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What’s your opinion on the role of detritus in a reef tank

taricha

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Oh god, not the DSB debate. :p

I like Lasse's terminology, we're talking about Particulate Organic Matter (or Carbon) POM or POC. And we're distinguishing between the labile portion that is easily consumed and broken down, and the refractory portion that is difficult for anything to consume. What starts as a mix of labile and refractory, becomes refractory in short time as the good parts get consumed.
Uneaten food, excreted waste, dead algae, and dead inverts are the origins of the stuff.

for @Dan_P thinking about quantification.
"The lability of the estuarine particulate organic matter was estimated
by two analyses: 1/labile organic matter was measured as the organic carbon loss during incubation tests over one month; 2/ the hydrolysable organic fraction was determined after 6N HCl digestion."
POM in some French river estuaries

HCl sounds faster, but they only got <10% labile stuff coming out of rivers, so it doesn't sound like there's much to find unless you look reeeally carefully.
 
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Dan_P

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Back in the day Ron Shimek had an article about sand bed health with regards to the sand bed fauna and ways to measure said fauna.

A normal sand bed was supposed to have 10,000 to 100,000 animals per meter square. mediocre sand bed fauna would range 1,000 to 5,000 animals per meter squared, this would be time for a "recharge kit" or new live sand. Anything below 1,000 animals per meter squared he recommended tearing down and rebuilding.

Granted this info is 20 years old and was based on Ron Shimek's definition of a DSB at the time.

He also recommended checking your sand bed fauna every few months.
Good one, thanks. I totally forgot about counting organisms in the sand as a diagnostic.
 

Dan_P

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Oh god, not the DSB debate. :p

I like Lasse's terminology, we're talking about Particulate Organic Matter (or Carbon) POM or POC. And we're distinguishing between the labile portion that is easily consumed and broken down, and the refractory portion that is difficult for anything to consume. What starts as a mix of labile and refractory, becomes refractory in short time as the good parts get consumed.
Uneaten food, excreted waste, dead algae, and dead inverts are the origins of the stuff.

for @Dan_P thinking about quantification.
"The lability of the estuarine particulate organic matter was estimated
by two analyses: 1/labile organic matter was measured as the organic carbon loss during incubation tests over one month; 2/ the hydrolysable organic fraction was determined after 6N HCl digestion."
POM in some French river estuaries

HCl sounds faster, but they only got <10% labile stuff coming out of rivers, so it doesn't sound like there's much to find unless you look reeeally carefully.
This reminds me of something I was considering. Both protease and lipase are readily available enzymes that break down proteins and fats, respectively. There are other enzymes available. Subjecting material, such as substrate or mulm, to these enzymes might give products that are measurable. Now that I think about it, what if we subject substrate to a cocktail of enzymes? Could we turn this into an in situ rip cleaning?
 

Dan_P

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When I put my sand and detritus under a microscope it was crawling with tiny work like creatures.
Great! The trick with counting these moving objects is to stop them with a method that does not badly distort there form.
 
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atoll

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Great! The trick with counting these moving objects is to stop them with a method that does not badly distort there form.
That was about 2 years ago. I borrowed the microscope at the time. I have moved house since and no longer have access to it. Perhaps and idea would be for people who own a microscope to take samples of sand and detritus from various levels of the substrate in the DT.
 

fish farmer

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Here's a copy of the Live sand article I referenced earlier. He recommended a hand lens. I did it once using a hand lens and a small square plastic dish, it worked will. Diversity may be a challenge without a microscope, but I could see plenty of things moving about.
sand 1.JPG
sand 2.JPG
 

andrewkw

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I tested my phosphates at 0.12 - to me that's crazy high but high enough that I might as well do some preventive clean up.

I took my water change pump which is just a generic amazon pump that pumps a few hundred gallons at a few feet of head height and held it in my tank and attached a hose to the outlet and blew under my rock work. I also took some detritus from my sump - not all but probably 70% or so.

IMG_5889.jpg


IMG_5890.jpg


The big one was cleaning my overflow box. I very rarely do this and it's home to some big bristleworms which I'll try and throw back in if I can find them in this detritus. Again didn't take it all out just most of it. That one clump of hair algae is pretty interesting it was stuck to my drain pipe. I don't have any visible algae in my tank at all other then at the water line on the return pump. Also found a couple of bubble algaes.

Part of doing this is bored, part of it is preventative maintenance. I was kinda hoping that this year I'd look at moving and of course upgrading tanks, but since that is not going to happen I just want to make sure this tank will run smooth for at least another couple of years if need be.
 

merereef

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So after careful consideration and being tooo OCD on cleaning ditritus i have decided to NOT worry about it and remove fine filter socks. I was watching a video on julian sprungs reef and his sump is caked in ditritus which he maybe cleans once every 6 months.. i am now starting to believe that ditritus is food for the tank.. my corals are LOOKING. Healthier and polyps are out wayyy more than before...
 

atoll

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So after careful consideration and being tooo OCD on cleaning ditritus i have decided to NOT worry about it and remove fine filter socks. I was watching a video on julian sprungs reef and his sump is caked in ditritus which he maybe cleans once every 6 months.. i am now starting to believe that ditritus is food for the tank.. my corals are LOOKING. Healthier and polyps are out wayyy more than before...
Agreed, as i have posted many times I dont believe detritus is the evil thing it's often made out to be. I have not used any prefiltration with any of my tanks in years.
 

pubwvj

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Saying this i had a cyano issue... removed a lot of detritus by syphoning sand blowing rocks teice a day and changing filter floss twice a day and the cyano went away... even the skimmate changed colour from dark black to light tea colour
Was it the increased water movement you created or the reduction in nutrients that caused the cyano to go away?
 

Timfish

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It's a good thing

Urea is a dynamic pool of bioavailable nitrogen in coral reefs

Fish as major carbonate mud producers and missing components of the tropical carbonate factory

Context-dependent effects of nutrient loading on the coral-algal mutualism (coral prefer fish poo)

Context‐dependent effects of nutrient loading on the coral–algal mutualism(1).png
 

living_tribunal

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Some people search far and wide for the most useful CUC to tackle detritus. Others see it as a nitrate factory. However, detritus does play an important role in let’s say, a well-established mixed reef.

Thoughts?
I don’t mind it. It does build up but it keeps a lot of good stuff in my tank.

It’s all a balance. If the detritus builds up too much, the chitons, worms, and stars will reproduce and account for it. The tomini seems to like it as well as does my mandarin for the pods.
 

Orko

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I do not filter my water it goes from the tank to the sump and I pump it back to the tank I have 15 yrs of detritus in my sump have never cleaned it . I have tons of little banded serpent stars all over my tank. so I think like others keep it balanced and all is good!
 
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cloak

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IME getting poop, detritus etc out on a regular basis is a good thing... Especially in these closed systems we have. Manual labor is what keeps these tanks alive... (long term)

FWIW I change out about 2 gallons every three weeks on my 20 gallon tank. I do stir up my SSB each time though. No problem. GL.
 

Flippers4pups

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So can we just call the gray stuff “gray matter”? Basically it’s not detritus but useless leftovers after everything has had a bite at it? Guess I should siphon some out.
It's described as "Marine Snow".
 

Flippers4pups

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I'm a firm believer that "detritus" isn't a bad thing. What is not understood and isn't seen with the naked eye is the amount of microscopic life that lives in the detritus. When i would gravel vacuum my sand bed, there would be "strings" of debris that are very thin, small white worms. These could be seen in the gravel vacuum clear tube.

As some have stated, viewing this under high power magnification, shows micro organisms smaller than pods. As research has started, there is a large amount of denitrifying bacteria residing in this detritus as well. Clearly there is a lot of activity going on.

Here's the rub as I see it, If detritus is a bad thing to have, why isn't tanks jammed packed with rock and corals that are healthy and growing suffering? I mean, every square inch is filled. Obviously their owners can't possibly "clean" or "rip clean" the sand or can't possibly have enough flow in these systems to lift out the accumulated detritus. So the "rip clean" approach clearly can't be done and isn't a issue. So that whole discussion is null.
 

atoll

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I'm a firm believer that "detritus" isn't a bad thing. What is not understood and isn't seen with the naked eye is the amount of microscopic life that lives in the detritus. When i would gravel vacuum my sand bed, there would be "strings" of debris that are very thin, small white worms. These could be seen in the gravel vacuum clear tube.

As some have stated, viewing this under high power magnification, shows micro organisms smaller than pods. As research has started, there is a large amount of denitrifying bacteria residing in this detritus as well. Clearly there is a lot of activity going on.

Here's the rub as I see it, If detritus is a bad thing to have, why isn't tanks jammed packed with rock and corals that are healthy and growing suffering? I mean, every square inch is filled. Obviously their owners can't possibly "clean" or "rip clean" the sand or can't possibly have enough flow in these systems to lift out the accumulated detritus. So the "rip clean" approach clearly can't be done and isn't a issue. So that whole discussion is null.
I have a microscope e in fact 1 high power one low power and periodically remove a tiny amount of sand and ir detritus. I can vouch for all manner of worns and other creatures that inhabit them. Detritus become inherent within a couple of days and unless you have a roller mat then you not removing so much of it. However, with the right filtration I see no need to remove it and certainly don't have a need for a roller mat.iuse an ATS a skimmer and on Oxydator. My water is gin clear but my sand has plenty of detritus. I give my sand a blasting from time to time as many SPS feed on detritus so free food as well.
 

Flippers4pups

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I have a microscope e in fact 1 high power one low power and periodically remove a tiny amount of sand and ir detritus. I can vouch for all manner of worns and other creatures that inhabit them. Detritus become inherent within a couple of days and unless you have a roller mat then you not removing so much of it. However, with the right filtration I see no need to remove it and certainly don't have a need for a roller mat.iuse an ATS a skimmer and on Oxydator. My water is gin clear but my sand has plenty of detritus. I give my sand a blasting from time to time as many SPS feed on detritus so free food as well.
I have a quite a bit of flow in my system and once in a blue moon I take my feeding pipette and gently blow into the sand, releasing the detritus into the water column. I really don't even think that's ever needed other than to make the sand bed look more aesthetically pleasing. It stays white 100% of the time anyway.
 
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