Tank Crash

jap783

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Hello all,

All the organisms in my reef are dying and I am stumped why. My tank has not been doing well for the last two months and was finally starting to return to normal despite a massive hair algae outbreak. Today I was vacuuming the gravel and scrubbing the hair algae off the rocks. I attach the end of the gravel vacuum to a water cartridge filter with a 5 micron filter inside. A sicce pump plumbed inline then returns the water to the aquarium. I do it this way so I can remove all of the particulates in the reef while only doing a 10% water change. I do this once a month or every other month and this has been the fifth time I did it in almost a year without issues previously. During the water change my yellownose shrimp goby died but I attributed it to being injured while moving the rocks around. Right after I finished topping off the aquarium I noticed the yellow tang hanging out upside down and a green chromis laying on it's side twitching. Once again I chalked it up to physical trauma and went to bed because I was so angry I had killed three of my longest lived fish. When I woke up at 3am I am in disbelief because all of the inhabitants are now affected. I moved all of the fish I could catch to my quarantine tank and my fire shrimp to a small 3 gallon.
I am left with all of my corals in my tank and the other inverts too large to fit in 3 gallons. All remaining organisms appears severely stressed but I don't have any place to put them. I've been keeping saltwater for almost 20 years and I am stumped. My leading theory is toxin exposure but I am unsure of what it was or how it got into my system. I don't keep any particularly toxic species such as sea apples or puffers. The water I used to top off the tank was the same water I had just used this past weekend. I also changed the carbon in the media reactor. I have attached photos of the most afflicted fish and my corals. Any suggestions to help resolve this issue or if anyone has any theories, it would be greatly appreciated.

tempImageXlZ9ld.png tempImage6eOLpZ.png tempImagebtZQ76.png tempImagembZqYW.png
 
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jap783

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Here are all the water parameters I test for. I attached photos of the results from the last month of testing. The took the last reading just prior to the water change.
Salinity post water change: 36 ppt
 

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jap783

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Aquarium two months ago before everything started going downhill
 

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jap783

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seems there can be quite some time between sand vacuuming, perhaps a toxic bubble formed in your sand bed leading to this. you get any reactors or equipment going that may have had stagnant water in them?
I last vacuumed the sand bed completely about 6 weeks ago after my crinoid died. I had to remove a lot of uneaten planktonic foods from the sandbed. The sand bed didn't seem as dirty this time around but it could've been over shadowed by the hair algae I was siphoning out. The UV sterilizer was the only piece of equipment that was off during the water change. The only reason I didn't clean it is because there's no way to remove the quartz sleeve from the Odyssea UV sterilizer.

I don't know what to tell you, so sad.. Are you running active carbon? If not , it might help.

How old was the sand bed?

Best of a luck
I run BRS Rox 0.8 carbon 24/7 for this reason. I had just changed it prior to refilling the tank. I last vacuumed the entire sandbed 6 weeks ago but the tank is over a year old now.

Almost sounds like ammonia poisoning if it happened that quick. The charts of ph, and alk took a dive. Bounced back then dived again. Were those 2 charts right after water change?
The pH chart I posted was for the last 24 hours, the drop in pH on the graph was during the water change. I normally see this during a water change since the powerhead and skimmer are turned off. The alkalinity's graph was for the last month. It had gotten really high at the beginning of the month because all my corals stopped growing and were not taking up carbonate or calcium. It started dropping because they were finally growing again. I just tested the ammonia and it was zero so I am at a complete loss.

I know this hobby is full of heart break sometimes which is why I like to follow the philosophy "if it can go wrong it will." This is just extra heart breaking because I can't seem to find out why it is going sooooo wrong
 

Reefing102

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I’m likely not much help here, but one measurement I’m not seeing is Salinity? Also any temperature spikes? Last time I personally saw something like this, my salinity had crashed as I accidentally used my RO bin instead of my mixed saltwater bin

Edit: NVM. Missed the salinity in post 2
 
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ihavecrabs

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@jap783 sorry to hear about your struggles. It happens to everyone at one point or another (whether they advertise it or not!).

My educated guess is you had a significant drop in oxygen during your sanded cleaning. You should limit how much of your sanded you stir up at a given time (like 1/10th of the bed per week so it doesn't get a full turnover for 2.5 months). Some folks even suggest only stirring down to a depth of 1/4". Do some research here and figure out what works best for you.

The algae bloom, alkalinity, and corals tell me there is or has been instability. First, I would confirm if the instability is still present. Test the basics regularly and minimize changes to the best of your ability. Validate everything is within normal ranges and then wait.

On the above recommendation, I recently had a GHA outbreak during the last few months of my MBA program. Corals were not happy. I treated with Reef Flux and got my alkalinity back to stable and it took about 3 months before the coral came back with a vengeance. The fact is "bad things can happen fast, but good things never happen quickly!"

I hope this helps. If you still think there is a toxin, keep running your carbon and throw a poly filter in. Otherwise, I would return the fish to the main display.. I truly do believe the stirred up muck/bacteria in the sand bed led to oxygen drop.
 
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jap783

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@jap783 sorry to hear about your struggles. It happens to everyone at one point or another (whether they advertise it or not!).

My educated guess is you had a significant drop in oxygen during your sanded cleaning. You should limit how much of your sanded you stir up at a given time (like 1/10th of the bed per week so it doesn't get a full turnover for 2.5 months). Some folks even suggest only stirring down to a depth of 1/4". Do some research here and figure out what works best for you.

The algae bloom, alkalinity, and corals tell me there is or has been instability. First, I would confirm if the instability is still present. Test the basics regularly and minimize changes to the best of your ability. Validate everything is within normal ranges and then wait.

On the above recommendation, I recently had a GHA outbreak during the last few months of my MBA program. Corals were not happy. I treated with Reef Flux and got my alkalinity back to stable and it took about 3 months before the coral came back with a vengeance. The fact is "bad things can happen fast, but good things never happen quickly!"

I hope this helps. If you still think there is a toxin, keep running your carbon and throw a poly filter in. Otherwise, I would return the fish to the main display.. I truly do believe the stirred up muck/bacteria in the sand bed led to oxygen drop.
Well I agree that disturbing the sandbed this drastically must have done something to have caused this. I test the water chemistry every Monday morning to monitor alkalinity and calcium dosages. I test everything else as well because I actually enjoy testing. The water quality was beginning to stabilize because the chaeto in my refugium was just starting to grow again. I could see the pH rising when the refugium was turned on and the nitrate and phosphate had reduced from 12 ppm to 1ppm and 0.3 down to 0.05 ppm since June. The last time I used reeflux in destroyed my chaeto, my plan was to physically remove as much algae as possible and allow the refugium to outcompete the remainder.

I went to my two trusted LFS and brought samples for them to check and to see if they had any insight. The first LFS tested the total chlorine in my water to see if my RO/DI system was allowing any to pass through. They found 0.03ppm chlorine and recommended I replace my carbon blocks, sediment, etc. I tested the waste supply at home with a LaMotte test strip and got apparently 0 ppm. The strip on the left is untreated tap water for comparison. Would anyone agree and change their carbon blocks?
 

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jap783

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Here are what remains of my fish, they are currently in quarantine. I lost a fire shrimp, a purple firefish, royal gramma, three sailfish mollies, and one green chromis. The most afflicted fish are two of the three remaining green chromis, a percula clown, the majestic angel, and a bangaii cardinal. The fish that have made an "apparent" recovery but I am still not confident on their survival are one bangaii cardinal, the other percula, a single green chromis, a female melanurus wrasse, and the tomini, yellow, and hippo tangs. The yellow tang, despite swimming upright, appears severely damaged with skin loss, particularly along the lateral line. I was treating the flame angel with chloroquine phosphate because it had marine velvet but I had no other choice but to move my fish in with him. Should I treat with antibiotics? I was also thinking of doing a course of copper but I don't think the fish would survive the treatment.
 

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terraincognita

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You're sure there's nothing in the filtration system that maybe starting leaching toxins?

I mean the one you're using to suck up water from sand, and then push it back into the tank?

Kind seems like everything was starting to go okay, then after you did that everything started dying.

Possible? seems like the only change right?

Also it happened RIGHT after.

Hard for me to think something in your sand was waiting to explode and kill everything. Especially 6 weeks after a last vaccuum.

even in that scenario you'd have bacterial blooms and things showing up as well with detritus being stirred up.

My money is on somehow that cansiter circulation set up you have got contaminated somehow and you didn't get it cleaned out properly.
 
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All of the remaining inverts in my reef appear severely stressed, I doubted any will survive. I have since added a poly filter and purigen to the media reactor to cover any toxins that could have been added to the tank. I still cannot find the male melanurus wrasse and I am thinking I should remove the echinoderms and clam to a nano tank I have in my bedroom. I could set up another tank just for the corals but I wont have any water made up until tomorrow night. Besides that, I am still unsure of the source of contamination so a tank transfer may or may not help.
 

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I didn't see a graph for ammonia. Possibly a spike from disturbing the sandbed or when you moved the rocks (ammonia trapped under the sand under the rocks)? Testing the ammonia now and getting 0 doesn't mean there wasn't a spike yesterday. If your tank is functioning properly then it would have already converted the ammonia by today. You would have needed to test it yesterday during the event. Having said that there should be a corresponding rise in nitrates I don't know if nitrates would rise to toxic levels. If your nitrates were low to begin with they might not have reached toxic levels but it wouldn't take much ammonia to be toxic. Of course this is just my theory. The only other thing would be rapid oxygen depletion.
 
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jap783

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You're sure there's nothing in the filtration system that maybe starting leaching toxins?

I mean the one you're using to suck up water from sand, and then push it back into the tank?

Kind seems like everything was starting to go okay, then after you did that everything started dying.

Possible? seems like the only change right?

Also it happened RIGHT after.

Hard for me to think something in your sand was waiting to explode and kill everything. Especially 6 weeks after a last vaccuum.

even in that scenario you'd have bacterial blooms and things showing up as well with detritus being stirred up.

My money is on somehow that cansiter circulation set up you have got contaminated somehow and you didn't get it cleaned out properly.
I was thinking that too! I tried to check and see if there was something that I missed. However, I have used the same filtration system four times prior and have not noticed anything. I clean the filter after each use and let it all air dry before putting it away. The micron filter is supposed to be for drinking water so I would hope it isn't leaching toxins but anything is possible at this point. I originally purchased a 6 pack on amazon and that was my fifth cartridge of the batch. I throw them away after each use since they aren't particularly expensive. I have attached a photo of the device I made, the only part missing is the sicce pump that is plumbed after the filter housing before returning water to the aquarium. I also attached a photo of the last cartridge to see if there's anything I missed?
 

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terraincognita

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I was thinking that too! I tried to check and see if there was something that I missed. However, I have used the same filtration system four times prior and have not noticed anything. I clean the filter after each use and let it all air dry before putting it away. The micron filter is supposed to be for drinking water so I would hope it isn't leaching toxins but anything is possible at this point. I originally purchased a 6 pack on amazon and that was my fifth cartridge of the batch. I throw them away after each use since they aren't particularly expensive. I have attached a photo of the device I made, the only part missing is the sicce pump that is plumbed after the filter housing before returning water to the aquarium. I also attached a photo of the last cartridge to see if there's anything I missed?
Do you flush them with RODI or Tap water before using?

100% possible at the factory someone spilled a contaminant and just packaged it up anyway. If that's what happened possible you'll never be able to nail it down to that.

Just so hard for me to believe you disturbed something in your tank that now suddenly led to extreme mass death like that....

Also like where was that 6 weeks ago?

Maybe you had a Sea Slug in your sand bed? lol IDK... hard to think of animal being killed/disturbed releasing toxins that would've never done it the prior 5 times either...

I'd flush em for 10 minutes before use to avoid anything like this being a problem in the future... but I see no obvious problem as to why that set up should've caused that.
 

terraincognita

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I use crushed coral and on certain days my pistol shrimp will make an absolute mess when he finds a new area. Never has caused an issue like this. It's been months since I've vacuumed.
yeah exactly I don't think it's his bed either.

I just vacuumed and rescaped a 6 month 2 1/2 - 3 inch deep undisturbed sandbed....

I had a bacteria bloom for 1-2 days? maybe?

Again IF that was what was going on also in his tank, he'd def have a bac bloom in DT.
 
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