrates to the level you want while maintaining PO4 number.

Its all a balancing act and there is no smoking gun that will solve all your issues.

FWIW I dose both in my tank to maintain 5 NO3 and < 0.10 P04.
 
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ryshark

ryshark

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When Export > Import of nutrients, your numbers will go down.

How long are you running your lights? Try running it longer.

if that is working, but nitrates goes down beyond your range. Dose nitrates to the level you want while maintaining PO4 number.

Its all a balancing act and there is no smoking gun that will solve all your issues.

FWIW I dose both in my tank to maintain 5 NO3 and < 0.10 P04.
My refugium is 14-hours now. Do you know how many is the max it can handle? I know it needs some dark time.
My import is very low right now because I’m hardly feeding. The PO4 has got to be coming from something internal at this point. Maybe the algae dying, maybe my lack of basting for several months or maybe over feeding from before the issue started.
I know for sure GFO would lower my PO4 and my Nitrates would stay at 5-10, but not sure I want to go that route.
 
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ryshark

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Studies say 16-18h hours is max.

I would do 24h just to get the number down and adjust from there.

If the refugium is full, you might want to harvest some too.
I’ll bump the refugium light way up right now, thanks. I pruned it 6-days ago so it’s got space to grow.
 

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Good luck and report back. Almost 100pct confident this will work. I

If you want to speed up growth, dosing iron has helped growth.

With the right conditions, I have taken chaeto size of a tennis ball and turned basketball size in 1 week.
 

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Based on the pictures, this is definitely a major algae problem. I definitely see hair algae. Hard to tell from the pics, but I also thought I saw bryopsis in the first pic (very left side center). I'm pretty sure I see dinos as well which some would consider odd given all the algae---however I've also had dinos when significant algae was present (granted, not as bad as here). Do you have a microscope? If so, looking at a sample of the stringy stuff that has bubbles trapped in it could be helpful. You're absolutely right that figuring out your PO4 source is key and, in the meantime, aggressively reducing levels is needed. However, before I offer any suggestions, let me ask a few basic questions:
1) How big is your net system volume? About how much rock do you have?
2) How old is your system?
3) Do you have a sand bottom? How deep is it and how frequently do you clean it? Any chance that you have a big starfish or other large sand dweller (even part-time sand dweller) that is dead and buried?
4) What skimmer do you have? How fast does your cup fill up?
5) What are you using for DT lights and what's your light cycle?
6) What is your aversion to using GFO?
7) What do you use for water? RODI hopefully? If RODI, when is the last time you tested it? How have you tested it?
8) What phosphate and nitrate tests are you using?
 
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When in doubt, change it out!
Water that is ;) Find a salt that mixes close to your consistent alk maintained, and do a large water change. Disable return pump, do your basting and scrubbing thing, then suck out the water and replace. Stop using products! Manual intervention and elbow grease, that is best approach. This will reset and balance minerals, nutrients, and bacteria, which clearly there is a balance issue. Just went through dinos, dumped all carbon dosing and bacteria products, and back to boring old Berlin method, dosing kalkwasser, passive carbon, protein skimmer. I could not be happier :)
KISS
 

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First, when you scrub your rocks, take them out of the tank and clean them in a bucket of water. I would suggest doing this while doing a water change. Just scrub the rocks in the water that you pull out of the tank. When you clean them in the tank, you are just releasing all of the nutrients into the water.

Second, using a product like Lanthium Chloride or GFO to bring down the PO4 isn't a bad thing, just do it slowly. You need to decide what the major problem is and then deal with it. To me, the algae is the biggest problem caused by the elevated PO4. Your rock work has probably trapped some PO4, and your levels will take a while to come down.

Keep cleaning the algae off of the rocks so that your clean-up crew has a chance to get ahead. I would also consider using a PO4 reducing product to get a handle on the PO4. Just take it slowly. When your PO4 stays below 0.1, stop using the product.

This could take a while, so just be patient.
 
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ryshark

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Based on the pictures, this is definitely a major algae problem. I definitely see hair algae. Hard to tell from the pics, but I also thought I saw bryopsis in the first pic (very left side center). I'm pretty sure I see dinos as well which some would consider odd given all the algae---however I've also had dinos when significant algae was present (granted, not as bad as here). Do you have a microscope? If so, looking at a sample of the stringy stuff that has bubbles trapped in it could be helpful. You're absolutely right that figuring out your PO4 source is key and, in the meantime, aggressively reducing levels is needed. However, before I offer any suggestions, let me ask a few basic questions:
1) How big is your net system volume? About how much rock do you have?
2) How old is your system?
3) Do you have a sand bottom? How deep is it and how frequently do you clean it? Any chance that you have a big starfish or other large sand dweller (even part-time sand dweller) that is dead and buried?
4) What skimmer do you have? How fast does your cup fill up?
5) What are you using for DT lights and what's your light cycle?
6) What is your aversion to using GFO?
7) What do you use for water? RODI hopefully? If RODI, when is the last time you tested it? How have you tested it?
8) What phosphate and nitrate tests are you using?
I don't think I have byropsis, I don't see anything fernlike with a stem/leafs. I don't think I have dinos either, but maybe. I don't have the stingy vertical algae with bubbles on top. I do have a diatom like layer on the rocks with trapped air bubbles. My son does have a microscope, it wouldn't hurt to check. How do I get a picture of it, put my phone up to the eye piece?
1. 120-gallon tank and 35 gallon sump, but with displacement. I think It filled up around 105 gallons. about 70lbs rock
2. 22-months. Up until this point my rock and sand was very clean and my system was algae free.
3. Sand is only about 1/2" to 1" deep. I don't clean it, I have lots of nassarius and conchs. I have some huge brittle starfish that came from the KP Aquaitcs live rock in Florida Keys. I didn't think of one of them dying, but that could definitely be a possibility.
4. Bubble Magus Curve 7 Elite with Sicce Pump. It takes about a week to fill up.
5. ATI 8-bulb and ReefBrite Strip. Since the issue started a lowered my photo period (especially the white daylight bulbs) 6-bulbs on for 8-hours and 8-bulbs on for 1-hour. My ReefBrite is on for 11-hours.
6. Stripping the PO4 our too fast and killing 1000s of dollars worth of acros. If I decide to do this, I will probably use like 1/4 of recommended.
7. 6-Stage RODI. I have a high rejection membrane which brings the TDS from 410 to 2 and then it goes into 2-stages of DI including silica removing DI. The TDS is 0 after the first stage of DI. My membrane is old though, like several years old but the rejection rate is still so high, I haven't changed it. I was planning on buying all new membranes filters and DI this weekend since Spectrapure has a Memorial Day sale.
6. Hanna ULR Phosphate and Salifert Nitrate.
 
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