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Marine Aquarium Algae Control
by Robert (Bob) Fenner
algae, contr., SW 2/26/10
I have an ongoing problem I hope you can help me with.
I have a 125G salt tank with about 100 pounds of live rock and 8-10
fish. I have been battling hair algae for about 3 of the 6 months this
tank has been set up.
<Look to your stocking/ feeding>
I bought a Aquaripure nitrate removing filter a couple weeks ago and
currently waiting on that to establish.
<This is a denitrator. Be aware that these are difficult to run
without an ORP computer>
My filtration is a Marineland Tidepool with the single large
<An integrated sump. Does the wheel trap debris?>
Should I remove it, and if so how?
<With the amount of live rock you have you could probably safely
remove this, assuming your fishes are not too large. If they are then
that is your problem, not the wheel>.
Is this wheel causing my algae breakout?
My nitrates read 0 but could be a false reading if algae is consuming
<I have to ask -- if your nitrates are so low why have you added a
denitrator? All life needs some NO3 and you will deprive your system of
it with this>
I feed sparingly and remove phosphates.
<How are you removing this, and what are your test results for
Should I remove the wheel? I can't remove it slowly like removing a
few bio balls at a time but can maybe stop it from spinning then remove
later. I have done all the tricks for the hair algae there is but
I'm convinced it's this wheel.
<You could try removing it, but I doubt if this is THE answer.
Combating algae problems is best done by 'attacking from all
fronts'. Have you read here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/algaeconMar.htm. Maybe try a refugium set up
to out-compete the algae>
26/02/10 Re: Hair algae
Thanks for your response.
As for fish, I have a Yellow Tang, 2 Brown Tangs
<Are these Ctenochaetus? What species?>
, 3-4 Damsels, a Lawnmower Blenny
<I would be surprised if this is getting along with your Brown
Tangs>, Scooter Blenny, Copperband Butterfly.
<This is overstocked with three Tangs, depending on what they are
and how big depends on how much overstocked. Please capitalise these
names in future correspondence Dean if you could>
I am feeding dry algae sheets every other day,
<How much? Are these eaten immediately or do you leave them in the
frozen brine once a day that I rinse in RO water, and sometimes shrimp
that is also rinsed in RO water.
I run the Aquaripure because I was told you do not want any nitrates in
a tank, and I do not know what a ORP computer is.
<Mmm, you do need 'some' NO3, these units can efficiently
remove all, to the detriment of the system. They should only be
employed when nitrates are high, and yours are not. An ORP computer is
a computer that measures/ adjusts the Oxidation Reduction Potential
inside the denitrator. This turns the pump/ flow on and off when
required. Without this, you will find you are constantly fiddling
around with drip/ flow rates etc. Also there are some bad H2S smells
that can come out of these units because they are operating in anoxic
conditions. The computer prevents this.>
I doubt the BioWheel is trapping much debris <Me neither> but I
have removed it and in its place I added live rock rubble.
<Mmm, may be counterproductive here>
Other than the fish I have 3-4 Mushrooms, a Leather, Zoanthids and
polyps. Also one Anemone. Could it be my feeding and if so, how much
would you feed and what?
The algae really took off when I installed a new MH light with
fluorescents. Also I am looking into a refugium set up now.
<This will help, benefit>
Bought some macro for the tank.
<Yes, this is a good weapon>
<No problem Dean. You really need to attack this from all
directions, and your main weapon is good old fashioned elbow grease.
Removing algae, water changes etc. Grow some competing macroalgaes,
reduce numbers of fishes, maybe look to using some GFO in a reactor to
limit PO4, aggressive skimming. There are many other small things you
can do, learn about by reading. Spend some time trawling through the
FAQ's here on WWM, there are MANY such. These problems are
difficult but also beatable. Simon.>
Re: Ozonizer/Air Dryer Questions (and now nuisance
algae too) -- 02/19/10
I thought I would wait to see how the ozonizer did before asking you a
few more questions.
I have an Ozotech 150 ozonizer,
<<Ahh'¦an excellent make>>
I still can't get air thru the Taam dryer even though I shortened
<<Hmm'¦a 'reversed' check-valve
and I can blow air through it so it's not blocked,
the Luft pump is new and the diaphragm seems fine.
<<Must say I find it very odd that this pressure-rated air pump
can't 'get through' the bead dryer>>
So for now I'll just clean the ozonizer.
<<Follow the manufacturer's instructions re and this will be
fine. I have been doing some reading/research of late and it seems that
the use of an air dryer, at least at a non-commercial level, may only
be of 'nominal' benefit at best. This is based on some tests
performed by Randy Holmes-Farley utilizing a single make/model of ozone
generator'¦so while interesting/thought provoking, is hardly
conclusive. Still, cleaning the Ozotech every 1-3 months beats
removing/drying silica beads a couple times a week>>
My ORP has settled down, staying right around 350 unless I add water
<<Very good'¦ You could increase this somewhat by
utilizing an ozone reactor as opposed to the skimmer (I've become
convinced that a reactor is a much more efficient means of utilizing
ozone in aquaria)'¦but this reading is fine>>
I should have told you I did calibrate the ORP meter before using
Also I do have ozone safe tubing; I just didn't make that
<<Excellent'¦thank you for the
I am still adjusting my magnesium to get it to the correct level and
have started adding baking soda to get the Alk up to par (Was in the
low end of normal).
Question time: sorry for the length of it.
Tank is 95g high, 250W MH light with Phoenix Hex Arc bulb (2 months
old), 125 lbs live sand, 175 lbs live rock, (tank is about 3 yrs old) 2
Vortech mp 10, 1 Maxi-Jet updated to 1200 gph, 1 Hydor 3, LifeReef
protein skimmer w/500gph pump. 1 Firefish, 2 clown gobies, 1 maroon
clown, 1 6-line wrasse, 1 Arabian wrasse, lots of Asterina starfish,
snails, hermit crabs. Some SPS frags and LPS frags and a Maxima clam.
My problem is algae,
<<Mmm'¦oh so common>>
I have never gotten rid of diatom algae since I first set up the tank
but through this website I have gotten it to where it just needs the
glass cleaned a few times a week,
<<Ah'¦hardly a 'problem' then>>
but right around Thanksgiving I started to get the green stuff.
<<Not talking about green-bean casserole I take>>
I couldn't place why till right around Christmas when I discovered
that my R/O membrane needed replacing (letting 2ppm get past it)
although it was only 3 months old.
<<Mmm'¦ It's not unusual for an RO membrane to
'allow' a small TDS reading. Most any membrane will have a
less-than-100% rejection rate (and is why many reef hobbyists employ DI
(deionization) in conjunction with RO)'¦with many of the
'better' ones rating at 98% rejection. And even this value can
be hard to measure/quantify for the casual hobbyist. A good
rule-of-thumb in my opinion is'¦ If the membrane is
providing a minimum ten-fold rejection based on the TDS reading of the
untreated source water, then it does not need replacement. In other
words, if the TDS of your source water is 200ppm and the effluent from
your RO unit reads 20ppm or less'¦then all is fine re the
membrane. In actuality I find the quality TFC membranes offered today
will usually read less than this unless you live in an area like Bob
where they are pumping 'liquid rock,' which can greatly shorten
the useful life of the membrane (Do consider installing and utilizing a
'flush-unit' to increase the life of any membrane)>>
Got a silica test kit and tested the tank water and silica was at zero
so I just continued with the weekly 15g water changes. Nitrates were
and still are at 10,
<<Be sure to validate this test kit>>
ammonia 0, nitrites 0, phosphate 0, silica 0. I thought adding the
ozonizer and improving the ORP would help,
<<Is of benefit>>
but no evidence of that yet, in fact the hair algae is growing,
<<But is not a panacea>>
and about 2 weeks ago I noticed some short green stiff algae starting
in a few places and yesterday I noticed some of the red slime starting.
I just don't get it.
<<Do you employ carbon to filter the skimmer effluent? I have
dismissed its use in the past with most all these hobby-grade
generators as unnecessary. Partly due to ozone having a very short
half-life of a few seconds when applied to seawater, which means little
to none should ever 'escape' the skimmer and sump to return to
the display, and partly due to the low output of the hobby-grade
generators. But I'm starting to think otherwise re the necessity to
filter the effluent with carbon as there's more to it than just any
residual O3 present'¦ The oxidizing effect that provides the
benefits we want from utilizing ozone, also generates undesirable
byproducts in seawater such as Bromate, Hypobromous Acid,
etc'¦. Ozone is also quite effective apparently at
converting Ammonia to Nitrate, which might explain your reading above
re. All in all'¦based on observations of my own system and
further reading/research, I suggest you pass the effluent from your
skimmer over carbon when employing ozone>>
There is so much flow in this tank now that I have to turn off the
pumps in order for the fish to have some chance of getting the food. I
feed several brands of pelleted food, and only give maybe 1/8 tsp. one
time a day.
<<Mmm, I suggest a least a 'couple' small feedings a day.
Starving/depriving your fishes is not the solution to algae
issues'¦in my humble opinion>>
Total water flow is 5220 gph + whatever from the skimmer return. Which
exceeds the 20x flow that this website says you need (1900 gph for a
95g tank right??).
<<Indeed... Though 'need' is relative to the system and
There is so much flow that the algae is actually flowing sideways. I
thought about adding a tang but this seems too small a tank for one,
and it doesn't really address what's going wrong anyway.
<<Bingo'¦need to determine the fuel source for the
algae. But be aware it is not always possible or even practical to
eliminate this (the other living organisms in your system require some
measure of nitrogenous compounds for survival, and even to thrive).
Many times the answer lies in creating/optimizing conditions for the
algae to be 'outcompeted''¦as in employing a lighted
I cannot add a refugium because the cabinet opening was only made big
enough for a canister filter (which WWM said to take off)
<<I would employ the canister as a 'chemical' filter
utilizing cut-up Poly-Filter. This quality media absorbs a wide range
of organic and inorganic compounds'¦and changes color to
tell you when it has been exhausted>>
and the only other way to install one would involve cutting thru a wall
and taking out floor to ceiling kitchen cabinets.
<<This is indeed unfortunate'¦a refugium would
certainly be of benefit>>
My husband would really freak then.
<<Don't wanna freak out hubby'¦>>
Seems like the harder I try the worse things get. Any suggestion?
<<Add a DI canister to your RO filtration, utilize carbon to
filter the ozone treated skimmer effluent, and employ the canister
filter with the Poly-Filter medium. Fighting nuisance algae is often a
battle with many fronts>>
<<Happy to share'¦ Eric Russell>>
Hair algae, SW, reading 2/13/10
I am currently running three tanks, 120, 47, and 30. Two of them are
fine, and all are established. However, I am having a serious problem
with hair algae in the 30 gallon tank.
Testing shows no problem (also my PH was a little low last week). I
used the same RO/DI water in all my tanks. 10% water changes weekly.
Remora skimmer (on the 47 and 30), and Fluval 205's on both of
I have no idea why I am having such a problem with hair algae only in
the 30 gallon tank.
I guess what I would like is some advice on getting rid of it, and
preventing it from returning.
<Sure. Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FilamentousGrnAlgC.htm
and the linked files where you find them, and deem them pertinent. Bob
Thank you for your help.
Hair Algae? Making Me Crazy/Algae Control/Jack Daniels
If You Please 2/4/10
I know you here it over and over but all of you are awesome.
I have never seen a sight with so much information and so
helpful. I use your sight constantly. I started my first
saltwater tank in May and now have 3 tanks.
My daughter and girlfriend and I love learning and caring for all
of our new friends. The tank I need help with is our oldest one
(only 9 months). It is a reef tank, 75 gallons with a 30 gallon
sump. We have 4 actinics, 2 halides and at least 100 lbs of live
rock. I check chemicals at least twice a week and always top off
with RO. Ammonia and nitrite are always zero, pH is generally
8.4, alkalinity 8-9, CA 400-440 and temp 79-82. I battle nitrate
now and then but in general it is around 5 almost never above 20.
The tank has been pristine (I am probably one of the keepers you
talk about that can't stop messing with the tank) but I am
now waging war against some type of hair algae, I think. It grows
rapidly on any live rock that has light exposure that doesn't
already have a coral or anything living on it. I
have checked phosphate repeatedly but the test kit I have is very
hard to tell color difference on.
<Yes, generally phosphate is absorbed by algae as soon as it
forms. You likely wouldn't get a reading unless it was
forming faster than the algae can absorb it.>
It seems like it is always at the lowest color. Yesterday I added
a phosphate reactor and Phosban to the system. Whatever it is it
creates a mat of brown particles that form in a mat over
everything. It is concentrated more on the fibers of the algae
though. I use a bulb syringe daily to break the mat apart and
clean the rock.
<Mmm, go here, look anything similar to the pics? http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bluegralgae.htm>
The filtration removes them to the first particle filter which I
change. In 24 hours it is all back and the hair gets longer. I
looked at the brown seed like particles that form the mat under a
microscope and they appear to move. It is green and brown and has
what appears to be eye like spots. Is this algae or some type of
worm and is it related to the hair or two separate issues?
<May be pods of some type.>
It is making me crazy and ruins the appearance of the tank.
Will the phosphate reactor solve the problem?
<Unlikely, a protein skimmer would do more for you here than
anything else. You do not mention the use of one so I'll
assume you do not have one. It appears you have excess nutrients
in the water and with the presence of good
lighting as you have will accelerate the growth. Steps to
eliminate/control the problem can be found in the links
I have attached a photo of the algae. You can see the brown green
particles on the left under the clam in the algae.
<Not really resolved enough for me to see any detail, but it
appears to be nuisance algae.>
The algae is dark green with a bluish streak at the center of the
filament. I have read tons of your articles and Bobs book on
invertebrates. I can't find anything that specifically
addresses my issue. Help!
<See/read all related info contained in the links above and
implement the advice. This problem is not going to go away
overnight, as it didn't start overnight. It will take time
and patience. James (Salty Dog)>
<<Mmm, no... this is a Chlorophyte... Likely Bryopsis. Read
and the linked files above. RMF>>
Re Hair Algae? Making Me Crazy/Algae Control/Jack
Daniels If You Please 2/5/10
Wow you guys are amazing. Super fast response.
This is the picture on the FAQ you sent me that looks most like
what I have.
Here is another photo from my tank. Sorry couldn't get a
Is this Bryopsis or Derbesia. I couldn't tell from the
<Yours or the FAQ picture? Mr. Fenner believes what you have
Read FAQ's here for help/advice.
Are the pods what new hair is growing from?
<No, and it was just a suggestion. Without actually seeing
it/them makes it nearly impossible to ID.>
Should I continue the attack on them?
<On the algae, yes, implement what you have read and read
OK so a few more facts for you and then what I think my game plan
should be. If you could just tell me if I am on the right path
that would be great.
I do run a Super Skimmer. It produces about 3 inches of Skimmate
<Cleaning the riser/reaction chamber every couple of days will
increase efficiency of the skimmer.>
I also use a UV sterilizer that dumps into carbon media.
I have a Sohal, a Kohle <Kole>, two Percula Clowns,
Foxface, Bicolor Pygmy Angel and a Niger Triggerfish. All are
small less than two and half inches. I also have 3 shrimp and a
Tridacna. Corals are Pulsing Xenia (over taking the tank)
Frogspawn, various mushrooms and elephant ear.
<Too much load for this system which in turn promotes excess
nutrients, and most of your fish will need larger quarters in the
I feed once a day 1 cube of Formula 2 and one cube of Formula B.
I used to feed twice but have been trying to limit nutrients for
over two months.
Should I feed less? They devour it in 2 minutes and still seem
hungry. I am worried they aren't getting enough.
<I wouldn't feed two cubes at once. Spread it out over
three daily feedings.>
Should I switch them to flakes? Is this less nutrient input?
<Would be less nutritional. Frozen foods will generally
produce more waste in the water unless rinsed in a net prior to
feeding. You might give the New Life Spectrum Pellets a try. A
very nutritional food with little waste, is all I feed.>
Rest of my plan, yes or no?
Switch out my actinics -- 9 months old.
<I would not use this lighting for now, especially with four
of them in a 75 gallon tank. Actinic lighting peaks in the mid
400nm range and can promote algae growth. There is enough blue
present in your MH lamps to promote
photosynthesis for other light loving animals. If anything, cut
it down to one or two actinics.>
Do I need to switch the halide bulbs also?
<I don't know, they are generally effective in the rated
Kelvin temperature for a year.>
Decrease halide time from 8 hours to 6. (actinics run 12)
<Halides are fine, I'd decrease the actinic photoperiod to
a couple of hours before the halides come on and turn back on for
a couple of hours just before the halides turn off.
Remove the rock -- again! And scrub in RO.
<No, do not do this, you will be killing other life present in
Continue to blow off the pods daily with a bulb syringe.
What about raising the light unit higher? It is about 8 inches
above the tank now.
Continue to use the phosphate reactor.
<Might as well, you bought it.>
Is this enough or should also try the pH increase and the ferric
<????. PhosBan is a synthetic ferric oxide.
Leave pH alone and read/act where you were sent.>
Again thank you!
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
|Re Hair Algae? Making Me Crazy/Algae
Control/Jack Daniels If You Please 2/5/10
<You're welcome, Chris.>
Are you guys funded by sponsors, donations or both?
<A little of both, and I believe some may come out of Bob's
wallet. What say you, Bob? We are strictly a non-profit
organization, the crew's time is donated, no paychecks given
<<Not money from me, but perhaps its equivalent, time,
effort. Most of the incoming monies are from commercial sponsors
who believe in what we do (educating, inspiring their present,
future customer base); and most outgoing is for content;
principally our on-line 'zine. RMF>>
I would like to contribute to your cause if you are donation
<Great, and will be appreciated. Go to this link, scroll down to
the bottom of the page where you will
see a donate tab.
James (Salty Dog)>
Fuzzy green hair algae 2/4/2010
Been searching WWM but could not find the answer.
Anyway, my old tank were not perfect but I was happy because free of
pest and algae. Till the day I upgraded to my dream tank
<A nice size.>
It has been 6 months now and full bloom of diatoms ( golden brown
color, what a beauty color) which I am not really worry, but the type
of green hair starts grows on the rock surface and growing, growing and
take control over the tank.
<The same factors that fueled the diatoms drive the algae
This kind of hair algae ( the type you see at the output of the power
head) is very short and hard to take them
out. I try to brush but only help a little. What can I do to get rid of
A little about my system : Reeflow snapper for return, 3 mj mod 1200
for circulate. 500 watts MH and 2 x54 for T5. on for 6 hrs/day, BM200
skimmer, and GFO..Sum with Chaeto algae...
<No magic bullet apparent here. Stocking and feeding may well be the
culprit. Or even just the die off of algae spurring the growth of new
Cut back on whatever feeding, scrub and water changes. All the same old
suggestions for this issue:
<Welcome, Scott V.>
Nuisance algae question -- 01/30/10
I know these are your favorites. ;-) I have a 75g mixed reef that has
been running since August 2007. There are 6 fish: 2 Banggai cardinals
(2.5 years old now!), a Rabbitfish (2 years old), 2 clowns and a royal
gramma. There are numerous corals: 3 Montipora capricornis, 2 Montipora
digitalis (1 individual originally), a Seriatopora, 6 Sinularia (3
individuals originally), a Euphyllia (frogspawn), a Plerogyra, a
Fungia, a Trachyphyllia, and 6 different kinds of Zoanthids and
anthelia. There are also 2 clams (crocea and squamosa), and the usual
assortment of snails, hermits, and worms. Everyone gets along
In the display is a Tunze Nano wavebox and a Turbelle Stream. In the
sump, a Reef Octopus Extreme 160 and an Eheim 1262 return. I also run a
Korallin calcium reactor and a float-switch auto top-off through a
Precision Marine kalkreactor. Make-up water is RO/DI and tests at 0 TDS
(from the meter on the unit and with a secondary handheld). Salinity is
1.025, temperature is between 79 and 81, pH is 8.0 to 8.2, alkalinity
is 8-9 dKH, and calcium is right at the saturation point (I don't
test it regularly, but I do have to scrape a fair amount of precipitate
off of the glass every week or so and maintenance my pumps often for
the same reasons). Nitrates are consistently zero. Lighting is 2 175w
15000K halides (7.5 hours/day) and 130w of actinic PC (12 hours/day).
Water changes are 10-15g every 2 weeks.
<So far, so good>
I started experiencing a nuisance hair algae problem a little more than
a year ago when I moved the tank to a new house. I have done
metaphorical cartwheels in an effort to stop it, with varying degrees
of success. I began straining the melt water away from the food (1 cube
of Piscine Energetics Mysis daily, which everyone has been eating for
more than 2 years now). I increased the flow with the wavebox. I ran a
Phosban reactor with RowaPhos for a while but gave up because of the
expense of the media (I could not keep it running for more than a month
before it solidified and I needed to replace it: I chalk this up to the
reactors). I upgraded my skimmer (from a fine AquaC EV-120). I replaced
my old DI unit with a brand-spanking-new RO/DI unit. I dosed ethanol
(3-5 ml/day of 190 proof) for about 8 months and achieved great results
with it. The algae would die back to the point it was almost gone. The
only problem was when I stopped, the algae returned as strong as ever,
so I would start again. In an effort to kick the ethanol habit, I
installed a refugium with Chaeto in a new sump I had Precision Marine
build for me (they are right down the road from me in Austin). I
stopped the ethanol when I installed the refugium a month ago, and the
algae is back.
<The refugium takes time...>
Do I need to give the refugium more time, or am I missing something
<Ahh! The former and possibly...>
The move placed the tank in a position where it gets a significant
amount of real sunlight (which is very attractive). The only other
issue I can think of is that my water changes (along with routine
vacuuming of the substrate) are performed by my LFS. I have tested
their RO water (which I don't use) and it is about 50 ppm TDS. I
assume they use the same water to make their salt water. Are either of
these things the culprit?
<Could be contributing causes>
Or is it something else in my routine/design?
<Could be, but what?>
The algae is not overgrowing my corals, but it is unattractive. Should
I just get used to it?
<Mmm, not necessarily.>
As always, many thanks for your time and efforts.
<The refugium has macroalgal culture? An RDP? A DSB? Perhaps a
and the linked files where you lead yourself.
Re: Nuisance algae question -- 01/30/10
Thanks for the response. The refugium is running on RDP (12 hours/day),
has a 1" sand bed
<I would greatly increase the depth here. Read:
"and the linked files above">
(the main display is 1-2"), some LR pebbles, and a big ball of
Chaeto as well as Caulerpa prolifera (I think; it's the closest
thing I can find in your Reef Invertebrates book, with long, broad and
<Mmm, I'd ditch the Caulerpacean>
I will give it more time. The Chaeto is fun to watch during the
refugium "night," as it hosts a variety of tiny brittle
stars, sea stars, and Polychaete worms. I've also seen what looks
like a tiny Nudibranch, although I suppose it could be a small
A related follow-up question: I installed a simple clip-on shop fixture
from Home Depot in the refugium with a 20w 5000K CFL bulb rather than
purchase a considerably more expensive fixture designed for a refugium.
Is this bulb
adequate/advised for the macroalgae that I am growing, or should I have
something closer to 6500K?
<Is likely fine if you're seeing growth. I'd replace it
later with a higher temp. one>
<Do increase the sand bed depth... BobF>
Algae Help... reading 1/23/10
I have an on going algae issue in my saltwater aquarium. It was getting
better and then recently (past few weeks) has gotten worse again. I
have noticed that since I have had the tank up a window which gives
direct sunlight almost all day has the curtain up. Do you think that
the direct sunlight could be a factor. I have checked all levels and
nothing shows up, I know algae absorbs Phosphates etc., but this is
really mind boggling if you could help it would be greatly appreciated.
By the way, I do weekly water changes.
<Mmm, there are a few approaches to consider... all well-covered by
reading here: http://wetwebmedia.com/avoidingalgaeproblesm.htm
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>
Rehabbing the neglected reef: getting a neglected tank
under control. 1/12/10
Howdy WWM Crew,
Can't wait to see who I get this time. It's like reaching into
a grab bag and knowing that no matter what (who!) you pull out it's
going to be good.
<Well, you got MikeV today, and thank you for the kind
I'll try to get to the point and keep this as short as possible. I
have <exhaustively and multiple times> read the pages about
nutrient export, nitrates and phosphates. I have implemented just about
everything I should and/or can but I'm hoping that maybe there is
some trick, idea.... something that could possibly help more as I have
a situation I haven't really seen addressed in other emails.
<Well, lets see what you have.>
I bought an established but very neglected 125g saltwater tank the end
of 9/2009. I salvaged all the live rock (100+lbs, it was worth saving)
and crushed coral (not so good, wish I'd known to just pitch it and
start over with the substrate). I also inherited a nutrient problem
that was visible at the time in the form of massive, and I do mean
massive amounts of hair algae. Oh, did I mention that this is my first
foray into saltwater? I'm learning on the fly.
We broke down, moved and hour away and set the tank back up all on the
same day being very careful to keep the live rock and CC damp.
Everything came through with flying colors, never tested positive for
ammonia or nitrates (had different fish in the tank at the time,
didn't loose any of them).
However, my first water parameter tests revealed nitrates at 60+ and
phosphates at 5+!! The tank came with crappy equipment which I've
been upgrading just as fast as I can.
<That would explain the hair algae.>
I have added in a dedicated 10g refugium, bare bottom with a few chunks
of live rock and Chaeto (which is growing like mad). The fuge overflows
into a 20g sump (about 10g of water in there) that has baffles to
maintain a constant height for my skimmer and a separate return pump
I upgraded the SeaClone skimmer to a PM Redline 125 that is pulling
massive amounts of NASTY dark brown crud out, sometimes more than a cup
a day sometimes less.
The sump also has a large chunk of LR in it and a giant hermit crab
that was banished from the DT for being too destructive.
I am running Phosguard in hard plastic media containers in my sump
baffles so all the tank water passed through it. I also just started
using a Polyfilter pad on the other side of the baffles. It's
already changing colors (tan) after just 2 days in the tank!
<Everything you are doing so far is right on the money.>
Tank occupants/other stuff:
100+ lbs of mature live rock
CUC: 8 blue leg hermits and 18 turbo snails and 2 margarita snails
1 yellow tang (still very small 1.5")
Ocellaris clown (2")
Green mandarin (juvenile, and I do have a huge pod population and will
be supplementing with live pod colonies for diversification. As of
right now the mandarin is fat and happy!)
assorted softies: pompom xenia, neon Palau Nephthea, green hairy
mushrooms & red mushrooms, green Ricordea, assorted colonies of
Zoas and Palys and green star polyps.
<Do run carbon in your system, you have a few soft corals that can
be pretty noxious.>
I also have a small frag of purple digi (high in the tank) and
kryptonite candy cane (also high).
4x96w PC lighting 12 hours a day, have new bulbs on order (2 12k and 2
DI water run through 4 huge DI canisters with a TDS meter between the
last two. I get it at a LFS. Water tests 0 for TDSs, NO3 and PO4. This
is used for all water changes and top off water
I feed <frozen> formula 2 & Mysis in the evenings, just a
couple small pinches that the fish clean up quickly.
<All good here too.>
Water parameters via brand new API regent tests:
Nitrates: 0 <this is new, it dropped in stages from 60, to 20s then
hovered at 5-10 for several weeks. In just the last 3 weeks or so
it's been consistently testing at 0>
!!!phosphates: .5 (not happy about this, but better than the 5 they
started out at)
<It is on its way down. Keep at what you are doing.>
KH: darn, knew I forgot a test but my KH has never been a problem.
<Do get a kit, but you are correct, it is probably fine as long as
you are doing regular water changes.>
I am having a horrible red slime/Cyano outbreak right now. It is all
over my CC. Is not growing over the rocks/corals yet, but the CC bed
gets a thin covering every day that gets thicker as the week goes on (I
siphon it off once a week during 10% water changes). It is driving me
<The hair algae was consuming all of the nutrients, but since you
are getting that under control the Cyano is taking its place.>
I had a nasty diatom bloom that finally went away just to change into
the Cyano bloom. I feel like the harder I try with this tank and the
better my water parameters look the worse the tank seems to look.
<hehehe... yeah, sometimes it does seem that way.>
I suspect my LR and CC are leaching phosphates at this point.
<Probably your substrate.>
I have some bristly green algae growing really thick on some of my rock
and sparsely on others.
<Bryopsis Have a read here:
It does not look like soft hair algae. It is short, tufted, brilliant
green and does not pull off easily. The hair algae disappeared, the
rock looked really good then this stuff took off and grew in. That
doesn't bother me as much as the Cyano though.
<It can be a pest algae as well. I have some in my tank, but it is
localized to one area, so I leave it.>
Something I've noticed is that the Cyano is only growing where it
gets good light exposure and good water flow. It is growing just in the
front part of my tank where the flow is strong enough to
'ruffle' the CC and make the strands of Cyano blow in the flow!
It seems to die back at night, then come on strong under the lights.
There is no Cyano where rock shaded the CC.
I guess my question is, how do I help my tank recover? How do you get
ahead and 'rehab' a tank that has been so neglected? In
addition to my 10% weekly water changes I've started doing 2-3g
small water changes every other day trying to dilute the pollution.
<I'm betting there is a lit of, for the lack of a better term,
crud in your substrate that is feeding the cyanoBACTERIA. I would clean
as much of it out as you can and vacuum your substrate as much as is
I've considered adding a DSB to my fuge, but wasn't sure if it
would help in such a small space (just a standard 10g tank).
<If space permits, you may want to consider a larger refugium. where
you could use a DSB>
If the LR and CC are leaching, what is the best way to handle the
Should I try the Kalk trick and try to precipitate out the phosphates?
Is this something a newbie should attempt?
<I wouldn't Just keep up with regular water changes, perhaps
moving up to 15 - 20% weekly>
Are there any other measures I should be taking?
I was considering taking out more of the CC (it's about 1"
deep now, was over 4" when I set the tank up and I've reduced
it slowly) and adding/mixing in some fine sand. Two part... I was
hoping getting rid of the old CC might help my nutrient issues and also
that the sand might be of benefit to all the various small critters. My
CC is very alive, all kinds of pods, worms, mini brittle starts, etc. I
don't really want a DSB in the main tank, just like the look of the
shallow beds better.
<After vacuuming the CC, adding in some fine live sand could be
beneficial, even if only to fill in the spaces so food and waste
can't get down there.>
I hope there are some additional tricks of the trade you can share to
help me get my phosphate and probably residual nitrate (I assume
I'm getting 0 readings not because the nitrate problem is gone but
because the algae in the tank is using it) problems under control.
<You assume correctly. You are doing everything right. As I
mentioned before, aside from larger water changes, vacuuming your CC
substrate, and adding some fine sand, the only other thing I can
suggest is to be patient.
As I am fond of saying in these emails and from time to time, repeating
to myself when I am having a problem with my tank, is that nothing good
happens quickly in a marine tank. You have made great strides in a
relatively short period of time. the 'last mile' as it were,
always takes the longest..
Thank you so much!
Re: Rehabbing the neglected reef: getting a neglected
tank under control. 1/25/2009
<Hi Liz, my apologies for taking so long to get back to you.>
Thank you for getting back to me so quick.
Since it seems I'm doing pretty much all I can I guess I'll
just keep up and hope that things improve. I might shoot that ugly
Cyano some ugly looks just to make me feel better.
<It helps!. That and manual removal...>
Had a couple other questions...
When I add in the sand, should I mix it in with the CC or make a layer
<You can just add it on top and perhaps rake it in with your fingers
- it will work it's way down with time.>
I did a little experiment last night. I put about 1/2c of crushed coral
in a cup of freshly mixed (0-PO4) saltwater. I rinsed the CC and let it
drain for a few seconds (wanted to get rid of detritus and tank water)
before adding in the fresh saltwater. Agitated a couple times, then let
it sit overnight. I tested the water this morning and got a phosphate
reading of 2! Not the most accurate of scientific tests but I think it
clearly shows my substrate is leaching/harboring phosphates. Ugh!
I've been siphoning out the CC & Cyano a little bit every day
or two in addition to my 10-15% weekly water changes.
I'm a little worried about sucking out too many of the good
critters living in the CC. I rescued a mini brittle star from the water
bucket yesterday after siphoning. Is this a bad plan to siphon out the
CC? I do one side of the tank one day, the other the next time. I do
have a lot of live rock so I'm counting on it to maintain my pod
population (for my mandarin) and other little CUC members.
I agree that it is leeching and you are still on the right
Which of my corals are considered noxious (I would guess the Palys and
Zoas, but wanted to clarify)?
Here is the list again so you don't have to weed back through my
previous email: assorted Zoas & Palys, just added some yellow
polyps, neon Palau Nephthea, pulsing pom-pom xenia and a new frag of
unknown xenia (does not pulse, but its not supposed to), green star
polyps, green Ricordea, red mushrooms, hairy mushrooms, kryptonite
candy cane & a tiny frag of purple digi.
<The Zoas and Plays are the worst>
I was running carbon, but got worried about phosphate leaching from it
and stopped, switched to using Polyfilter instead. Will the Polyfilter
pull the coral produced toxins?
I can go back to running carbon no problem, just got to find a good
<I've had good luck with either the Marineland or
Thank you so much for you time and hand holding.
<My pleasure as always
Marine Algae Control, Using WWM; 1/9/2010
I have some marine algae that looks like a fern when it's pulled
out. Only problem is that each time I pull it out, it spreads and grows
even more. How do I deal with this? Thanks.
<<It's hard to near impossible to make an accurate
identification based off description alone. If you want to continue
this correspondence I would suggest sending along a photo as well as
your tanks chemical readings,
specifications and age. In the meantime see here in an attempt to
identify, your algae as well as a method of attack;
Plenty of info there, and that's just articles, not even
<<Good luck, Adam Jackson.>>
Re: Marine Algae Control, Using WWM;
<<No problem Jason.>>
it looks like Bryopsis and either some turtle weed. I have not tested
yet but will soon. How do I deal with these?
<<I would look toward a nutrient issue, possibly an over
abundance of dissolved organics. For control methods refer to links
provided in our original correspondence, here are a few more;
Good luck, - Adam Jackson.>>
LS Bed Vacuuming/Algae Control 1/4/10
I apologize for my inexperience and I have read so much info on WWM
that my brain is actually hurting. Even still I am digesting as much as
I can and I am sure I am missing some key elements.
<No need to apologize, no one is born with experience.>
I will start off with a simple question I believe, and not sure I have
read/found the correct answer yet.
I have seen numerous references on your site to vacuuming the substrate
but unsure if it is possible to vacuum a LS bed without sucking all the
And is it advisable for fear of sucking away beneficial organisms?
<It may be necessary at times if the bed is lacking enough organisms
to keep it clean.>
What is the recommended way to vacuum a sand only (actually Aragonite)
bed if there is one?
<My method is to use a smaller size gravel vacuum and pinch the hose
enough while vacuuming to prevent the sand from getting siphoned out. I
vacuum my bed this way during every water change.>
I am having a SERIOUS outbreak of red hair algae now (along with brown
algae) growing on both the LS and LR. I have plucked as much as I can
off the LR. I have began steps to reduce nutrients by feeding less
small feedings to only 2 times/day), thawing then rinsing frozen food
prior to introducing into the tank, using Ocean Nutrition Formula One
and Two pellets and occasionally an Omega One food with Garlic flake
offering. All fish generally ignore the pellets and the flake. I do try
to remove uneaten food but am sure I am missing some of it. Hopefully
the Nassarius will take care of those.
<May want to hire more Blue Legged Crabs.>
Some information about tank and livestock:
55 Gallon wide (about 2.5 months of age)
Small Refugium (made from an HOT AquaClear 70 Power filter) with
macroalgae (recently added x7 days ago).
<Will help some in reducing nutrients.>
~40 lbs. LR (more to be steadily added as budget allows and have
another 5 pound rock curing at moment)
Jebo 304 canister with 2 Eheim fine pads, Eheim sponge (course) pad,
ceramic Bio-ring and 2 bags of activated charcoal (one under each fine
<The pads will act as nutrient sinks if not cleaned on a weekly
basis. You may want to try Chemi Pure Elite in place of the charcoal, a
combination of phosphate remover, ion exchange resins, and a very good
grade of carbon. This media is relatively inexpensive at etailer
One example here.
AquaTech 40-60 HOT Power filters with bio screens. Media is a simple
filter media with Activated Charcoal in both.
<Be careful in choosing activated carbon as many of the cheaper
brands will release phosphates into the water.>
RedSea Prizm Skimmer
<Not really enough skimmer for your tank in my opinion. An AquaC HOT
Remora would be a very efficient skimmer for a 55.>
Last H2O change was 23 Dec. 09 and was 20 gallons
Hydor Koralia 4 Powerheads (x2)
Ocellaris Clown (x1)
McCosker's Flasher Wrasse (x2)
Mexican Turbo Snail (x2) (one added 48 hours ago)
Nassarius Snails (x2)
<I would increase the snail population to about 8.>
Porcelain Anemone Crab (Neopetrolisthes maculosus) (x1) (added 48 hours
<Will not do well in this system. It feeds on planktonic food and
mucus from their host anemone and is difficult to acclimate to prepared
Small Zoanthus colony
Small Star Polyp frag
Various hitchhikers to include spaghetti worms.
(Recently lost a Royal Gramma due to Ich)
LATEST TESTING RESULTS (1/3/10) All testing using API reagents newly
Ammonia (NH3/NH4) = 0
Nitrite (NO2) = 0
Nitrate(NO3) = 20
Phosphates (PO3- / 4) = 0.5 Ã
Calcium (CA24) = 460 Ã BOTH THESE TESTS ARE UNCERTAIN AS JUST
LEARNING HOW TO DO THEM
Alkaline (dKH) = >214.8mEq/L
<Alkalinity on the high side.>
pH (High Range) = 8.3
Salinity = 1.023
Temperature = Bottom: 76.1 Â°F / Middle: 78.0
My one and only larger Feather duster (dime sized, hitchhiker) recently
disappeared (maybe hiding in rock less his feathers) right after using
Aiptasia X for Aiptasia removal near it but trying to be careful not
get any on it (all filter, water movement stagnant 5 minutes prior to
use and about 15 minutes after use before restart). Did the Aiptasia X
I need to advise the porcelain anemone crab was not yet in the tank. I
did see some remnants of its feathers after use of the Aiptasia X but
now I see nothing.
Did it possibly move?
Red hair algae blossoming at a very fast rate and within last few
Brown Algae still predominate on glass and LS. Added a 2nd Mexican
Turbo Snail to hopefully get that under control. As stated above I have
reduced feeding. Rinsing frozen foods (Mysis and Brine Shrimp) to
water, recently added the macroalgae refugium (about 2 weeks ago) to
help reduce nitrates. Continuing to add a cleaner crew as budget allows
(any immediate recommendations in this area?).
<As mentioned above.>
What can I use or do to bring Phosphates down?
<As above, Chemi Pure Elite or a product called Rowaphos.>
I have not yet changed Canister filter pads as am awaiting them to
arrive via mail order since no LFS has Eheim products on the shelf. I
have, however, lightly rinsed these twice to get rid of heavy
How can I drop down my dKH ? I am doing water changes (~15 gallons at a
<Will come down in time, do not use any buffers until.>
Any help would be appreciated.
<Do read here and associated linked files.
James (Salty Dog)>
Diatoms/Dinoflagellates, whatever it is, it's
slimy, on the substrate and creeping elsewhere, and I don't want
it! -- 12/09/09
I hope you can help. I have a 65 gallon reef with the following
Ammonia: 0, Nitrites: 0, Nitrates: 10ppm, Phosphates: 0, Alkalinity: 10
dKH, Calcium: 420. I have very recently noticed a brown slime layer on
<Mmmm, could be a few things... perhaps Dinoflagellates, more likely
a Blue-Green Algae/Cyanobacteria, but could be a mix of these and/or
other microbial life. A simple few hundred power 'scope, and some
reading re ID are needed to ascertain.>
This now appears to be growing on the reef. I noticed today that two
Kenyan tree corals are not opening fully. On closer inspection, it
looks like they also have the brownish growth on them.
Is there anything that can be done to slow/eliminate this problem
before all my corals are covered?
<Mmm, yes... the standard approaches to control are typically
divided into nutrient control/deprivation (not allowing in via foods,
water et al.; chemically filtering via GAC, PolyFilter, other
filtrants; Competition with other photosynthetic life (Macroalgae et
al.), mechanical removal (siphoning, gravel vacuuming); Predation (once
again, need to know what this actually is, but DSBs, some snails,
Hermits to extents, possibly fish life that nibbles, turns over the
substrate... may be of value); and chemical algicides (the least
commendable, most dangerous, only short-term solution).>
I had a similar problem in a second tank a few months ago that had
Caulerpa on live rock. Within a couple of weeks the entire tank was
covered in brown slime including the Caulerpa which died. I may have
cross contaminated somehow.
<Mmm, let's have you read a bit:
Take some time here... when you can be calm, uninterrupted to
"trouble shoot" your situation, by leading yourself through
the linked files as you find them of interest, possibility. Do write
back when 1) You think you may know more specifically what this life
is, 2) The root cause/s of it being here, 3) A plan you're
developing to counter its progression. Bob Fenner>
Re: Diatoms/Dinoflagellates -- 12/15/09
I have continued to watch the development of this problem in my tank. I
have noticed a couple more items that I hope will help with
identification. First, there are a lot of air bubbles being created
during this outbreak. I read that this may be due to photosynthesis of
<Yes; a likely source here>
Also, I have been using a turkey baster to blast any build-up on the
rocks and corals. While doing this, I have noticed long spider web like
strands attached to the live rock etc. Apparently, they become visible
because detritus kicked up by the turkey baster sticks to them. Does
this provide any more insight?
<Mmm, not in terms of root causes, or suggested probable courses of
I have continued water changes, kept changing filter material in sump,
added more Astrea snails in hopes that I can stop or at least slow this
problem down until I learn more. Phosphates are reading zero ppm at
<Likely being "taken up">
Root cause of this situation may have been contamination from another
tank that had something similar. That tank has no corals and is still
Thanks for the help
<Solutions to these sorts of issues are best occasioned over long
time frames... months. Do try to be patient. Bob Fenner>
Dirty Sand Control And Possible Overstocking/Nutrient
Control/Coralline ID 11/23/09
I have a 45 gal tank with 5 fish and a cleaner shrimp. The tank has
been established for eight months now and I am planning to add some
easygoing corals, but first I want to take care of the dirty sand
problem. It has brown / purple patches all over, like diatoms and
coralline powder. Also, since I have upgraded the lighting I started
getting some green hair algae on LR. My Nitrates are around 20. I do
about 5% water changes weekly.
<Nitrates too high for this system.>
I tried a few Nassarius snails for sand sifting but they haven't
done much, if anything, to improve it. So right now I am considering
adding an Orange Striped Goby (Amblygobius decussatus) for the sand and
algae control, but not sure if this will be overstocking it.
<Will depend on the size of your other fish.>
Right now I have Banggai & PJ Cardinals, Coral Beauty, Sixline
Wrasse & Royal Gramma, a Caribbean Cleaner Shrimp and a few
<I would not add any more fish to this volume of water. You will
just be increasing your nutrient/nitrate level. A protein skimmer would
help very much in reducing dissolved nutrients, thus lowering nitrate
Another suggestion is to use a gravel/sand cleaner type siphon when you
change water. This will remove much of the accumulated detritus and
further enhance water quality.>
I am planning to add some Zoas / mushrooms / Ricordeas fairly soon and
don't want to overdo the bioload. I use an Eheim canister filter
(just the filter pads and carbon) and a skimmer.
<Swapping the carbon out for Chemipure will also help your nitrate
control, and do ensure the pads are cleaned/replaced weekly.
Accumulated waste on the pads will soon lead to additional nutrients if
not removed. Do read here for more information.
One option I'm considering is swapping out PJ Cardinal for the
striped goby if the load is going to be too much.
<The gravel cleaner will do a much better job than the goby.>
Appreciate any suggestions. Thanks!
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Bryopsis Control - MgCl2 Dosing? --
I have been reading about controlling Bryopsis with Kent Tech M MG
Supplements. Keeping a high level about 1600+ ppm for a few weeks kills
the weeds apparently. Have you heard anything about this?
<Mmm, yes... in fact, as an olde timey gardener, Magnesium salts are
sometimes used as herbicides in terrestrial applications>
People report that no other brands of mg have an effect on Bryopsis
with the exception of Kent Tech M.
The ingredients are listed as Deionized H2O, MgSo4, and MgCl2. After
checking other popular brands of Mg additives I find that many do not
have any MgCl2, or lower concentrations than Tech M. Is it possible
that high levels of MgCl2 impede some biological processes of
<Indeed; it is certainly possible>
The only other factor could be trace amounts of copper in the Tech M
but copper typically doesn't affect algae - well at least in fresh
<Nay! Copper compounds are used extensively in algal control in all
kinds of waters; including fresh>
I know that the high amount of Mg will raise the Ca and skew the Alk,
but what about boron? Wouldn't it plummet with this high dose?
<Depends on how high; but you are correct to be concerned re ratios
in driving anyone concentration higher/lower>
Do you foresee any adverse reactions to livestock in general from
<Not if done w/in reason... but...>
Thanks for any help you are able to provide,
<As luck/fortune would have it, I have just yesterday re-sorted the
marine algae subFAQs into "by genus" pages... The one for
Bryopsis & Derbesia is here:
Have a read through, and we'll be chatting, Bob