Tulip-polyp syndrome and neoplasia

Hugo Tait

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So, I have a question for everyone keeping SPS, and Acros in particular...

For around 2 years now I've been having issues with most acros in my 177L frag tank. This problem also occurred in a previous 10g system frag system, from which these corals were transferred, but NOT in my separate 200L system. I'll introduce a health frag/coral from a different system and within a couple of months growth will stop and the polyps will "tulip"- as best as I can describe it! At the same time, the tissue, primarily around the coralite will blister (neoplasia?).

When this 177L system was first setup growth was good, without signs of this problem. Corals transferred from the "problematic" 10g would heal and start growing again. After around 6 months, the same problem occurred in this 177L system. Corals moved from this system to a separate 200L system will heal within a few weeks and continue growing as normal. Coral left in this system will eventually wither away and STN/RTN. This phenomenon seems to come in waves.

Background:

- 177L frag/QT system, approx 1.5yrs.
- Started with MicroBacter7 and a small amount of live rock for seeding
- No sand, no sump. 400i skimmer, dosing ATI essentials with NaOH.
- No fish, only inverts. Snails, lots of critters etc
- NO3 and PO4 dosed (both checked for contaminants by ICP test)
- 200-550PAR from full spectrum LED and T5
- Feeding blended seafood/mysis, Reefroids, aminos, vitamins etc. at least 1x a day
- All coral is dipped in potassium salts and re-based before entering the system. Can't find any relevant pests on the tissue
- I've been in the hobby approx 16yrs with a masters in marine biology and have previously worked in coral wholesale (never seen this in our coral farm before)

Other notes that I think could be relevant:

- Seems to affect mainly Acros
- Seems to be worse following a bacterial bloom (slightly cloudy water)
- Intensive (30% every 3 days) water changes might have helped in the past
- I originally thought it was due to elevated copper/tin as this was very high in my system, but now both read near 0ppm (see attached ICP)
- I'm in the process of QTing some fish to add some fish poo (and possibly beneficial gut bacteria?)
- I've recently tried a 10% water change with NSW to introduce some bacterial variety

I know there have been threads on Neoplasia in the past, but all seem inconclusive as to the cause with imbalanced dosing, carbon dosing and many other things suggested as possible causes. Anyone with similar experience or seen this in other tanks please chime in- the more data the better! Any help would be really appreciated.


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jda

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I heard a speaker on this at a show probably two decades ago. His thought was bacterial and the specimens needed culled. There was not much known back then... and not much has changed. If it was something like parameter imbalance, then this would be seen a lot more. Seems like it can spread if you let it stick around. You might need to reach out to some of the real scientists in the field - most of them will never hang out here. Check out some of the past MACNA speakers and see which ones you feel might be helpful with true coral. I am sorry that this is not super helpful, so free bump.
 
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Hugo Tait

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Thanks for the reply @jda, can you remember the name of the showcase/year, or even better the speaker?

My thoughts would be bacterial as well. As the condition can be reversed by moving the coral to a different system, I would hope that a phase-shift in the bacterial community would help solve this. I have looked into witch hazel, Triton RTN-X etc but am nervous about throwing the kitchen sink at it just yet.

I've seen Eli @AquaBiomics mention (something along the lines of) adding bottled bacteria seems to do very little to change the bacterial community in a system, but rather, the method of maintaining a system has a large effect. To this end, I'll start the daily addition of live phytoplankton and cut down other types of foods. Temp has also been brought down 1C.
 
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sculpin01

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The growth at the axial corallites definitely appears dystrophic and edematous but not disorganized/random enough to indicate neoplasia. In addition, the soft tissues appear healthy and well colored, despite their apparent edema. I suspect it is reactive to an environmental toxin and doubt it is infectious. If it is infectious, it's probably going to be something weird.

To rule out a bacterial disease vector you need to set up an experiment. Set up two isolated small tanks (40 L/10 gallons) with identical lighting/flow/parameters and identical affected frags. Then in one of them, add broad spectrum antibiotics (ciprofloxacin, amoxicillin, metronidazole, doxycycline, and cephalexin should cover most everything). Re-dose antibiotics weekly for 3 weeks total in one tank. Add nothing to the other tank. Grow the frags out in both tanks and look for changes. All of these antibiotics are available for the "pet" trade currently.

If there is no response to the antibiotic test, you still have to consider viral, protist, and possibly prion (?) agents.

One thing I would consider is whether you have a corroded magnet somewhere in your system due to the elevated zinc level on your ICP (zinc is used as a coating for rare earth magnets). I'm pretty sure that ICP tests won't pick up the rare earth elements in rare earth magnets (with the exception of cobalt), so you could have rare earth contaminants (samarium and neodymium).
 

jwells77

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I’ve had this happen after getting burnt tips from letting alk get too high. I cut the burnt tips and they heal like that. After a while they grow normal. I thought for sure that was your issue. But you don’t mention any alk spike or burning. Weird. They look to be in great health otherwise. Polyps don’t appear fully extended. Any possible nippers?
 

sculpin01

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After realizing that I had a frag in my tank that I purchased that had morphological changes (not identical to yours but in the spectrum), I spent the day reading about "coral growth anomalies" which I believe encompasses both what you are seeing and what I see in the frag I purchased. Essentially, it occurs across multiple species but is most common in Acropora and Porites. It is associated with distorted tissue growth without sloughing of tissue. It can be contagious but at a low rate. Causative organisms/environmental factors remain unknown.


Not only a human nightmare: Coral tumour-like disease


Transmission of growth anomalies between Indo-Pacific Porites corals:

Bacteria associated with skeletal tissue growth anomalies in the coral Platygyra carnosus


Morphological, elemental, and boron isotopic insights into pathophysiology of diseased coral growth anomalies​


Comprehensive characterization of skeletal tissue growth anomalies of the finger coral Porites compressa


Ecology and Pathology of Novel Plaque-Like Growth Anomalies Affecting a Reef-Building Coral on the Great Barrier Reef​

 
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Hugo Tait

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Thanks all for the replies, I have also been in touch with a coral pathologist here in the UK so waiting to hear his thoughts as well- I'll update any new info.

To rule out a bacterial disease vector you need to set up an experiment. Set up two isolated small tanks (40 L/10 gallons) with identical lighting/flow/parameters and identical affected frags. Then in one of them, add broad spectrum antibiotics (ciprofloxacin, amoxicillin, metronidazole, doxycycline, and cephalexin should cover most everything). Re-dose antibiotics weekly for 3 weeks total in one tank. Add nothing to the other tank. Grow the frags out in both tanks and look for changes. All of these antibiotics are available for the "pet" trade currently.
Nice idea for the experiment, I have a little time at the moment so may have a go at this. Do you have any guidelines for dosing concentrations, as presumably there's no test to define levels once dosed?

One thing I would consider is whether you have a corroded magnet somewhere in your system

I've checked all Gyre magnets, pump bearings, removed any unnecessary glass cleaners, UV etc when I was battling high (100ppm) tin and copper. Nothing found so far but will keep looking. What may be relevant is that almost all of this equipment was not used on my old system, where I had the identical problem.

I’ve had this happen after getting burnt tips from letting alk get too high

As you say no meaningful Alk spike that correlates with the issues, although consumption has significantly increased recently. This seems related to the use of Triton RTN-X on a few frags, but not 100% sure. Growth is definitely suppressed for affected corals. Incidentally, I don't think this is confined to Acropora sp. as I see abnormal polyps on Seriatoporas too.

Any possible nippers?

No fish in the system, lots of good PE on non-affected colonies
 
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sculpin01

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I don't have specific guidelines, unfortunately. Essentially, this is a shot in the dark which is unlikely to answer the question. It still might be fun to do, however.

Honestly, the disrupted growth pattern to me suggests a viral infection, like a coral "warts"-type growth related to viral infection.
 

sculpin01

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sculpin01

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Here is an example of Porites infection which looks very similar to what you are seeing (Image courtesy of Xiaohui Lin via Facebook):
 

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NR53

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Following this thread. I think i'm experiencing similar. This frag of CB Maleficent had great polyp extension when I first got it, started encrusting nicely, colored up from dark maroon to pink, then suddenly stalled. I thought there was no polyp extension for weeks but macro shots are showing tuliping. All other acros in my system have not been affected.

DSCF0253.jpg
 

sculpin01

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That does appear to have atypical distorted growth with ballooned out polyps. Now that I am aware of this, I have seen similar distorted growth in both hobbyist for-sale and vendor frags, suggesting that it is not uncommon. I purchased these two corals because I thought the distorted growth was interesting. Perhaps luckily, both were killed by an Ostreopsis outbreak.
 

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watchguy123

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The growth at the axial corallites definitely appears dystrophic and edematous but not disorganized/random enough to indicate neoplasia. In addition, the soft tissues appear healthy and well colored, despite their apparent edema. I suspect it is reactive to an environmental toxin and doubt it is infectious. If it is infectious, it's probably going to be something weird.

To rule out a bacterial disease vector you need to set up an experiment. Set up two isolated small tanks (40 L/10 gallons) with identical lighting/flow/parameters and identical affected frags. Then in one of them, add broad spectrum antibiotics (ciprofloxacin, amoxicillin, metronidazole, doxycycline, and cephalexin should cover most everything). Re-dose antibiotics weekly for 3 weeks total in one tank. Add nothing to the other tank. Grow the frags out in both tanks and look for changes. All of these antibiotics are available for the "pet" trade currently.

If there is no response to the antibiotic test, you still have to consider viral, protist, and possibly prion (?) agents.

One thing I would consider is whether you have a corroded magnet somewhere in your system due to the elevated zinc level on your ICP (zinc is used as a coating for rare earth magnets). I'm pretty sure that ICP tests won't pick up the rare earth elements in rare earth magnets (with the exception of cobalt), so you could have rare earth contaminants (samarium and neodymium).
Curious, how do you differentiate between hyperplasia vs edema from the photograph
 
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Hugo Tait

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great polyp extension when I first got it, started encrusting nicely, colored up from dark maroon to pink, then suddenly stalled
Certainly sounds familiar. Many of my pieces were doing very well, with good growth and colour before stalling. Have you noticed any bacterial bloom or recent cloudiness to the water. Do you have copper/tin in excess?

I believe this is curable as some of my frags are starting to look (slightly?!) better with corresponding increase in Alk consumption.
 

NR53

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Last ICP test I had on 2/22 showed 0.02 for tin, 0.0 for copper, and my Alk has hovered around 8. Small bouts of cyano here and there but no major bacterial blooms since I run a UV sterilizer. Any ideas on how to remove tin other than a couple water changes? I'll slowly bump up alk as well.
 

sculpin01

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Curious, how do you differentiate between hyperplasia vs edema from the photograph
I would expect hyperplasia to look like organized tissue enlargement. Edema would look like puffy but otherwise normally sized tissue. You have a point, but minus tissue sections, observation is the next best thing.
 
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