!!!SPS SUCK! THE ACRO-FUGIUM WRITE UP!!! I guess I finally finished this thing, sort of

Battlecorals

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How about a complete reversal of nearly all of the preconceived essential rules to keeping our sps healthy? Now this really isn’t so new a concept, as I’ve been having this conversation with many of you over the years. In fact, so many that I felt it was finally time to just lay this one on the table for all to see.

So here it is:

YOUR SMALL POLYPED SCLERACTINIANS NEED NUTRIENTS!!! In fact, they need them so much, that I believe a well stocked reef full of SPS will act as its own nutrient reduction agent. Further simplifying any system by eliminating the need for some of the more recent methods and trends to do it. So there’s my claim.

Far out? Maybe at first notion to all of you employing every effort to rid your tank of these nutrients, but hear me out. This is really is as simple as it gets, and is quite obvious once you think about it. I’m not a chemist nor scientist at all, but simply an extremely observant sps keeper at best, that has come to this realization after many years of housing, growing and abusing acroporas.

But in all sincereness, this may not seem so far out anymore. This notion has slowly been gaining more and more traction over the last couple years. Even more so in recent months right here in R2R. It’s also one that I’ve been talking about for a long time now, and is a subject that I discuss often with fellow reefers struggling to troubleshoot, and wondering why things aren’t going as well as they'd like them to be.

In recent years, just as methods for removing nutrients have essentially gotten too efficient, I have to come to believe without a doubt, that stripping our water of even the smallest trace of nitrate or phosphate is far more deleterious on overall health, than moderately elevated, or even relatively high levels. I'll go even further to say that the benefits of measurable amounts of these vital nutrients tremendously exceeds that of a tank without. Now I never really subscribed the the phosphate is evil campaign that seemed to coincide rather conveniently with the introduction of binders such as ROWA and Phos Ban, roughly over a decade ago. While I do believe that it’s very possible, and likely that your tank will suffer at exceedingly higher levels than that of natural sea water, but that it will suffer far more at little or undetectable levels. To reiterate and perhaps reinforce my point just once more, I have seen with my own eyes, the issues that can come from exceedingly low or “stripped” levels of these nutrients, while I confess I am still waiting for the disaster that should accompany a higher or "dangerous" level. I am not saying that you are now free to abandon any means of keeping theses nutrients in check, nor to let them run wild. But rather, that I believe sps will not only keep these levels in check, but will actually deplete them much lower than we’d like as they use the nutrients up.

So what does this really mean? Well, clearly a tank full of sps is not an easy thing to simply come up with like some macro for a fuge, or even a water change to dilute. And I’m not really suggesting that this is any sort of problem solver. I am merely stating that a well balanced system will keep itself in check when it comes to nutrients, and the production and depletion of them. In short, the longer your tank matures, and the more thriving and sprawling your sps get, the easier it will be to maintain acceptable levels of certain nutrients. Maintain being the key word. Some of us even going as far as to reintroduce various forms of nitrate back into the system when these levels are not met. With exceptional results.


Now clearly this will not apply to everyones' system. If you have a smaller amount of water and a massive amount of fish, then even with a healthy crop of mature acro colonies, you aren’t going to suck the system clean of nitrate. Nor will you with just a few acro frags. You’ll need some other means of control. Weather it's a fuge or water changes or even carbon dosing if you feel that you absolutely must. What I have come to learn and understand through a number of years of keen observation, is that by keeping a very close eye on nitrate (that means testing very often) and recognizing trends, that maintaining nutrient levels at low, to even moderate amounts, has resulted in better color, better growth and better over all “feel" of the entire system. I am absolutely certain that my sps are constantly sucking it out of the water. There was a time that I ran a “nutrient free” system. For many years I couldn't get a nitrate test to turn even the slightest hint of pink, no matter how many fish I added or how few water changes I performed, or by any other seemingly reckless ways that I employed in an effort to raise them.


maybe not exactly what we are shooting for (right) but a hint of pink is good (left). Hey, I had to get at least one pic in here to break up the word wall.


Then it hit me. It was so obvious in fact it was the only possible explanation. Where else could my nutrients be going? And why do my sps always seem like they are hungry? Again this isn’t science or at least isn’t presented as such, and anyone that wants to chime in and either agree, or tell me I am full of it please feel free. The idea that my sps were in fact the reason my nutrient levels were chronically low made perfect sense, and there was only one simple and viable solution. If I was going to attempt to maintain a detectable amount of nitrate in the system, then I was going to have to add it myself. Now I am seeing more and more threads popping up offering the same sentiments as this, and maybe I should have finished writing this last year when I initially began drafting it, but it’s still very refreshing to finally see this concept gaining favor over total nutrient removal as the ideas are shifting from "stripping" to reintroduction. It’s all about balance, and the simple point that I keep repeating to friends and fellow reefers is this. Nutrients are not bad they are necessary, and are by no means something that we need to rid our tanks of completely. Especially when it comes to sps, which goes against a long standing platform of "sps rules" that we've been taught over the years. I do not disagree that there was a time before technology really caught up, that it was more of a struggle to keep tanks clean enough for sps to thrive, but I believe that these ideas of massive nutrient control are carried over from then. We have come along way, and have learned a whole lot since then. The time for a complete dynamic shift in the methods of how we raise or sps is here! It is time my friends, to welcome and embrace those nutrients.




So to sum this one up, I realize that this write up is pretty scattered and the points are as redundant as they are scarce. And that I included no real data, no charts and figures or photos or anything really, other than my convictions to reinforce my claim. If you've actually made it this far, and read every word, I really appreciate you taking the time to do so. Maybe this will help at least one person struggling with their sps, and if so then it's a success. You see, what I really wanted to do, was to assemble a very cohesive, clever and legitimate argument that SPS are undeniably, a very effective means of nutrient control, complete with all sorts of information and facts and data and a little humor even to soften the read, but a scientific journalist I am not, and what I ended up with is kind of a jumbled mess, (probably why its taken me so long to finally finish this) but I hope that the message comes across clear enough not to be convoluted or confusing at all.

Consider the whole write up more food for thought than anything, but the general thrust, simply put is this. Concepts and methods are always changing and there’s never really any true right or wrong way to achieve the same results in this hobby. But, if you're struggling with that newer tank, or with one that's been maturing for years, and you are wondering why things don’t look the way they should, or at least the way you'd like them to, then let go of current methodologies and consider pulling that activated carbon and GFO, and stop dosing any carbon source altogether. Get yourself a nitrate test kit and start testing often. Let it build up a little. You may be surprised what some nutrients in the water will achieve. The more sps you’ve got and the larger they grow, the more you’ll see these nutrient levels dwindle. So take from this what you will and please feel free to share your own experiences, good or bad on the subject. I am just as certain there's plenty of people on these boards that are way smarter than me that can add something useful, as I am that I've left out all sorts of valuable info that should have been included. Your comments are more than welcome as always!
 
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swk

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Well said Adam. When I was new I got my tank down to 0 and 0. Boy was I proud of myself! However, the corals....weren't anything to be proud of, the ones that lived anyways....

However, due to largely faulty po4 test kit I allowed the levels to rise and pulled gfo, and before you know it my corals were looking unreal and rich. Growth was crazy. I sent off a sample somewhere and was shocked when the results indicated po4 at .1!!

Long story short I got over it, didn't change anything and have had continued success with my sps corals, at least, in MY opinion[emoji6]

When algae got a little out of control I added more snails...still algae....an urchin....still algae...a 1/4 cup of gfo....still algae.....a one spot foxface - no more algae!
 
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Battlecorals

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Well said Adam. When I was new I got my tank down to 0 and 0. Boy was I proud of myself! However, the corals....weren't anything to be proud of, the ones that lived anyways....

However, due to largely faulty po4 test kit I allowed the levels to rise and pulled gfo, and before you know it my corals were looking unreal and rich. Growth was crazy. I sent off a sample somewhere and was shocked when the results indicated po4 at .1!!

Long story short I got over it, didn't change anything and have had continued success with my sps corals, at least, in MY opinion[emoji6]

When algae got a little out of control I added more snails...still algae....an urchin....still algae...a 1/4 cup of gfo....still algae.....a one spot foxface - no more algae!

Awesome my friend! Thanks for chiming in. Glad things are going well for you. its amazing to watch the shift. Totally agree on algae as well. It's free food! And in my opinion, a little green can only add in giving a reef more of natural look. I don't even concern myself with phos at all anymore.

Here's my last real test. Documented for posterity lol



 

D maul

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Yes nutrients are a good thing. I like to keep it simple and not have to add part a,b,c,d,e and used their salt.
 

robert

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So what you are saying is "corals are a nutrient sink and growth can be nutrient limited".

Not too revolutionary. Studies of coral growth rates near commercial fish farms demonstrate that the increased nutrient loads produce faster coral growth. Fish wastes are good for corals = its food.

It's also food for other stuff - algaes and bacteria and these will comptete for space with corals or, in the case of some, prey on them directly. I think limiting this other "stuff" is the objective of most stringent nutrient control proponents.

We can try and limit N,P,C, Si and Fe, (and I'm sure many others) - The ones we choose to limit (and how successful we are) determine what the tank favors - coral, algae or bacteria.
 

jcdeng

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This is too true. The new trend nowadays, notice how many threads about dose potassium nitrate, dose sodium nitrate? why? cuz our tanks read 0 nitrate and corals are paling/dying.
 

Paul B

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My nitrates are 40. They have been 40 for years and my acropora has no problems at all. I don't even have a phosphate test kit. I also have been saying this for years but gave up
 

Reef Pets

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I don't have a nitrate or phosphate test kit, I don't believe I've ever owned either.
I do completely agree. I started feeding my fish and coral the frozen cubes. People say rinse them off, I say toss them in frozen for the added nutrients.
Also, I got far better color and growth from sps before I started using DI water about 10 years ago. I now make about 75 gallons a day top off and rarely change the DI, once a year maybe. A little dirty water and added nutrients is very helpful in creating a successful reef.
 

Diesel

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UGH........... Phosphates!!
I have a really expensive Po4 tester as I was told I needed (PaulB would say the Supermodel under the testers)
hanna po4.jpg

Now I use it only for my old water after a WC as I don't want to damage the environment with old salt water with to high PO4 in it.;)
 
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Battlecorals

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Ha thanks for the comments guys. Robert I confess I'm not exactly sure how to interpret this one my good friend. You quoted, "corals are a nutrient sink and growth can be nutrient limited" For one, it's not a quote from my write up at all, but still does sort of paraphrase my point to an extent, I think. You may have meant to say sponge perhaps? Any chance I can get you to clarify that one little.

Either way thanks for the comment. And I agree, nothing really new here at all. Just brought to light some :) I believe we are on the same page regardless.
 

rovster

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I agree with this. That said, I feel nutrient control (not elimination) is more important in a newer tank. As the tank matures and corals grow, the potential for nutrient uptake increases thus making utilizing out known methods for nutrient reduction less critical.

I do check nitrate and phosphate regularly. I like to keep nitrate elevated and phosphate lower but no way do I shoot for 0.

Right now my tank is running nitrates at around 10 and phosphate at 0.03ish. I've had nitrate as high as 25+ with no real noticeable issues, not even algae. As my tank matures I've gone from having to run 1.5c GFO every 3 weeks to half that much every 8 weeks. At this point I don't even think it's doing anything lol.

The other thing that you'll notice is that the really mature tanks are a lot less hands on than younger tanks. Most of the issues happen early on when we have to balance the tank as opposed to the tank balancing itself. That's my 2 Adam. May not be 100% in line with your post, but I'm definitely on the same planet;)
 

Mattrg02

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What, exactly, makes a tank mature? What matures? Shouldn't bacteria establish relatively quickly? How about when starting up a tank with fully cured love rock from an established tank?
 
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Battlecorals

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What, exactly, makes a tank mature? What matures? Shouldn't bacteria establish relatively quickly? How about when starting up a tank with fully cured love rock from an established tank?
By mature in this case, I am refering specifically to grown out colonies of acropora. A tank that is housing growing coral is said to be maturing. this is most evident with acros because they tend to fill in the spaces a lot more than other coral, especially other stonies
 

GlassMunky

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"This just in!!!!! Animals need food to survive!"

Lol, I joke but it's something that just seems so basic knowledge when you think about it like that.
All animals, all creatures, need nutrients to grow, that's just how it works.

I personally go by the motto "a happy reef is a well fed reef"
And to that end, when I feed the tank, I'm doing just that. Feeding the WHOLE tank. Fish, inverts, corals, everything. Things just seem happier that way :)

feed heavy-export heavy
 

rovster

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Mature or mature-ish = established biological filtration + mature or maturing corals. The former happens faster and is easier to obtain lol!
 

Mattrg02

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Mature or mature-ish = established biological filtration + mature or maturing corals. The former happens faster and is easier to obtain lol!
I always see people telling others to wait on sps until they have a mature tank. Seems like a catch22.

Seems to me that using a lot of established live rock is all that's needed to create a mature tank, ready for sps, no?
On another note... What's the chance that using a protein skimmer on a small tank could be causing the tank to lose more than nitrates and phosphates?

I'm struggling with my sps corals and don't know why. My parameters are stable. I've for nitrates and assume I have some phosphates. Either my light is too weak, or my skimmer is to blame. I never had problems in the past with sps corals, but I also never ran a skimmer.
 

rovster

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I always see people telling others to wait on sps until they have a mature tank. Seems like a catch22.

Seems to me that using a lot of established live rock is all that's needed to create a mature tank, ready for sps, no?
On another note... What's the chance that using a protein skimmer on a small tank could be causing the tank to lose more than nitrates and phosphates?

I'm struggling with my sps corals and don't know why. My parameters are stable. I've for nitrates and assume I have some phosphates. Either my light is too weak, or my skimmer is to blame. I never had problems in the past with sps corals, but I also never ran a skimmer.
I think the waiting for maturity for SPS is bogus. Maturity of the reefer is better. I think most of that information is based on allowing enough time for the aquarist to get to know their tank because SPS do require you to be at least somewhat in tune with things. I started adding SPS 6 weeks in and I had no issues. I did have a freak crash when some pathogen was introduced into my system, but up until that point everything in there was thriving and doing amazing and I never lost a single piece I put in there.

I do feel that younger tanks require more hands on like I said previously, but the sooner you can get those sticks in there an growing the better.

Nitrate does seem to get used up much quicker than phosphate, I dose nitrate in my system, if not my nitrates get pegged at 0 and my phosphates start to creep up, but that's another topic for discussion.....
 

sfg

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i've gone through A to Z to figure out my tanks issue with pale and slow growth and am now dosing potassium nitrate to maintain about 5ppm.. night and day difference with my SPS. Finding a balance these days with my macro algae consumption to where I can get away from dosing nitrate and agree with your stance 100%.

In another thread here I asked the question why a year ago when I got back into the hobby that the general direction everyone was talking about was 0 nutrient "clean" boxes for SPS and that a lot of tanks out there looked fantastic with these so called low/no nutrient systems. The response is most test kits will read 0 but this doesn't mean there isn't traces of nitrates so it's not a true 0ppm reading.. where as some of us (myself) may indeed have a nitrate deficiency. Early on my focus was with exporting nutrients and I went overboard.. in the end i cut back my macro algae to a 1/3 of what I had.. this seems to be leveling out things with my parameters.. I went from dosing every other day to maintain 2ppm for two weeks to not having to dose now for almost 2 weeks..
 
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I think we may be confusing the term maturity with established. At least as I see it.

For me an established system, would be one that has built up a sufficient biological filtration, considered stable and ready for coral. This could take anywhere from a few days to a few months depending on the circumstances and the manner it was set up. I have alway though of a tank as "maturing" while corals begin to transition from frags to colonies, and very literally mature inside the system.

I see the two as completely different from each other for a number of reasons but primarily because maturity will take many years, and may never really be met depending on the reefers ambitions, while the time it would take for a system to be considered established would be tremendously shorter and much less ambiguous.
 

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