What can I do to improve my setup?

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andielehman

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Hello everyone. After posting my build thread, which you can find here, I was inspired to see how I could keep the progression of my 20g long tank going strong and making it the best that it could be! Is there anything I should change or add in my setup? It is a 3 month old tank with no sump, only a HOB filter and surface skimmer. It's also my first saltwater tank.

Stocking

1 black snowflake clownfish
1 yellow watchman goby
Planning for: 1 possum wrasse and 1 springer's damsel

5 dwarf hermits
7 astrea snails
1 emerald crab
2 peppermint shrimp
1 skunk cleaner shrimp
1 fighting conch

Various mushrooms, zoas, clove polyps, GSP, and leather corals along with 1 Duncan and 1 goniopora - fed with Reef Roids or frozen food twice a week.
Planning on adding a hammer or frogspawn to the top of the rightmost rock.

Parameters (I am planning on beginning to dose within the next few days):
PH: 8.2
Alk: 7
Calcium: 350
Mag: 1180
Ammonia: 0ppm
Nitrites: 0ppm
Phosphates: <0.25 ppm
Nitrates: <20ppm

Here is the tank under daylight settings after my latest water change (25% biweekly with instant ocean salt mixed into heated RODI water with an old filter for 30 mins). Coralline algae is beginning to take hold on some of the rocks, albeit in tiny specks. The rocks are also almost totally covered in this beautiful green algae which I personally love the look of. My CUC keep most of the algae under control, but the sides of the glass are still a bit dirty. The tank is also right in front of a window, so there is 1-2 hours of natural light on the back glass every evening.

IMG_7123.jpeg
 
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Timfish

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Expect a big learning curve. I would encourage you to get ROhwer's book "COral Reefs in the Microbial Seas" (kindle is $10) You might find these videos below informative. Also, I wouldn't dose anything unless testing showed something is low.

Forest Rohwer "Coral Reefs in the Microbial Seas"

Changing Seas - Mysterious Microbes

Nitrogen cycling in hte coral holobiont

Richard Ross What's up with phosphate"
 
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andielehman

andielehman

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Expect a big learning curve. I would encourage you to get ROhwer's book "COral Reefs in the Microbial Seas" (kindle is $10) You might find these videos below informative. Also, I wouldn't dose anything unless testing showed something is low.

Forest Rohwer "Coral Reefs in the Microbial Seas"

Changing Seas - Mysterious Microbes

Nitrogen cycling in hte coral holobiont

Richard Ross What's up with phosphate"
thanks for all the good info! this hobby has already thrown me for a loop in terms of a learning curve already, the more questions i answer, the more i seem to have haha!

also, for dosing, my levels are starting to creep down between my biweekly water changes. by week 1 after the change, my alk is at 7.2-7.4 and my calcium is at 380-ish. is it worth dosing now to establish a "higher baseline" so to speak? i have brightwell's 2-part system ready to go along with their magnesium supplement, since mine usually sits around 1200 and i've heard it should be higher.
 

Timfish

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Get used to answers generating more questions! :D It's been an uphill climb fo rme for over 3 decades.

Well, your alkalinity and calcium doesn't bother me if they're stable and the corals seem happy but generally you'll find most recomendations to be higher. Initially, until you're familair with what's happening in your system I'd recommend testing pH, alkalinity, calcium and magnesium at least weekly if not more frequently. I do want to empasize this is not to "chase numbers" but so you have an idea what is happening with these parameters as your system matures. These 4 parameters are influenced by each other but depending on variables in your system adjusting one may or may not change another. I also would emphasize stability over "ideal" and downward trends is reason to take action even if the numbers are acceptable to you based on your experience. If your testing is showing parameters are dropping from what they were initially dosing and monitoring how it affects these parameters would be important IMO for you to get a better understanding of what is happening.
 
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andielehman

andielehman

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Get used to answers generating more questions! :D It's been an uphill climb fo rme for over 3 decades.

Well, your alkalinity and calcium doesn't bother me if they're stable and the corals seem happy but generally you'll find most recomendations to be higher. Initially, until you're familair with what's happening in your system I'd recommend testing pH, alkalinity, calcium and magnesium at least weekly if not more frequently. I do want to empasize this is not to "chase numbers" but so you have an idea what is happening with these parameters as your system matures. These 4 parameters are influenced by each other but depending on variables in your system adjusting one may or may not change another. I also would emphasize stability over "ideal" and downward trends is reason to take action even if the numbers are acceptable to you based on your experience. If your testing is showing parameters are dropping from what they were initially dosing and monitoring how it affects these parameters would be important IMO for you to get a better understanding of what is happening.
Thanks for the detailed info. I know that the parameters interact with each other in complicated ways. Alk and PH are closely tied, correct? And PH isn't the same as alk, mag, calcium, etc. as it is a collection of ions. My corals do seem ok, although they have seemed to be a little less fluffy and perky as of late. Also, for " ...parameters are dropping from what they were initially dosing and monitoring how it affects these parameters would be important IMO for you to get a better understanding of what is happening." I wasn't initially dosing anything, and what would I be monitoring in terms of effects on parameters?
 
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Timfish

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You're seeing your numbers drop, that doesn't sound like stable to me. You're also seeing a change in your corals, however insignificant it might be, that's reason enough to test and maybe dose and test again and monitor your corals and be patient and test again and maybe dose and test again and monitor your corals and . . . :D Experienced aquarists will have an "eye" for their corals and can often tell (not always though) before they test that a parameter is off. But to get to that point it takes a lot of experience. That's what you're working on this first year testing and monitoring your corals to see how they respond when you dose or don't dose.
 
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andielehman

andielehman

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You're seeing your numbers drop, that doesn't sound like stable to me. You're also seeing a change in your corals, however insignificant it might be, that's reason enough to test and maybe dose and test again and monitor your corals and be patient and test again and maybe dose and test again and monitor your corals and . . . :D Experienced aquarists will have an "eye" for their corals and can often tell (not always though) before they test that a parameter is off. But to get to that point it takes a lot of experience. That's what you're working on this first year testing and monitoring your corals to see how they respond when you dose or don't dose.
Thank you! I understand now. I'm starting a fallow period in my DT as my fish have broken out in ich, which sucks as there is SO much controversial information on Cryptocaryon. However, that makes now a great time to get my corals in tip-top shape! ;Happy
 

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This paper may help:

 
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andielehman

andielehman

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Staghorn

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The more you test the more you’ll be able to find trends in what your parameters are doing. If your levels of Alk and calcium are being used by the tank you can see over several days or weeks the trend of how quickly it’s being used and start dosing to try and keep them as stable as possible. Same goes for nutrients your phosphate is pretty high and if nitrate is in the high side as well. If you test for both and see a trend where they are going up and you know you need to either export more nutrients or feed less. Since your main method of nutrient export are water changes then you should adjust your wc schedule to try and get those parameters in check. Right now you’re starting to see some algae pop up here and there, with high nutrients once that algae takes hold it will be very difficult to get under control again. Maybe consider adding some GFO or a hang on refugium with some macro algae. Both of those will go a long way to getting the phosphate under controll
 
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andielehman

andielehman

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The more you test the more you’ll be able to find trends in what your parameters are doing. If your levels of Alk and calcium are being used by the tank you can see over several days or weeks the trend of how quickly it’s being used and start dosing to try and keep them as stable as possible. Same goes for nutrients your phosphate is pretty high and if nitrate is in the high side as well. If you test for both and see a trend where they are going up and you know you need to either export more nutrients or feed less. Since your main method of nutrient export are water changes then you should adjust your wc schedule to try and get those parameters in check. Right now you’re starting to see some algae pop up here and there, with high nutrients once that algae takes hold it will be very difficult to get under control again. Maybe consider adding some GFO or a hang on refugium with some macro algae. Both of those will go a long way to getting the phosphate under controll
Thank you! I don't have a place for a GFO reactor, but a hang-on fuge could be an option. My nitrates and phosphates have been very consistent since the cycle ended, and my tank is about to go fallow as well due to an ich outbreak which should bring down the higher nutrient levels.
 
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