Saltcorner
By Bob Goemans
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Bob Goemans corresponds with Robert Hauck (Texas)

Robert Hauck (Texas) writes...

Hi Bob,

Have just inherited a 120-gallon reef tank from a friend. I currently have freshwater, saltwater and some planted tanks, but never have tried a reef system. This tank is 48 x 24 x 24 inches containing about 75 pounds of Fiji live rock, 2" of aragonite substrate, and has a corner overflow box that leads to a wet/dry below having a drip plate that drips over about a gallon of bio balls, then passes through a chamber in the sump containing some phosphate removing media and a Poly-Filter. The rest of the sump area contains a large venturi skimmer and a mag drive 9.5 pump returning the water to the main tank. The lighting consists of 130 watts dual PC 6700/4300 and 130 watts of 10,000K PC.

I plan on doing 30% water changes a month with RO water hoping to be able to keep the phosphate and nitrate levels at a minimum. With so many supplements and products out there it can be a nightmare deciding which are truly needed to help maintain this kind of set-up. Any equipment and supplements suggestions would be truly appreciated.

Thanks for the time, and love reading your articles in FAMA.

Robert Hauck

Texas

Bob replies...

Hi Bob,

Thanks for the nice words about my articles in FAMA, and the aquarium and equipment sound great, but if you're heading in the direction of keeping more than common/simple corals that require moderate lighting, (you now have 260 watts), then you'll need to increase its intensity, possibly doubling it. If you go that path, you may also need a chiller, as that may cause some heat problems.

And unless I know your path/goals with the tank, I can't begin to detail what's needed.

Cheers.

Bob

Robert Hauck (Texas) writes...

Hi Bob,

I wrote you about six weeks ago telling you about a 120 gallon reef I inherited, which at that time was not doing too well. Now, everything is going surprisingly well, as the leather and colt coral have bounced back nicely. In fact, the leather totally looks like an anemone with all its polyps extended and the colt seems to have grown 2". I've added some green star polyps, hairy mushrooms, pulsating Xenia and a yellow finger leather, and all are doing great. When I inherited the tank, the rock had a great deal of hair algae covering it, which is now almost gone but still hanging in there somewhat. I'm starting to see some red slime algae developing on the live rock and wondering what might be causing it.

The pH is 8.3, phosphate 0.1, nitrate 20 ppm, calcium 480 (too high?) and have not yet tested for iodine. I add 2 teaspoons of PurpleUp daily, 1/4 tsp of iodine daily, feed DT Phytoplankton every other day and add strontium and molybdenum every 4th day. The Coralline algae are really beginning to take off, but I'm wondering if the iodine or phytoplankton could be causing the red algae? I've also been doing 25-gallon water changes bi-weekly using RO water and have added another 130 watts of compacts like you suggested. That gives me 390 watts of PC's and the water temperature is holding at 82 degrees constant (too hot?). The filter is as explained in my last letter. Would I benefit from adding some ChemiPure to my system?

Thanks again for any help you can give me, and hope I'm not a bother, as my family and I are really enjoying the tank.

Rob

Bob replies...

Hi Rob

Glad things are looking good, and as for your questions, they are very good, and delighted you contacted me again as you're doing some things that, in my opinion, should be corrected.

As for the use molybdenum, its fine if the system goal is one that incorporates a heavy amount of macroalgae, as that is an algae enhancer! Therefore, I don't recommend its use in most reef aquariums. You can also do without iodine additions, or at least greatly limit its use. In fact, I've found its easy to encourage red unwanted 'alga' with iodine additions, and besides, aquarist test kits are not as accurate as I would like them. If you decide to use it, reduce to 1/4 the recommended dose on the label and divide that into three applications per week. As for strontium, if you perform good waters changes and keep your calcium level within the recommended level, e.g., 380 - 430 ppm, it's also not a necessary additive. The PurpleUp product, which I use in my systems, is very good, but monitor your specific gravity, as it tends to raise it. You mention the calcium level, but not the alkalinity level, and since the two are tied to each other, I would at least for now, leave the calcium level somewhat high.

As for the red algae, (Cyanobacteria), your somewhat high nitrate and high phosphate level are to blame, along with possibly too much iodine. As for phosphate, it should be no higher than 0.015 ppm. Yours is far too high! Using a phosphate media in a bag where water flows over and around it, such as in a wet/dry, is not only not cost effective, but does not give the product the opportunity it needs to be effective. I prefer it be used in a canister filter where water is forced thoroughly through it. I've recently tested a new one from Warner Marine and its particles, besides being quite large, is the 'iron' type media, which is thought to be far better/more effective than aluminum oxide type medias. I recommend giving it a try, and if possible, in a canister filter. And suggest using the Salifert test kit to read its level, and replace media when you see any kind of reading.

Where nitrate is concerned, keep in mind a wet/dry is a nitrate producer, as its final product is 'nitrate.' You might want to consider a product called 'Nitrex,' which I've used in some past aquariums where nitrate levels were higher than I would like. It's a plastic chip-like medium and can be utilized in a nylon bag or what is also sold separately as the Nitrex 'Box.' It can be placed in the sump where it oxidizes nitrate back to elemental nitrogen gas. One box of the product will handle a 60-gallon aquarium. So you would need two boxes of the product, which should last three months and bring the nitrate level down considerably. I would also immediately consider far reducing or halting the use of any phytoplankton products until we get the water quality where it needs to be, e.g., nitrate below 10 ppm and phosphate far lower that what it is now. Once there, then carefully resume targeted phytoplankton or zooplankton feeding, as they can be quite helpful.

And yes, Chemi-pure is an excellent product, and suggest finding a place in the system to place a bag of this product, such as the sump or a canister filter, and change it every two months.

And once these 'tweaks' are instituted, I would expect the red algae to diminish, and when it does, use one teaspoon of 'brown' sugar or unprocessed honey per 100 gallons once a month after that. Just put it right in the tank sump or where water flows fairly good. That should take care of on-going red algae problems unless you're overfeeding, and if so, we need to discuss that in another letter.

Hope this helps.

Bob

Robert Hauck (Texas) writes...

Hi Bob,

It's been about six months from the last e-mail I sent you on high nitrates and phosphates, and just thought I'd let you know that everything is going great. I increased the water changes to 50% a month as well as stopping the use of the phytoplankton. What a difference. I never needed to purchase the Nitrex, and I'm currently testing weekly with the Salifert test kits for nitrate and phosphates, which aren't even showing up on the charts. I'm still using the phosphate product from Warner Marine with great results. I've lost only a few turbo snails. The animals now consist of quite a few mushrooms, and the toadstool leather and the yellow finger leather has gotten huge, and the colt coral is growing out of the tank, and my favorite, a Frogspawn coral that I purchased four months ago, is doing great. No more red algae either, the brown sugar trick was great.

So with everything going so well, I thought maybe I could ask you for a few more animal selections. I would like to try something along the lines of a sea apple or some nudibranchs, however I do have a couple of powerheads circulating the water. My fish consist of a Flame Hawk, Cardinalfish, Royal Gramma, and a Purple Tang.

Thanks for everything as the family and I are loving the tank.

Rob

Bob replies...

Hi Rob,

Happy to see that the tank is doing well and you're all happy with it! As for nudibranchs, they have caught the interest of some marine hobbyists because of their exquisite colors, which actually serve as a warning to predators. Mostly small, these snails without a shell are all carnivorous. In the aquarium their natural food source is mostly in short supply, limiting their life span considerably. In fact, lifespan of most nudibranchs is less than one year from time of hatching. Fish won't eat them as they have a strong acid gland that makes them taste terrible. Since they are basically predatory animals, they often find anemones, gorgonian, hydroids, tunicates and sponges a delicacy. And since its almost impossible to judge their nutritional needs, they often perish in aquaria and this poses a serious health risk to the other inhabitants in the same system. Since most are toxic and short lived in captivity, it simply does not make sense in my opinion, unless you're fully aware of the specimen's needs, to house it in your aquarium.

As for Sea Apples, I've had many, and they are interesting, besides being a beautiful creature. Its head area has a ring of feathery tentacles, which it uses for collecting 'phytoplankton,' and when they find a spot to their liking, may remain there for years. Keep in mind it spends most of its time on rocks or side aquarium panels and is not a sand stirrer. If it grows smaller, it's starving and may die. Since they are capable of releasing toxic mucus when stressed by lack of food, tankmates, poor or excess current, etc, it's very possible it may kill your fish, although probably not other invertebrates. Therefore, it's wise to remove specimens that are becoming smaller or stressed. And it does need daily feedings of preserved and/or live phytoplankton products to keep it healthy.

So give these two creatures some more thought before purchasing them.

Hope this helps.

Bob

Keywords:

Stocking Recommendations; Aquarium Setup Advice; Algae Control

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