SPS Experts: Can you figure it out?

gig 'em

Well-Known Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 13, 2016
Messages
684
Reaction score
1,199
Location
Austin, TX
I'm about at my wits end with this issue. It has been a persistent struggle for the past 430+ days and I'm at the brink of shutting down the tank completely and starting over fresh. Here is the essential breakdown:

2016- mid 2018 the tank was humming along perfectly. Mind breaking SPS growth, amazing coloration, couldn't be happier!

2017 coral growth and color A++
IMG_6405.JPG

2017 FTS:
IMG_7245.JPG


Early 2018 everything is still going quite well. Happy, healthy, fast growing corals
IMG_7631.JPG


April 2018, I added some new goni frags to my tank. My peach/yellow goni then suffered and died shortly after. I just assumed the frags had brought in something with them that could have killed it off. Not sure really, everything else was fine, so I just shook it off as an unfortunate loss.
IMG_7937.JPG


Then, spring/summer of 2018, I went out of town for vacation for a few weeks. I had a trusted, very talented reefer, watch my tank while I was gone. As far as my timeline goes, this is when things started going downhill. He sent me a picture while I was gone in June, 2018 that my Vivids Confetti had mysteriously died:
Dead Confetti.jpeg


Ever since June of 2018, there has been this slow, random decline of Acros and Montis in my tank. What is the most mysterious is it seems to come in waves. Everything will look good, decent PE, good colors, and then randomly one coral will just die... Everything else looks fine, then a few weeks later, some other coral will just die. Parameters are in check, no major swings, no additions or changes, just random unexplainable death. It's almost like an evil spirit is haunting my tank and hopping from coral to coral.

August 2018, I lost my largest table that I grew from a frag and had always been a strong and fast grower. Basically a wave of death swept over the colony. It now sits on my bookshelf as a skeleton.
IMG_8749.JPG


Here is the last FTS I had in August 2018 where everything still looked pretty good, but the tables were starting to decline at this point.
IMG_8718.JPG


I took this picture this morning of the coral that is in the upper center of the tank. Random branches STNing, and they have been for months. The colony will lose a few branches, recover, lose a few branches, recover, etc etc.
IMG_E2216.JPG


I would think if there was a systemic issue with the tank (i.e water chemistry, pests, lighting, contaminants, toxins) that the WHOLE colony or everything in the tank would show signs of stress and death. That has not been the case for me. It seems very random, and like I mentioned earlier, seems to effect different corals at different times.

I have battled AEFW and sea spiders before and I know the signs. There are no AEFW in my system as far as I can tell. I have inspected my corals closely for pests, and have yet to see anything with the naked eye. I've also lost sections of encrusting montis as well, so I don't think it would be an Acro specific parasite.

Other signs I've seen is twice since these issues began, I have lost nearly all my sponge growth in my tank within a matter of days. I have a TON of encrusting sponges under rocks, and suddenly all of it dying back? That's weird. Nothing in my logbook to explain what could have triggered it from my actions the days before. I feel like this could be related to the coral health.

I did have the wherewithal to send of a Triton test in August of 2018 when I was losing my large tabling colonies:
Triton 2018.1.JPG

Triton 2018.2.JPG


Triton 2018.3.JPG


An additional note is I did remove my old lighting, which was 2 T5 bulbs, an Ocean Revive, and an Orphek Atlantik, and replaced with 2 more T5's and three LED strips from Build My LED. I checked the PAR when I changed lights and adjusted the BMLs to roughly match the PAR I had before. This was in August of 2018, but according to my logbook, corals were already starting to die off at this point. It COULD be the lighting change, but considering the issues had started prior to the light change, and the fact that plenty of people have great success with T5s and a couple of LED strips, I'm inclined to think it's not lighting. Also, lighting is static, the ebb and flow of coral health is not.... Old lighting set up:
IMG_3405.JPG


So here we are. It's been over a year of frustration with SPS. I used to grow corals so fast I didn't have room on my frag racks, now I don't even bother fragging any more. I'm about to tear the system down and start from scratch. I'm hoping someone out there will point to something I have not yet thought of so I don't have to go through with that mess. So, who out there has any ideas?
 
Last edited:

Kattkrazie

Well-Known Member
View Badges
Joined
May 24, 2018
Messages
719
Reaction score
4,092
Location
Moore, Oklahoma
I've read many articles about sponges releasing toxins when they die. You mentioned that all of your sponges were slowly dying. A Reefbuilder's article said that dying sponges can inhibit stony coral growth and induce bleaching.

I've had sponges in the cryptic zones of my reef for over 5 years and never had an issue with my acros, but the sponges haven't died off either.

Another thought is whether your tank sitter might have inadvertently dropped something in your tank with metal on it that has been leaching something into the water. Maybe something that Triton doesn't test for. Something like that might affect sensitive acros but not all corals.

Good luck! An unknown issue like this is my worst fear.
 

tripdad

Valuable Member
View Badges
Joined
Feb 9, 2014
Messages
1,192
Reaction score
2,411
Location
Chicago suburbs
Maybe worth a read, not sure I agree with all of what is stated. I had a crash a couple years ago with no discernable causes. It was a slow and methodical march thru my SPS to the death. My params were not perfect but not terrible either, lighting stable and unchanged, no fish additions but I did make frag additions. I never figured it out. I went acro-less for 4 months and started over. Mixed results. I set up a new dry rock tank and so far, about 30 days in, so good. Even frags I have moved from the old system are doing well. One thing I would try is moving a coral to a different system and see if that stays healthy. If so then I would maybe do a reset with a trip into a quarantine system for all your existing corals. Trust me I know how much the idea of a reset sucks but the losses have to hurt too. I hope you get it figured out soon, your tank was always an inspiration.
 

Brandon McHenry

Well-Known Member
View Badges
Joined
May 28, 2015
Messages
805
Reaction score
1,386
Location
Vero Beach, Florida
Very sorry to hear about your issues! Its always tough to lose parts of the reef that we care for, especially when they are as beautiful as yours! I will say that in my time keeping SPS (which is probably not as many as most of the experts here) I have had two issues similar to this with random die off. The first was in relation to what I can only assume was a bacterial disease. I had colonies that I had grown for years start to STN and RTN randomly. Sometimes this happened from the bottom and sometimes from random spots on the coral. I wound up putting a UV sterilizer on the tank and the problem never reared its ugly head again. The corals recovered from that point forward. I cannot say for sure if it was disease or if the UV sterilizer was the ultimate cure, but I would guess that it was. I will also add that where I work, at FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, we have a research team studying coral disease and they say that it can be transferred between coral several ways. Dying tissue breaking off and touching other corals, direct contact between corals, our hands or equipment as well as transfer through the water column are all ways that can potentially move disease.

The second time that I had my major issues, which ultimately led to the end of my SPS reef, was due to temperature. After hurricane Irma we were without power for over a week. Despite having power to run the pumps and oxygenate the water, I did not have a chiller. I ran fans and ice bottles in the tank to try to keep the water cool, but the tank still rose to around 85 degrees. After the power came back the tank ran for over a month before I started to see any issues. I thought I was in the clear until I found out just how long it can take signs of stress to manifest into symptoms within coral.

I know that these are both issues that you may have already considered/have contingencies for but I wanted to share my experiences. I sincerely hope that you are able to find a solution to this problem you are dealing with. Please keep us posted!
 

Pedoconfuego

Valuable Member
View Badges
Joined
Oct 8, 2012
Messages
2,286
Reaction score
1,504
Location
estomago
Have you had to slow your dosing down? Do you use a carbon source? It really sounds bacterial with how it hits every week or so and knocks one out then the next, and probably some that just have parts dying randomly that won’t stop. I have went through the same thing but not sure what caused it for sure.
What helped was keeping any part of coral that had peeling flesh on it out of the tank when you first see it and check often. It’s hard because you have to cut the corals that start necrosis, no matter the size and get the dead parts out, while still trying to keep your hands out of the tank. Also my consumption of alk and calcium went way down and stopped for a while when it was bad. I also remember switching to kalk for that period, helped and I remember reading something like an article a long time ago, about how it is supposed to help rtn slow but can’t remember what it was.
If your tanks still consuming a good amount of alk and calcium I would keep trying. Maybe try the brightwells stuff that reefnjunkie tried if it gets a bit worse?
 
Corals.com

Pedoconfuego

Valuable Member
View Badges
Joined
Oct 8, 2012
Messages
2,286
Reaction score
1,504
Location
estomago
Very sorry to hear about your issues! Its always tough to lose parts of the reef that we care for, especially when they are as beautiful as yours! I will say that in my time keeping SPS (which is probably not as many as most of the experts here) I have had two issues similar to this with random die off. The first was in relation to what I can only assume was a bacterial disease. I had colonies that I had grown for years start to STN and RTN randomly. Sometimes this happened from the bottom and sometimes from random spots on the coral. I wound up putting a UV sterilizer on the tank and the problem never reared its ugly head again. The corals recovered from that point forward. I cannot say for sure if it was disease or if the UV sterilizer was the ultimate cure, but I would guess that it was. I will also add that where I work, at FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, we have a research team studying coral disease and they say that it can be transferred between coral several ways. Dying tissue breaking off and touching other corals, direct contact between corals, our hands or equipment as well as transfer through the water column are all ways that can potentially move disease.

The second time that I had my major issues, which ultimately led to the end of my SPS reef, was due to temperature. After hurricane Irma we were without power for over a week. Despite having power to run the pumps and oxygenate the water, I did not have a chiller. I ran fans and ice bottles in the tank to try to keep the water cool, but the tank still rose to around 85 degrees. After the power came back the tank ran for over a month before I started to see any issues. I thought I was in the clear until I found out just how long it can take signs of stress to manifest into symptoms within coral.

I know that these are both issues that you may have already considered/have contingencies for but I wanted to share my experiences. I sincerely hope that you are able to find a solution to this problem you are dealing with. Please keep us posted!
Well said! And I hope you post pics of the new tank and the build.
You covered the part I was thinking about before I posted. Temperature, it can cause this chain of rtn even from one swing too high. So keeping it stable, if not already, during the event should help. Also keeping the temp away from the 80’s is best, I started keeping lower temps during my rtn and kept them at 76 and eventually i pulled through it with pieces left.
One other note is if I transferred healthy unaffected colonies and even frags cut from colonies that were going through rtn to friends tanks they would do great. But I wonder how many people have the same experience and how many had the rtn transfer to another tank.
 

pirate2876

Valuable Member
View Badges
Joined
Apr 23, 2014
Messages
1,228
Reaction score
767
Location
Escondido CA
Sorry to her about your losses, but I can relate to the mystery SPS deaths. I ran into the same issues twice in two different tanks. Same thing as you, everything is fine, then slow losses, then a bit of recovery, slow losses again, etc. The only things I have done that seem to have ended those cycles was to install 2 new stages of chloramine removal in my RO/DI, and run a treatment of chemiclean. I looked into my City's water report and found they add chloramine at times to help purify the pipes. It would make sense to me that chemiclean is an antibiotic and can help if there is bacterial infection within the SPS. Just my .02$, hope you can recover.
 

Brandon McHenry

Well-Known Member
View Badges
Joined
May 28, 2015
Messages
805
Reaction score
1,386
Location
Vero Beach, Florida
Sorry to her about your losses, but I can relate to the mystery SPS deaths. I ran into the same issues twice in two different tanks. Same thing as you, everything is fine, then slow losses, then a bit of recovery, slow losses again, etc. The only things I have done that seem to have ended those cycles was to install 2 new stages of chloramine removal in my RO/DI, and run a treatment of chemiclean. I looked into my City's water report and found they add chloramine at times to help purify the pipes. It would make sense to me that chemiclean is an antibiotic and can help if there is bacterial infection within the SPS. Just my .02$, hope you can recover.
Double checking the RODI water is another really great point as well. All sorts of weird contaminants can come in through tap water and if not working efficiently, the RODI unit may miss some.
 
OP
gig 'em

gig 'em

Well-Known Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 13, 2016
Messages
684
Reaction score
1,199
Location
Austin, TX
Very sorry to hear about your issues! Its always tough to lose parts of the reef that we care for, especially when they are as beautiful as yours! I will say that in my time keeping SPS (which is probably not as many as most of the experts here) I have had two issues similar to this with random die off. The first was in relation to what I can only assume was a bacterial disease. I had colonies that I had grown for years start to STN and RTN randomly. Sometimes this happened from the bottom and sometimes from random spots on the coral. I wound up putting a UV sterilizer on the tank and the problem never reared its ugly head again. The corals recovered from that point forward. I cannot say for sure if it was disease or if the UV sterilizer was the ultimate cure, but I would guess that it was. I will also add that where I work, at FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, we have a research team studying coral disease and they say that it can be transferred between coral several ways. Dying tissue breaking off and touching other corals, direct contact between corals, our hands or equipment as well as transfer through the water column are all ways that can potentially move disease.

The second time that I had my major issues, which ultimately led to the end of my SPS reef, was due to temperature. After hurricane Irma we were without power for over a week. Despite having power to run the pumps and oxygenate the water, I did not have a chiller. I ran fans and ice bottles in the tank to try to keep the water cool, but the tank still rose to around 85 degrees. After the power came back the tank ran for over a month before I started to see any issues. I thought I was in the clear until I found out just how long it can take signs of stress to manifest into symptoms within coral.

I know that these are both issues that you may have already considered/have contingencies for but I wanted to share my experiences. I sincerely hope that you are able to find a solution to this problem you are dealing with. Please keep us posted!
This is actually my best bet at this point too. I work with a professor who studies coral genomics and he is convinced it is bacterial related. I tend to agree with him and have read several research papers on bacteria that are opportunisitic when a corals immune system is compromised. I guess the question then is what is compromising the immune systems that wasn't before last year? I am currently running UV on my tank, a sterilizer that is way WAY more than I need for my volume of water. It hasn't seemed to have made a difference... He has suggested dosing the whole system with antibiotics, but I'm not taking that risk...

My giant UV sterilizer on the tank at the moment:
 
Last edited:
OP
gig 'em

gig 'em

Well-Known Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 13, 2016
Messages
684
Reaction score
1,199
Location
Austin, TX
I've read many articles about sponges releasing toxins when they die. You mentioned that all of your sponges were slowly dying. A Reefbuilder's article said that dying sponges can inhibit stony coral growth and induce bleaching.

I've had sponges in the cryptic zones of my reef for over 5 years and never had an issue with my acros, but the sponges haven't died off either.

Another thought is whether your tank sitter might have inadvertently dropped something in your tank with metal on it that has been leaching something into the water. Maybe something that Triton doesn't test for. Something like that might affect sensitive acros but not all corals.

Good luck! An unknown issue like this is my worst fear.
I have thought about the sponge die off, but in my notes the corals don't seem to show much reaction when the sponge dies. Also, the sponge has actually died off in very short time frames, like within 72 hours it's gone from healthy to falling apart. I then did water changes and sucked out as much sponge as I could. In the past the sponge growth has been parallel to coral growth and health, so I'm not totally convinced the sponge is bad. Plus when the sponge dies off and I've done water changes and changed carbon, I would expect all SPS issues to resolve, but I haven't seen that either unfortunately.

I have thought about this. When I changed my lights out I know I lost a screw into the water because I found one in the sand a couple months ago. It was nice and rusty, so it had been in there a while. This was months ago, so removing it hasn't made an impact, but there's the chance another screw is hidden in the sand somewhere? If I go the route of hitting the restart button, a new sand bad will be part of that plan in case there is something in the sand that is causing issues. Thanks for the great suggestions!
 
OP
gig 'em

gig 'em

Well-Known Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 13, 2016
Messages
684
Reaction score
1,199
Location
Austin, TX
Maybe worth a read, not sure I agree with all of what is stated. I had a crash a couple years ago with no discernable causes. It was a slow and methodical march thru my SPS to the death. My params were not perfect but not terrible either, lighting stable and unchanged, no fish additions but I did make frag additions. I never figured it out. I went acro-less for 4 months and started over. Mixed results. I set up a new dry rock tank and so far, about 30 days in, so good. Even frags I have moved from the old system are doing well. One thing I would try is moving a coral to a different system and see if that stays healthy. If so then I would maybe do a reset with a trip into a quarantine system for all your existing corals. Trust me I know how much the idea of a reset sucks but the losses have to hurt too. I hope you get it figured out soon, your tank was always an inspiration.
Again, great suggestions. I do have a frag tank I set up a year ago that is in a different room and completely independent of the DT. I have moved corals over to it and they have shown much better health than the ones in the DT. I wanted to see if there was a common issue like source water, salt, food, or something in the house that was the cause, but since corals seem to do better in the frag tank, it seems isolated to the DT.
 

Potatohead

Valuable Member
View Badges
Joined
Aug 3, 2017
Messages
1,389
Reaction score
1,780
Location
Vancouver
If this is bacterial, which seems entirely plausible, I have seen Dr. Tim himself mention that over time, certain bacterial strains in a tank will dominate, there's no way around it. This is why products like his, or MB7 etc are supposed to be dosed in a somewhat regular fashion. Have you tried heavy dosing something like MB7 for a month or two to see if you can get the good bacteria rolling again?
 
OP
gig 'em

gig 'em

Well-Known Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 13, 2016
Messages
684
Reaction score
1,199
Location
Austin, TX
Have you had to slow your dosing down? Do you use a carbon source? It really sounds bacterial with how it hits every week or so and knocks one out then the next, and probably some that just have parts dying randomly that won’t stop. I have went through the same thing but not sure what caused it for sure.
What helped was keeping any part of coral that had peeling flesh on it out of the tank when you first see it and check often. It’s hard because you have to cut the corals that start necrosis, no matter the size and get the dead parts out, while still trying to keep your hands out of the tank. Also my consumption of alk and calcium went way down and stopped for a while when it was bad. I also remember switching to kalk for that period, helped and I remember reading something like an article a long time ago, about how it is supposed to help rtn slow but can’t remember what it was.
If your tanks still consuming a good amount of alk and calcium I would keep trying. Maybe try the brightwells stuff that reefnjunkie tried if it gets a bit worse?
I have a calcium reactor that is pretty well dialed in. Unfortunately I can’t equate that then to volumes dosed since it’s a steady streamed based on the pH of the reactor. Alk has been pretty stable with the exception of when the CO2 cylinder ran dry.

As for carbon dosing, have a very small amount of biopellets in a reactor, but other than that there are is no carbon dosing outside of food. I have a bubble king skimmer and it does a good job of skimming out organics in the water. Nitrates remain around 16 ppm.

I did start dosing kalk this year to help keep my pH up when the windows are constantly shut in the summer months. My house is small so the CO2 builds up quite rapidly, the kalk helps keep the pH around 8.

I wish I could easily chop away, but a lot of the death is in hard to reach places or random spots on corals. This makes me believe it’s pathogenic in nature, like @Brandon McHenry said, it’s almost as if a bit of diseased flesh peeled off and hit this colonies in a certain spot and then it was like a spreading wildfire. This is becoming my hypothesis now that it’s biological in nature and is physically moving around the tank.

Great great suggestions and questions! I knew this community would come together and assist.
 
https://www.omegasea.net/

Brandon McHenry

Well-Known Member
View Badges
Joined
May 28, 2015
Messages
805
Reaction score
1,386
Location
Vero Beach, Florida
This is actually my best bet at this point too. I work with a professor who studies coral genomics and he is convinced it is bacterial related. I tend to agree with him and have read several research papers on bacteria that are opportunisitic when a corals immune system is compromised. I guess the question then is what is compromising the immune systems that wasn't before last year? I am currently running UV on my tank, a sterilizer that is way WAY more than I need for my volume of water. It hasn't seemed to have made a difference... He has suggested dosing the whole system with antibiotics, but I'm not taking that risk...

My giant UV sterilizer on the tank at the moment:
Out of curiosity, how big is the sterilizer? How old is the bulb? And what is the flow rate coming through? If it is not plumbed in there is no guarantee that it is killing everything that is in the tank.
 
OP
gig 'em

gig 'em

Well-Known Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 13, 2016
Messages
684
Reaction score
1,199
Location
Austin, TX
Well said! And I hope you post pics of the new tank and the build.
You covered the part I was thinking about before I posted. Temperature, it can cause this chain of rtn even from one swing too high. So keeping it stable, if not already, during the event should help. Also keeping the temp away from the 80’s is best, I started keeping lower temps during my rtn and kept them at 76 and eventually i pulled through it with pieces left.
One other note is if I transferred healthy unaffected colonies and even frags cut from colonies that were going through rtn to friends tanks they would do great. But I wonder how many people have the same experience and how many had the rtn transfer to another tank.
Lower temperatures is difficult in the current summer months, especially when its triple digits every day right now here in Texas![emoji3062]

Lower temperatures might support the hypothesis that it’s slowing down a pathogen in the tank. We know lower temps slow down bacterial growth, but even mid 70s is still pretty warm. I’ll have to go through my logbook entries in the winter when my tank was cooler and see if the dying eased up during that period .
 

TX_Punisher

Well-Known Member
View Badges
Joined
Jun 8, 2017
Messages
885
Reaction score
428
Assuming it’s not non-ferrous, try running a magnet through your sand to see what could have stopped in there. I did that last year expecting to find something but only came up with a small speck or trash stuck to the magnet.
 
OP
gig 'em

gig 'em

Well-Known Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 13, 2016
Messages
684
Reaction score
1,199
Location
Austin, TX
Is there filaments at any point? Before the stn starts.
I have seen filaments in the past. It’s always a bad sign for me when I see that, especially when they’re coming out of the sides of branches away from the polyps. I haven’t seen any in a while, maybe all those corals that did that have already died. But I was always worried when that would pop up in colonies. I haven’t seen it in a while though.
 

tripdad

Valuable Member
View Badges
Joined
Feb 9, 2014
Messages
1,192
Reaction score
2,411
Location
Chicago suburbs
Again, great suggestions. I do have a frag tank I set up a year ago that is in a different room and completely independent of the DT. I have moved corals over to it and they have shown much better health than the ones in the DT. I wanted to see if there was a common issue like source water, salt, food, or something in the house that was the cause, but since corals seem to do better in the frag tank, it seems isolated to the DT.
I kind of came to the conclusion that it's "bacterial" too. Using quotes because I think that's a really broad answer. I still have a monti-cap and some zoanthids and an anemone in my old tank doing well but every tenuis I put in just dies. Mixed bag on other species. I just couldn't take the financial losses anymore so am doing a reset and will soon "sanitize" the old tank and start it again. I also have UV on the old tank, just fyi, made no difference on this issue, solved some others though.
 

How often do have to clean your aquarium glass?

  • Every Day

    Votes: 39 8.7%
  • A few Days a Week

    Votes: 135 30.3%
  • A Couple Days a Week

    Votes: 142 31.8%
  • Once a Week

    Votes: 106 23.8%
  • Every 10 or so Days

    Votes: 24 5.4%
  • Every Couple of Weeks

    Votes: 18 4.0%
  • Other (please explain)

    Votes: 5 1.1%

Online statistics

Members online
1,074
Guests online
3,491
Total visitors
4,565
Top