I have read one of your past FAMA replies to a gentlemen who had a Hurricane nightmare that resulted in an uncontrollable algae outbreak. Well, I've had the same thing happen to me, but only recently did it get out of control. I had a lot of hair algae after the hurricane hit two years ago, but it was manageable. When it really got out of control with a lot of cyanobacteria is when I tried using "Marine Tank Clarifier." It worked very well, but the tank got overloaded with a lot of dead stuff and a very high spike of nitrate resulted that killed most of my corals.
So far I've vacuumed as much 'stuff' as I could off the rocks and scrubbed them clean. (Stuff being hair algae and cyanobacteria.) However, I am not sure what you meant in your response to that other aquarist when you said to start over. Does that mean to break the tank down and scrub the rocks? Or do you mean going even further and just buying new rock and 'completely' starting over?
I guess I'm ok with junking the whole thing as its contents are in a bad condition, unless there's another path to take. I just bought a new T-5 system with 8 bulbs. Currently I use 4 VHO bulbs. I am also looking for a new skimmer. I have an old Top Fathom TF-100 that has run my 75-gallon tank well for years, but I'm sure there are now even better skimmers out there. I don't know which ones are the best, as there are far too many to choose from. If you have some insight into skimmers your feedback on this would also be appreciated.
Also, since I live close to the Keys, I might drive down there and gather about 200 hermit crabs. I could then scrub the rocks as best I could (again), change all the sand and water, install the new lights, and see what happens. Do you have any other suggestions?
Thanks for your letter, and I can't begin to tell you how many times I've heard about severe algae problems!
As for your questions, the start over comment was in relation to cleaning the rock an additional one or two times, as one single cleaning/scrubbing them clean will not suffice. Usually, a week or two later it has to be repeated, then again a few weeks later to regain control. All while greatly improving water quality and cleaning/vacuuming the sandbed. In your case, it's difficult to say, as you did not explain the system's bio-load. But cleanliness is the key to getting rid of the unwanted algae, as it's really nothing more than 'green' storage of excess nitrogen laden compounds, i.e., nitrite, nitrate, and ammonium.
Keep in mind the input from excess food/excess bioload needs to be controlled, as is the phosphate level (very, very important), which should be maintained below 0.015 ppm. Once the input of nutrients is controlled, and water quality is restored, sandbed vacuumed monthly, and the excesses of algae removed, life as you had it originally will return. Easier said than done, but doable.
As for skimmer recommendations, visit my website and read the reviews there on the 'Books and Products Review' page. Also, checkout my inexpensive booklet titled "Protein Skimming & Activated Carbon," as its very informative about these items all without any hype. (Reader note: I did recommend 5 brands, if interested contact me by email.) And I would recommend cleaning up the system and greatly improving its water quality/condition before adding new lights!
Hermits, if the right type, can help. But don't forget to add a lot of empty shells, as they will kill each other for their shells if there's not an ample supply of empties. That would add unwanted nutrients to the water, besides their poop!
You may also want to try a product called 'Algae Magic.' If you do, suggest using it as noted on the label, but for seven days on the first try since you're working to correct a major problem.
Hope this helps, and keep me posted.