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FAQs about Nutrient Control and Export

Related Articles: Nutrient Control and Export, Captive Seawater Quality, Water Changes/ChangingUnderstanding Calcium & Alkalinity,

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Big fish with high metabolic rates, big wastes.

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Marine Aquarium Algae Control

by Robert (Bob) Fenner


Bacterial Bloom or Algae?     8/14/15
I've had three outbreaks of something in my tank and no one locally seems to know what it is exactly.  It basically looks like white snot all over the tank.  Clears up for about a week comes back brownish. Clears up and returns as white snot again. 
I was told it might be dinoflaginate.

My stats are as follows:
30 gallon innovative marine tank AIO
Amm 0
Nit 0
Nitrates 0
PO 0
<.... autotrophs, your "corals" and more need measurable NO3 and HPO4>

PH 8.4
Cal 430
Alk 10.2
Salinity 1.025
Using a innovative marine skimmer
Activated charcoal
<I'd skip (take this out) for a while at least>

Starting dosing MicroBacter7 10 days ago based on someone's suggestion. 
Not much of a change.
Any help greatly appreciated. Thanks.
<Mmm, I'd also not change out the activated carbon for a few weeks... you may have inadvertently triggered a bloom of some sort (need sampling and microscopic examination to know what)... Do read on WWM re NO3 and HPO4...
Bob Fenner>

full size...
Re: Bacterial Bloom or Algae?    8/14/13
Thanks for the quick reply!
Earmuff Wrasse
Christmas Wrasse
Maroon Clown (2)
Diamond Watchman Goby
Green Clown Goby
Hi-Fin Goby
Surf N Turf Acro
Tri-Color Acro
Strawberry Shortcake Acro
Rainbow Millepora
Candlelight Acro
Green Pollicpora
Montipora Digitata (3)
Montipora Capri
Brain (1)
BowerBinki (1)
Various Zoas/Palys (8)
Pistol Shrimp
40lbs live sand
40lbs live rock
Normal Maint:
5 gallon water change every week
1/2 brine cube per day
<.... I'd expand this... very likely use a pellet
(Spectrum, Hikari) as my staple... frozen/defrosted in the AMs... PE Mysis, blends... Not Artemia regularly; for reasons gone over and over on WWM; including the issue/s you're having here>
EcoTech Radion Pro at 53% intensity of a 20K spectrum
Tank has been running for 6months.
I've started 5 gallon water changes daily and plan to continue for the rest of the week, do I need to do more?
<More? As in more volume? Not likely; unless something dire in the shortish term is of concern>
I'm using Hanna Instruments to check for PO4 and API to test for NO3, do I need to use different tests to measure?
Should I continue to use the MicroBacter7 daily?
<I wouldn't. Of no use here; in established systems>

I did just change the carbon but it was after the bloom.
<No need for the extra C, as in the element>
How/where can you get a microscopic examination?
<Search WWM re; you may well enjoy and definitely benefit from having a 200-400X 'scope... BobF>
Re: Bacterial Bloom or Algae?
Hopefully the video isn't too large, it shows the problem better than photos.
<<RMF Linked here: WWM Video/Video Clips/Video Ter.MOV
Video Ter.MOV
<See some "waving slime" off your stony corals et al.... Could be... reaction series... as noted; from deficiency syndrome/s; perhaps allelopathy, though I discount this... in such a small volume, you would highly likely see/have REAL troubles if so; fish dying etc... You really need a much larger (volume) system... for the stock shown, your obvious ambition/s; dilution... B>
Re: Bacterial Bloom or Algae?    8/15/13

I just want to make sure i got everything correct:
Continue daily 5 gallon water changes for 2-3 more days then resume my normal once a week 5 gallon water change.
Feed spectrum marine life 1mm pellets as primary food and supplement a couple days with brine.
Either reduce the number of fish/corals or get a bigger tank.
Remove the RowaPhos for now.
Purchase a 200X-400X microscope.
When you say measurable NO and PO, what's my target reading?
<... DO read on WWM re: 5-10 ppm of nitrate and 0.01-0.1 of phosphate is about right. Don't "lose your mind" re periodic values higher/lower>
 What's the acceptable range?  I was always told zero.
NOT zero; none detectable, no food/life...>
Thanks again!
<Certainly welcome. BobF>

Be Aggressive About Phosphate/Algae From The Start, Or Wait And See?/Algae Control/Nutrient Control 3/1/2011
<Hello Tim>
I'm at my next decision point, and after studying several books and spending the weekend on the Net reading advice to others, I've found more confusion than clarity. I hope someone wiser than I can provide some advice.
My live rock completed its cycle a month ago, I put in Arag-Alive substrate a week ago, and a pair of clowns are in QT. The DT looked dead until this weekend, at which time Diatoms (I assume) went wild with brown splotches all over the rock and streaking the substrate.
<Not uncommon for new systems.>
Also, green hair (I assume) algae is popping up. No livestock is in the tank yet, and phosphate is 0.1, all others zero. I am now wondering about phosphate and algae.
About half of the 'experts' say that at this stage one should just let nature take its course and watch as the diatom/Cyano/red/green sequence takes place. Much of the algae is actually good for the ecosystem. Take action only if an outbreak begins to look severe.
The other half of the experts say to be ruthless from the start. Use whatever means are necessary, including phosphate adsorbents like Phosban, to keep phosphate essentially zero so that algae never gets a foothold.
I need to make a decision on this, as livestock will be going in soon. Any thoughts?
<Mmm, would have helped to have a little more info as to tank size, flow rate, lighting, filtration, use of protein skimmer, cured/uncured rock, etc.
Please provide.>
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Re Be Aggressive About Phosphate/Algae From The Start, Or Wait And See?/Algae Control/Nutrient Control 3/1/2011- 3/2/2011

>> would have helped to have a little more info as to tank size, flow rate, lighting, filtration, use of protein skimmer, cured/uncured rock <<
<Hello Tim>
Sorry. It's a 65 gallon Red Sea Max 250. It has the two stock circulation pumps, a pair of VorTech MP10 powerheads on opposite ends of the tank, and a Marineland 220 canister filter with only sponge pad, carbon and some ceramic rings in it now. I got the canister filter mainly to drive the UV sterilizer, as well as to have a place to put PhosBan or other such things if the need ever arises.
<OK, no flow problem for sure.>
Lighting is the stock fluorescent bulbs, protein skimmer is their stock (producing no skimmate at all right now due to very low nutrient levels).
I dark-cured the live rock outside the tank and moved it into the tank when it was totally cured. That's why nutrients are all practically zero, except for about 0.1 ppm phosphate which must have come from the rock or the Arag-Alive substrate I put in a week ago. (I use RO/DI water only.)
<OK, sounds good.>
My plan is FOWLR + CUC for now, maybe forever. When I've had the tank and fish for six months or so, I'll make a decision if I want to try
photosynthetic inverts or anything relatively hard.
My big decision right now is this: Do I go with the 'let it be' experts and just watch the algae grow, and take action only if a serious outbreak threatens? Or do I go with the 'no holds barred' experts and start right out with PhosBan to keep phosphate down to essentially zero, thus theoretically never letting algae get a start. These are two totally opposite philosophies, and the voting seems to be split pretty evenly among the experts.
<Corals appreciate a little phosphate in the water but since your system is a FOWLR, I'd go ahead and use the Phosban as a preventive measure. Better yet, go with two units of Chemipure Elite which contains a high grade carbon, absorbing resins, and phosphate remover. I've been using Chemipure for many, many years and I have yet to find its equal.>
The little bits of algae on the rock are very pretty, and I don't even mind the brown streaks of diatoms on the substrate. The brown is starting to creep up the bottom of the glass, which is annoying, but no big deal.
<This is common with new systems and should go away soon. Give it some time and maintain good water quality.>
So I am inclined to just sit back and watch the algae grow. But I do have PhosBan ready, and a canister to put it in. So I can go that route, too.
<Patience my friend.>
One last issue in this regard... I read somewhere that suddenly using PhosBan or any phosphate adsorbent AFTER there is a lot of algae can cause a sudden die-off of the algae, resulting in a toxic nutrient explosion in the tank. That's a scary thought!
<I'm not aware of any toxic nutrient explosion caused by using the product.
Bob and/or other crew members may chime in so I suggest you read the daily FAQ's for the next few days.
James (Salty Dog)>

Tank cycling, nutrient presence   9/14/10
Hello people,
<Hello Robert>
I am having some difficulty with understanding some of the processes within my system and was hoping someone could please shed some light to my issue. (I didn't really know how to present the problem due to the length of the build up so it is in note form.)
<Okey dokey>
I am setting up a 20 gallon marine tank with a 100 watt heater, two power heads (one with canister) and 2 24 watt PC bulbs with generous sand bed (1.5 inches depth). I have some experience within the hobby but I am would really benefit from someone with more knowledge in the area. I have recently set up my tank in a very isolated place in Australia (in the middle), and I placed some live rock (1kg) within the tank (about 3-4 weeks ago). After about three days (approx) an ammonia spike was then followed by a nitrite spike 1.0-2.0 mg/L. After some a period of days the spike began to subside. At this point I went on holidays to the coast (1500kms away). During this time I came across awesome pieces of rock (required) and various coral frags (desired). As logistics is an issue I decided to capitalise on the opportunity as my tank would surely be cycled. After packaging both rock and frags they undertake a 1500 km trip over a 13 hour period. That night I check Nitrite and pH and find that the 10 days I spent away has resulted in no detectable nitrite, a good pH (8.2), and thick algal growth.
My assumption is that the system is reasonably established.
<Yes I agree, but with caveats..>
Sure of present nitrate I do a 10% water change and then add newly collected rock and frags (water looks good/no smell). Next morning my system looks like the Chernobyl incident with extremely poor water clarity (smells dead). After checking, nitrite jumps to 1-2 mg/L. panic stations are at the fore and I remove possible dead material and do a 40% water change. Testing again I find that ph is about 8.0 and nitrite remains the same.
<The new rock had some life in it that did not survive your trip. Since the biological filter of your aquarium was very 'light' (because there were no real 'producers' within) then there was not enough bacteria present to combat the sudden introduction of dead/ dying material (hence ammonia and nitrite accumulation). A second die-off 'cascades' from this, producing more toxins, and so on until either action is taken, or most all dies.>
Not wanting to lose new arrivals I go the LFS and browse through limited Marine stock, the only possible item to assist my problem is Bio Accum (appears to be an activated carbon bag),
<this might help with some released toxins/ poisons, but not with ammonia & nitrite>
although the potential is limited it is a last option in an attempt to hold onto what I have left. Put the bag in, and test water nitrite is the same but pH has dropped to 7.6-7.8 (ish). And nitrites are still about the same. It is now about 5 hours after the addition of the carbon and water still reeks and looks radioactive (cloudy);
<It will do for a few days at least. Daily, or twice daily water changes for a week along with the removal of dead material is your best course of action here>
retests show a nitrite of 0 (?) and pH weak but stable at 7.8. I am clearly perplexed. Is this the work of the bag? Are nitrates still responsible for the poor water clarity and smell?
<No. This is dying animals you are smelling>
Where is the tank at now? And do you have any advice to extend the life of the inhabitants through what I had thought to be a finish tank cycle?
<You are misunderstanding this concept of 'cycle'. The initial cycle of your system was done, but too much was added in the way of pollutants for it to handle. Bacteria populations must be give time to build up, this is why animals should be added slowly, and is also why from a certain point of view there is no such thing as a 'cycled tank', closed systems are always cycling, as the nutrients, bacteria et al. eb and flow with time and changes to the system.>
Cheers Thank you for your thoughts.
<No worries>
P.S. Although I didn't say it before; the depth and knowledge in your site is pretty much the definitive source (in my opinion) for anything to do with my aquatic system and interests, you people do a great job in maintaining such a knowledgeable and descriptive website, thanks heaps!
<Awww, shucks;) Simon>

High Nitrates/Nutrient Control 4/26/10
<Hello Dana>
I have just a few questions regarding my 29 gal reef tank. About 2 months ago I had a sudden and unknown caused spike in nitrates, up to about 80. I did frequent water changes and now they are down to 20 or so, but won't go down any further. I then had a problem with red slime algae, which seems to have gone away after 2 days with no lights and tank covered. I donated three of my fish back to the LFS, so now I have only 1 damsel, 1 yellow goby, 1 six line wrasse and 1 lawnmower blenny. I also have a few hermits, a few Nassarius snails, one turbo snail, 4 peppermint shrimp, 1 cleaner shrimp, 1 chocolate chip starfish and 1 emerald crab (I think so anyway, I haven't seen him in a while). I have only few mushrooms and star polyps.
I probably have about 40-50 lbs of LR and a sand bed substrate. I was hoping my nitrates would improve with less fish, but so far no difference.
<May take some time and you must have an efficient means of exporting nutrients>
I don't think I am overfeeding, usually once per day. My PH is consistently at 7.8 or 8.0 and I am unable to raise it. I have increased my aeration and occasionally add a buffer. I'm not sure what else to try.
Before this sudden spike, my nitrates were 0 and I had no algae problem. Any suggestions?
Yes, read here.
Thanks a bunch,
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Please Help With Possible Stocking Issue/Nutrient Control 1/15/10
Hi Guys,
<Hello Raquel>
I could use a bit of help with a nitrates issue.
<Like the song goes, "I Can Help".
I've a 25 gallon Solana 18x18x18" lit with 150w 14k MH. It has a nice open live rock structure and 1" live sand bed. Threadwheel modified stock skimmer seems to be working efficiently with nice dark skimmate. In addition to the built in return pump flow, I've a Koralia 1 providing additional flow. A Reefkeeper and ATO keep the tank pretty stable at 79F and 1.025. Tank holds
about 22 gallons after accounting for the rock and sand.
I have one of the rear chambers in the tank set up as a small refugium - took out all the bioballs and put in live rock rubble, Chaeto and a light than runs opposite the light in the main tank.
<Sounds like a nice set up.>
I use RODI water from my own purification system, and I've tested it with both TDS meter and nitrates kit. Oceanic salt is used for water changes, I always keep at least 10 gallons of saltwater circulating on hand.
<Very nice.>
The tank has been set up since August. Beginning of September it developed a leak and I was sent a replacement. I had to swap everything over into the tank. This caused a new small cycle. It seems since then my nitrates will not stay below 5ppm.
For example, 4 days ago, I performed a 10 gallon water change. After the water change, nitrates were at ~2.5ppm (Salifert). Today I was going to add a new coral and tested the nitrates, they were up at 5ppm again! So, I did another 10 gallon water change and put the new piece my other tank, which never has any nitrates.
<Ah, 5ppm is entirely acceptable, and some corals/clams actually do better with a small amount of nitrate present in the system. No need to fret here.>
Tank inhabitants:
Pair of small Maroon clowns < 2"
<What do you plan to do with these when they get larger. Your system will be much too small for these fish in the very near future.>
Six line wrasse ~ 2"
2 crocea clams 3" and 5"
~ 10 blue leg hermits and algae eating hermits (had more, seem to have lost a few along the way)
~ 6 Margarita Snails
<I like animals that are named after a drink:)>
~ 8 Nassarius Snails
2 Zebra Striped Turbo Snails
3 Nerite Snails (had more, but they like to journey across my living room floor so have re-homed several)
<In future queries, please cap names of fish, invertebrates, and product names.
Saves me much time if I do not have to do it before posting.>
1 Skunk Cleaner Shrimp
1 Peppermint Shrimp
1 Emerald Crab
<I would not keep this crab with ornamental shrimp, especially in a small system. There always exists a chance that they may soon be a midnight snack.
Not worth feeding a 35 dollar shrimp to a 4 dollar crab.>
a few varieties of Zoanthids
blue mushrooms
2 small stalks xenia
1 rock Acan echinata too big to go in the other tank
1 superman Montipora also too big to fit in other tank
* I've moved all my lps/sps into the other tank until issue with this tank can be resolved.
I have been feeding very sparingly, but still the nitrates go up and there is icky brown algae all over the place. My other tank has never had these kind of issues!!
<I would put a half of unit of Chemipure Elite in one of the filter chambers even if it means removing the Chaeto, as the Chemipure is going to help much more with nutrient control than the Chaeto in your system. Read about the product here.
I don't feel I've stocked the tank very heavily with fish.
<It will be soon.>
As the clowns mature and grow, they will go into a tank of their own, a 30g long I purchased and have set to the side for future use (and free time).
<Even the 30 long will be too small for these fish, they can reach lengths up to a stocky 6 inches.>
At that point, I may add a blenny or goby to take their place in the Solana.
I have heard of nitrate sponges
<Don't waste your money on a nitrate sponge.>
and poly filter but have never used them.
Usually water changes are enough... but 50% every 4 days seems excessive!
I'm really stumped and any help you could give would be appreciated!!
<I suggest reading here and linked articles/FAQ's in the header.
Thanks in advance!!!
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Re Please Help With Possible Stocking Issue/Nutrient Control 1/15/10
I've heard before that 5ppm nitrates is acceptable, but why then all the algae which seems to be choking out the corals? I will definitely try the Chemipure in this tank.
<Excess nutrient levels are usually the main cause. It takes a while before dissolved nutrients denitrify into nitrates. Are you feeding any slurry type liquid foods to your corals?
If so, cut down on the dosage. Most of the corals we keep can get by with very small feedings as they produce most of the food they require by photosynthesis.
I use none of these type products myself and my coral growth/color is very good.>
My other tank is a reef with no fish, only a pod of Sexy shrimp, which provide me with hours of entertainment. I did want to keep a few fish in this new Solana, however.
<It can be difficult to control nutrients in small systems present with fish, especially keeping Maroon Clownfish which are voracious eaters with a waste production equal to their intake. Small systems (mini-reefs) do better with just a few smaller fish present such as gobies, blennies, small reef safe wrasses such as your Six Line Wrasse, etc. Your 25 gallon tank likely has no more than 15 actual gallons of water present and is what you need to consider.>
What would be a good replacement fish or fishes to put in the tank in place of the Maroon Clownfishes? I am thinking Blennies or Gobies due to small tank size, but it is an open top tank and I am aware many Gobies are
jumpers. I would like something colorful and with personality!
<There are many colorful small fish to choose from, check out different etailers for ideas. Placing a glass lid/cover over the top would solve your jumping worry and reduce the evaporation rate. Do read here and linked articles/FAQ's in the header.
Also, what would be the total number of fish as a safe stocking number?
<In your system, three small fish would be the max that I would go. With an assortment of colorful invertebrates, a pleasing picture can be made. I have seen some beautiful mini-reefs in the last few years.>
I am heartbroken to have to rehome my Clownfishes. It took me over a week of watching and separating, reintroducing, etc to get them to finally pair up.:(
<More planning/research should have been done on your part before doing this.
If your funds permit, consider getting a larger system for the clownfish and have the best of both worlds. Sweet talking your husband or boyfriend is another viable option:)>
Thanks for all of your help!
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Re Please Help With Possible Stocking Issue/Nutrient Control 1/15/10
Oh, sorry to bother you again James,
<Not a problem, Raquel.>
but do you think a pair of False
Perculas would be acceptable for this tank size, seeing as they stay smaller?
Liveaquaria.com says the min. tank size for those guys is 20 gallons...
<Yes, that can be workable providing they are the only fish in the system.
Do not always go by what some etailers say is the minimum tank size. It's not always necessarily true. Foster & Smith also states that the minimum size tank for a Regal (Blue) Tang is 70 gallons. Not too much water for a fish that grows to one foot in the wild. I have a 90 long (60"x18", and I'd love to have a Regal Tang but I would attempt in this size tank, and unfortunately, it is difficult for a man to sweet talk his wife into a larger system. Money talks in this regard and I have little of that.>
<You're welcome and sorry I couldn't make your day brighter. James (Salty Dog)>
Re Please Help With Possible Stocking Issue/Nutrient Control 1/15/10
Thanks James, you're the best.
<That is nice of you Raquel, but I'm not buying you a larger system for your Maroon Clownfish.:)
James (Salty Dog)>

Baffling Nitrates: SW Nitrate reduction SW Nutrient Control.    10/7/09
Good Morning Crew!
<Hi Jéan>
As always I'm writing because I just can't figure out what is going on, and *I've* always said the best way to expedite an answer is to add a fresh mind. So, my father and I have been putting in some serious time on his 20 year old 55 gal trying to get things up to date with current industry knowledge. Not much background needed other than he's been running it with an UG filter, Whisper 6(?) and bleaching his 2-3 rocks during every water change( I think about once a year on average?) since about the early '80s. But, keep in mind, at the time this was common and dare I say, state of the art. So, foregoing any judgment on the readers part if this happens to get posted,
<Ahh yes, I recall answering a query from you before.>
I'll jump right into it. I've managed to convince him to make quite a few changes in the last 3 months. We've removed the UG and plastic plants which had started to break down and completely cleaned all of the gravel (crushed coral, about 2mm in size) during the last few months. I've provided him with premixed RO/DI water that I use from my favorite LFS, they use Red Sea (Bioassay Formula?) and we use that on 20% water changes weekly. Strict schedule at least for the last 2 months. Matched temp and ph and SG every time. Tested the make-up water for Nitrate, phosphate, ph, dKH (which was really high, but equalized in the tank) and calcium to make sure everything was on the up and up, but I trust the LFS all the same. Added his very first skimmer, a CPR BakPak which we've removed the 'bale and added Halimeda, it was currently the only macro I could get my hands on for free, I've since come into some Batophora and am waiting on some growth to replace that with.
<May want to try some Chaetomorpha http://www.wetwebmedia.com/grnalgselfaqs.htm You can grow it in your main tank - I just place it between two rocks and let it go, harvesting a clump or two every week.>
He gets about cup of dark green tea every few days, not perfect, but at least it's pulling something. We've also purchased 3-4 very pretty cured live rocks covered in coralline and added that to the tank. Cleaned the power heads of gunk, and replaced the filter pads with brand new ones which will be a weekly routine if I have a say. Added Rowaphos to the skimmer (holy crap that stuff works wonders, took the phosphate from off the charts down to about .25ppm in a week) All day long, his tank is so much happier!
<All good and excellent news so far.>
Yellow tang is out and about all day long ( though stricken with a very bad case of HLLE ) The 2 10"-12" engineering gobies aren't hiding anymore (which would explain why we haven't opted for a DSB yet) and he's even added a coral beauty who is done very well. His feeding regimen has since changed from feeding all brine shrimp (thaw water and all) to a small amount of balanced pellets, a small sheet of dried algae in the afternoon, and occasionally a treat of brine.
<Also very good.>
In my opinion I think his tank is lightly stocked and I applaud him on his feeding habits now. I just can't figure out why the nitrate won't come down!
They constantly hover around 60-80 on a API colorimetric test kit. I test before and after a water change, and I think I'm going blind looking for a change in color.
Using the same test kit on my tank at home reveals around 20 ppm before a water change, which infuriates my father after all we've done. Granted, I believe this to be quite the rags to riches tale here, but I just can't find the culprit and it's starting to really bug me. I would think after the last water change I would've seen some drop but I get nothing. I'm stuck and I hate to say it, but I think he might be at a breaking point soon. I need some fresh ideas, please help! :)
<You have a few issues that need to be addressed. First, while I use a lot of API test kits, I don't like the nitrate test kit at all, as it is hard to determine the color change, and if you do not follow the directions exactly your results will be off. You would do better to use a Red Sea or Salifert test kit Color changes are easier to detect and the test is a bit more user friendly. Secondly, you need to look at your nitrate levels mathematically. If your nitrate levels are at 80ppm, and you change 20% of the water with nitrate free water, you will reduce your nitrate to 64ppm - you will not see a real change on the test kit with readings like that - in the seven days between changes, it creeps right back up again as there still isn't enough in the tank to consume it.
Finally, are you testing your water from the LFS? Nitrate is one of the first things to creep back in if the filters are older.>
We'd like to try and get a good clean up crew, but with the gravel we can't very well get any 'sand sifting' animals, and with the water quality I'm very apprehensive on introducing anything new, especially inverts which puts me in a catch 22. He should have a good clean up crew, but can't implement. As soon as I have enough Batophora I'll gladly give him some which will be teaming with mini-brittles and copepods and bristle worms from my tank, but until then we're stuck. Is there anything I haven't looked at?
<You are on the right track, Adding some more live rock and some macroalgae will help. Also, for a period of time, larger water changes - 30 - 40% will help drive the levels down further.>

Just an observation... The loss of sponges, Polyfilters, and nutrient export. 09/15/09
Hello all!
<Hello Rob!>
I am a huge fan of your site and appreciate all that respond to our queries.
<Nice to hear.>
There is a wealth of knowledge to be gained from others experiences in the hobby. This is the most organized by far, and it certainly contains the most information!
<I definitely agree on the most information part!>
Just thought I would write about an interesting thing that occurred in my tank recently. I have had the same 108#'s of Beautiful live rock in my tank now for about four years. About a year ago, out of no where, I began to see these super bright chartreuse sponges growing all over my rock. They did great although never reached a size above 3/4 of an inch. I have decided to rid myself of the one leather I have and make the full conversion over to sps. I did a larger than normal water change and added a poly filter. I change about 10 gallons a week on this tank. It is a 65 gallon with a 55 gallon sump that is 2/3 refuge and 1/3 skimmer chamber/top off/return chamber. I did about a 20 gallon water change and added the poly filter which, aside from the skimmer, was the first chemical filtration I have used in about a year. Anyway, since adding the poly filter, all the sponges have disappeared!
<Not sure this is cause and effect specifically with the Polyfilter (which I am a fan of), I rather suspect it may have more to do with less available nutrients in the water.>
This is really the only factor I can attribute to this. This speaks volumes for the effectiveness of this materials ability to remove organics and so on. But to what cost? I still believe that the benefits out way the loss, but this was pretty blatant to me!
<A very interesting observation to say the least.>
I wonder what we are still missing in this hobby.
<A lot.>
We have grown by leaps and bounds in the past decade.
We can, and should study there natural environment to duplicate as closely as we can.
<I am in agreement in many ways.>
But our little fish bowls are very different worlds when it comes to compatibility, chemical reactions/interactions.
<And absolutely in agreement with you here!>
So much to still learn!
It's great isn't it!!!!
<Never stop learning is my philosophy!>
Just thought I would share,
<Thank you! We very rarely see comments like this it is indeed refreshing.>
Happy Reefing!
<And to you.>

Hair Algae and it's "Nemesis"?!?   8/24/09
Greetings to my favorite people at WWM!
<Hello to you Jamie>
Interesting observation that I like to share with you. I currently have three tanks. Their parameters are all very similar as I use the same RO water mixed with Coralife Reef Salt and I perform a 15% water change on them every week. There are only TWO differences (Okay, I'm painting with really broad strokes!) - they are the inhabitants and the presence or not of CARBON in the filtration system.
<Mmm... often there are other more subtle diff.s, but let's see...>
Tank 1: Carbon; Green Spotted Mandarin Goby, Barnacle Blenny, Eyelash Blenny, Yasha Hase Goby, Pistol Shrimp, Peppermint Shrimp, Skunk Cleaner Shrimp plus Hermit Crabs.
Tank 2: NO Carbon; Flame Angel, Bicolor Blenny, Black Percula Clown plus Hermit Crabs.
Tank 3: Carbon; Rainbow Fairy Wrasse, Flame Hawk Fish, 2 Pajama Cardinals, Lawnmower Blenny, Pink Spotted Watchman Goby plus Hermit Crabs.
Tank 1 and 3 have been infested with hair algae over the past 4 months.
Tank 2 have consistently been without hair algae or slime algae, not even a hint!
All tanks have been set up for more than one year and I do the same routine for all three tanks, feeding in the same fashion. Tank 2 is the "cleanest", absolutely no signs of hair algae and the tank has a general clean
appearance - minimal detritus on rocks and macro algae where the other two sometimes get that dirty, ash covered look and lots of stuff to blow off during my weekly water changes.
For several weeks, I was thinking that maybe the carbon was leaking something back to the tank to encourage algae growth, but I renew them with fresh carbon every two weeks, so maybe just the presence of carbon... Then today I did an experiment during my weekly water change. I took a green hair algae and red slime algae covered water return from Tank 1 and swapped it with the coralline covered one from Tank 2. Within five hours, that return is cleared of all green hair and red slime algae! Yippi! Well, now, I'm guessing that one of the inhabitants in Tank 2 is having a feast eating this stuff, I just can't decide if it is the Flame Angel or the Bicolor Blenny.
<Could be both, either>
My bet is the Bicolor Blenny but the Flame Angel is the one showing most interest. As I'm writing this, I placed a piece of hair algae covered Zoanthid in the front...I want to watch nature in action, and so far, the
Flame Angel is the one showing interest.
Thank you, each and every one on the WWM team, for creating this site that helps all of us fish lovers to not only learn about the wonderful creatures that we share our earth with, but also encouraging sound stewardship to these wonderful creatures!
Jamie Barclay
<May, might I suggest an experiment with the carbon? Do soak some bit, a tablespoon or so, in a jar of your RO water for a day or two and test for soluble Phosphate... Some "brands" do leach this often rate-limiting noisome algae nutrient. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

KH, Ca, Po4, Grr, No3, SG, Grr, algae....
Nutrient Control/Understanding Calcium And Alkalinity 3/20/09

<Hello William and Pegine, Mmm, unusual name.>
I certainly hope you can help us. I know you have helped countless others.
<Is what we do my friend.>
We have a 29g aquarium that had been setup for almost a year before we moved it. It was doing pretty well except for the snails that ate my Zoanthus and we started to have some BGA when the Metal Halide went bad. We never got rid of the BGA. We moved the tank to a new dedicated fish room for this 29g and one of the Cardiff tanks, we call it a bullet tank. We have visions of a 180g in the years to come, but only if we can overcome our current nightmare.
<Perseverance always wins.>
Tank Details:
29g Tank (Not the bio cube)
Tunze Nano Reef Pack
Tunze 6055 Nano Stream cranked up all the way and pulsing
Tunze 6025 Nano Stream
Viper 70 MH light. We put a new bulb in back in December.
25lbs live rock
Clover Coral (Clavularia)
Frog Spawn
Christmas Tree Rock
My remaining Zoanthus.
Cocoa Worm (very happy)
2 birds nest frags
1 Montipora frag
Mushrooms of some sort
Cleaner Shrimp
Serpent Star
Pistol Shrimp and paired Yellow Watchman Goby Cherub Pygmy Angel
<Tank a little small for the angel.>
The nightmare began on 2/21/09, we finally moved the tank to the fish room...
<Mmm, do you live on Elm street perhaps?>
We started by making sure we had plenty of mixed saltwater waiting in the wings (Tropic Marin) and lots of buckets and coolers for temporary holding.
We got some new substrate rinsed and ready.
<Well thought out here.>
1: Took the old stuff out and preserved about 1/2 the water
2: Mixed the old substrate with the new and added it. (Bad idea given the previous issue with BGA) The sand bed is about 3" now
<Yes it is, you are inoculating with BGA.>
3: Added Water, LR, Corals, etc.
4: Tinkered with it about a week getting the flow right and doing some minor adjustments. All the while siphoning off the algae, Grr.
5: After 2 weeks we figured we were ok and added the Angel and Goby. (We were monitoring pH, NO3. Not to concerned about NO3 yet, it was under 10.
6: At 4 weeks we are still in a mess..
The mess --- our nitrates will not drop below 10 and we can't get rid of the algae. I'm doing 5g water changes twice a week (Tropic Marin, trying Tunze now). It should be better, but it ain't. Also our KH won't go over 7.5
<Still a reasonably good dKH. You do mean dKH hopefully, as the KH reading would have to be divided by 17.9 to convert to dKH.>
despite adding buffer as needed (about twice a week lately). Hmm, we need to do more testing. We have been monitoring SG, Temp, KH, pH, Phos, No3, Calc for the past two weeks and added a Mg test this week.
Test Data from tonight, 3/19 Temp 78.5, SG 1.027, KH 7.5, PH 8.1, No3 10, Calc 250, Mg 1400.
-pH is very consistent 8.1 to 8.3(Elos, I can't quite tell the different colors)
-KH Tetra Test, consistently 6.5 to 7.5
-Phos, haven't tested it much, but we have algae so we have phosphate.
<And excessive nutrients, the later likely the culprit.>
Our one test showed .1 (Sera). It is worthless I cannot tell the difference between light blue and lighter blue.
<Likely at the residual of the kit. Phosphates generally are consumed as soon as available.>
- Nitrate, Elos test, Started at 5 the first week and is 10+ now. (I know not good)
<But not terribly bad either.>
- Calc, this is where it gets fun. Started at 280, with some buffer
<Buffer, or calcium supplement?>
got it up to 330. Changed to Tunze and it was briefly at 400 (a day at most), but
back to 350 now. We have not had to use any calc buffer since the move to Tunze salt.
-Mg, With all the fun we figured our Mg must be low! Nope, it is 1400
<Is a major element of sea water and needs to be maintained at 1250-1300>
I also siphon off as much algae as possible with a turkey baster, usually nightly.
<I would siphon out the affected substrate during this process, will help lower the spread.>
How do I get rid of the algae, why won't my KH go above 7.5,
<Because of the acids present in your tank, excess nutrients.>
why can't my calcium sustain anything greater than 350ish, and how the heck does magnesium play into this picture.
<Magnesium and calcium go hand in hand. Magnesium helps calcium loving animals absorb the calcium providing the magnesium levels are maintained at natural sea water levels.>
BTW our Birds Nest has grown like wildfire. The Montipora stays a bit white, but it is also growing.
<May be bleaching, may not have enough light for this coral.>
I have attached some pix. I removed some of the glare from the substrate on the full tank shot so the algae looks a little grey but I wanted to show how wide spread the coverage is. My other pix show the true color.
I have additional photos that chronicle the tank after the move at
<Have looked, appears you have a good coralline growth, a good sign as far as your calcium/magnesium levels. Have you compared your Ca reading with another kit or had a dealer test? I suggest you read the following links and related articles/FAQ's, will lead
you to the promised land.
<No need to be humble. As the song goes, "it's hard to be humble, when you're perfect in every way". James (Salty Dog)>
William and Pegine
P.S. Our bullet tank is rocking. We have all sorts of critters, amphipods, copepods, while the tank mentioned above seems to be almost devoid of them.
<You also have animals in the tank mentioned above that are munching on them.>

Re Nutrient Control/Understanding Calcium And Alkalinity 3/20/09
If my last email wasn't long enough, here is some more information. I completely forgot to mention what we feed the tank. We are working very diligently to not overfeed the tank, and keep the fish alive.
We do 1/2 capful of DTs 3 times a week.
<Supposedly live phyto, shouldn't be a problem.>
A small, very small, pinch of Daphnia every night. I make sure the goby and pistol get some by target
feeding, the rest just goes in the tank. We also cut a krill into thirds and feed the Nassarius, we call them zombies, serpent star and the cleaner shrimp.
<Do not think the latter is necessary, I've never fed my clean-up crew.
I'm kind of a clean-up crew in my home, my wife states that there has never been a bottle of beer that has spent the night here:). James (Salty Dog)>

Re: SPS Boring Algae Better Living Through Ozone (Nutrient Export and Coral Health)  12/16/07 Mich, <Scott F. in for Mich on this one.> DOH! I just started running ozone a week ago, for the past few months I have been chasing a proverbial ghost. <"Who you gonna call...?" Umm- never mind...bad 1980's movie reference.> I couldn't figure out why these Acros were not beaming like they should. Ultimately, it was that when I set the system up, the sand I used was not thick enough for a DSB and was emitting bad stuff, but phosphate and nitrate on Salifert were registering zero (I was using Phosban as well) {must have been some type of trace amount, enough to cause problems, that coupled with very alkalinity levels as I was trying to stabilize ph!). <Well, it has been debated that a sandbed in that "grey area" (2"-3") might be too shallow for complete denitrification, but too deep to be fully aerobic. Another one of the debates raging in our hobby- imagine that?> I have since fixed it, started running ozone, and have noticed a difference already. <I can imagine. Ozone, if properly administered, can provide amazing benefits for a system.> If you were me, would you trash any affected colonies, saving the frags above the algae line? If I am interpreting your response correctly, what your saying is don't necessarily worry about the infected pieces but make darn sure the nutrient issue gone! Dude, you guys are life savers! Tom <As usual, Mich is right on target! It's certainly best to frag the affected colonies and salvage what you can. Seek and maintain high water quality, and your system will be in great shape sooner than you can say, "Dude, Michelle is a Chick!" Hope this helps! Regards, Scott F.>

"Algae" Problem... Nutrient Control 11/21/2007 Greetings, Bob and Crew.... <Greetings to you Dean! Mich here.> First, let me say thanks for an amazing (and informative!) website. Anytime I have a question about one of my tanks, I can count on your site to provide information I need. <Glad to hear this Dean, and on behalf of Bob and the crew, you're welcome!> Case in point. I've been having a problem in a 29-gallon saltwater tank for a few weeks now. I thought the problem was algal (or possibly diatomaceous or cyanobacterial) in nature, given the appearance of what I was seeing - a reddish-brown "film" hanging from the stems of Caulerpa at one side of my tank. See the photos DSC00004 and DSC00002. <I see.> But when touched, the film would seem to disintegrate, only to appear more thickly the next day. Anything I tried as far as spot siphoning and water changes didn't seem to be having any effect. <Some more suggestions here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nutrientcontrol.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/scottsh2ochgart.htm > My tank parameters are specific gravity 1.024-1.025, pH 8.2-8.4, ammonia, nitrite, and phosphate undetectable, and nitrate barely detectable. I have a protein skimmer and UV unit on the tank, and only use RO water to mix the salt. <So far so good. A refugium could be helpful. More here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/refugium.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm> When experimenting with a digital camera for a microscope, I decided to take a closer look at this stuff that's been bugging me, and it turns out to be motile! <Cool!> Ovate in shape, and moves under it's own power (not Brownian movement) <OK.> and seems to do as much rotation around the smaller end as lateral movement. See photos Img0006 and Img0007. When researching what these might be on your website, I came across this thread: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/diatomidfaqs.htm and I believe that I have the same thing! <Perhaps.> So that's at least two saltwater tanks where this has shown up. This is a tank I've had for years, although I moved it about 2 years ago, but only starting having this problem after I added some guppies that were acclimated to saltwater (which had been in the tank where the acclimation took place for over 6 months, without any signs of this). So you already answered my first question of identification - I hope my photos may be of help to anyone else who may have this and not be able to identify it. <I do wish they were slightly more magnified. Would like to see more of the insides.> My only remaining question is "Does anyone have a clue how to get rid of this???"! <Heehee! Can be done! See the links included above.> I have corals and anemones in the tank, so keeping the lights off isn't a great option. <No, and the nutrients will still be there, just in a different form temporarily.> Many thanks in advance, <You're welcome Dean.> and continued good wishes for you (and the website!) in the future. <Thank you for your well wishes. Mich.>

Skimming Gelbstoff, Gilvin & CDOM. Removing water coloration - ozone - 09/06/07 Dear Crew, <Paul.> I've searched far and wide on WWW but can't find a reference to a skimmer that can skim yellowing compounds, such as Gelbstoff, Gilvin and Chromophoric Dissolved Organic Matter (CDOM). Which skimmer or types of skimmers are known to be able to skim these unsightly compounds? <Every skimmer can to some extent, therefore yellow water is usually only a problem in heavy stocked systems with too few/small water changes. To maximize the efficiency of the skimmer consider a large skimmer that produces very tiny bubbles. It highly depends on your tank volume which models can be used. Compare models of different manufacturers adequate to your tank's size and read about experiences of fellow hobbyists. Anyway, your most important weapon to remove yellowing compounds is ozone. Many skimmer models can be equipped (sometimes with a little DIY skills) with an ozonizer. So, ensure your future skimmer can be used in combination with an ozonizer if your aim is to remove as much of the yellowing compounds as possible. See also http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marphysf.htm. and the linked FAQs.> I know that carbon filtration can remove these compounds but if a skimmer can remove them, I'm "killing two birds with one stone." <Even the best skimmers won't remove as much as a combination of carbon filtration with this skimmer.> Thanks, Paul. <Cheers, Marco.>

Skimming Gelbstoff   8/24/07 Dear Crew: <Paul> Are there any protein skimmers that can remove Gelbstoff (yellowing compounds) from the water column? Thanks! <Mmm, this is a German word referring to organic molecules very generally that contribute to "color" (yellowing) in water... Such material is removed (particularly phobic carbon chains) via skimming to some degree... Better skimmers, more so... Most settings, folks would/will be further served by utilizing some filter carbon in addition. Bob Fenner> Moss... ? Do You Mean Algae? Nutrient export   8/23/07 Hi Crew, <Hi Alan, Mich helping out.> Just a short question. Will moss take in nitrate? <Mmm, not sure what you're referring to as moss. I presume you don't mean the kind that grows on rock in the woods. But I'm not sure what you're referencing here.> My purpose is to put it into my sump and hopefully will help to reduce algae growth. <There are beneficial macro algae that will fill this role quite effectively. I, personally, would avoid Caulerpa. My favorite is Chaetomorpha. It generally grows well and is easy to find. Gracilaria is another excellent choice. You can read more here and the related links in blue: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/greenalg.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/refugium.htm > Thanks in advance. <Welcome! Mich> Cheers Alan

Filter Media/Large Commercial Systems 7/5/07 I just found your website while doing research on toxin adsorption. You could spend weeks here; it's great. Since I don't have that much time, could someone tell me if there are lower cost alternatives to using bulk, granular, activated carbon as a filter medium in 2,000 gallon food fish tanks? GAC must be priced for its potential to form diamonds in the future. <Gary, if this is a marine system, you may want to invest in a commercial skimmer. Prices for these are $700 and up. Here is a link to one site, but a Google search should produce many more. http://www.aquatictech.com/skimmers.htm I know of no other media that would be less expensive than carbon, Mr. Fenner may have some input here. You would get a better price per pound if you bought in bulk. You may want to contact some of the manufacturers of carbon for pricing in this regard.> Thanks. <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)> Gary

Nutrient Control= Algae Control - 06/27/07 Hi There, <Hey! Scott F. in tonight!> Love your site. I've been using it since I've started my 46 gallon marine aquarium 3 years ago. I searched all the algae related issues, but I didn't see situations that I considered the same as mine. I perform a 10% water change every week and haven't changed my regimen since I've owned it. <I love it when hobbyists get habitual about water changes- great practice!> However, for the past 3 months, I've had this terrible brown algae problem. It is extremely hair-like in nature, which isn't unusual according to the articles I've read. The part that gets me is that the day after I perform a tank cleaning, the hair algae is growing back quickly. To get rid of it, I scrub off any surfaces that possess it, including the 8 lb live rock that I have in there. Some of the artificial pieces are bleached each week to remove all the growth. By the time the week ends, my tank is completely brown again and the hair algae is about 1/4" in length. <Ahh, relatively common, yet exasperating problem.> About 4 months ago, I changed my light fixture to a dual fixture equipped with a marine Glo bulb to go along with the Aqua Glo bulb. All the pink growth that I had turned white (from what I could gather it was related to light shock), and it's finally starting to turn pink again. How do I stop the algae? Should I be testing for something else? <Well, the key to control of virtually any algae is nutrient control. There are a lot of things that you can do, as we'll see in a minute. I would also test for substances like phosphate or silicate, both of which are major contributors to nuisance algae blooms.> I only have a Clownfish, Royal Gramma, and Cleaner Shrimp in there. My numbers I've tested for are nitrate - 0, ammonia - 0, ph - 8.0, and nitrite - 0. And my water temp is 80 degrees. Any ideas? Jim <Well, Jim, there are lots of possibilities. The water parameters that you mention seem good, but there is something in there that is fueling these blooms. Likely suspects are the aforementioned phosphates and silicates. Start by investigating your source water. Most tap water sources do contain phosphates, and in some instances, silicates. If you don't already- utilize a reverse osmosis/deionization system to purify your tap water before you mix it with salt. Remember, if your source water contains these "algae fuels", every time you faithfully execute your water changes, you're re-fueling the nuisance algae bloom. Next, do utilize some form of chemical filtration media in your system, such as activated carbon, Poly Filter, or the like, and replace it regularly. Also, be sure to feed carefully, not allowing excesses of food, or packing juices from frozen foods to enter the tank...These juices are absolute "rocket fuel" for algae blooms. Carefully rinse food before feeding, and feed without letting these juices enter the display aquarium. Another thought would be to grow and harvest some "competitive" macroalgae, such as Chaetomorpha, in your system's sump, which will help compete against the nuisance algae for available nutrients. Maintain a steady, high pH and consistent alkalinity. Keep water movement vigorous within the aquarium. Attention to these details, along with your continued good husbandry habits, will ensure that you'll defeat this nuisance algae invasion. Good luck in your fight! Regards, Scott F.>

Tap water preparation, stocking questions. Another Nutrient Export Devotee!  6/23/07 Crew- <Scott F. your Crew member tonight.> Thanks, as always. I've taken to reading the daily FAQs, now that I've been able to research most of my common problems. On to my question. I am currently using tap water for my 40 reef and 50 FOWLR. I am getting great growth, even from some SPS. I take great care of my tank, doing 5-10% water changes every few days. <I LOVE to hear that!> The tank has been up for 6 months or so and is currently getting a diatom bloom. I have recently replaced the bulbs, and I wash all my frozen food, feed lightly, take all other suggested steps ala WWM directive. <Awesome husbandry...My eyes are welling with tears of joy...> I believe that there may still be some lingering silicates or phosphates that are coming in with my water changes. <That would be my first guess, too. If you don't use reverse osmosis or deionization to treat your tap water before mixing it with salt, you're probably bringing in phosphates or silicates that way. Every time you do a water change, you're simply "refueling" the algae. I would highly advise investing in an RO/DI unit. Do test your source water for phosphates, nitrates and silicates, and you'll probably be shopping for a unit pretty quickly!> Currently for water changes, I fill a Rubbermaid garbage can with tap water, aerate it for several days with Amquel+, then make saltwater from that water, heat and aerate and circulate that for a couple days and then into the tank it goes. I have it set so that each step is happening at once, so I can continually do water changes every 3-4 days. <Really sounds fine, with the exception of a lack of source water pre-treatment, as indicated above. I am drooling (that's geeky, I know- but who cares?) over your consistent, frequent water change schedule!> Anyway, the short of it is I am wondering if I can dose a small amount of Kalk into the mixed saltwater to precipitate out what phosphates may be present. Would calcium hydroxide preferentially precipitate phosphates or the alkalinity first? <The real issue here is to determine what the level of phosphate is in the water to begin with. Better to simply eliminate it from the start, and then use calcium hydroxide to supply free calcium to your system (as determined by it's calcium demand-which you can find out by testing!).> I am currently using Oceanic, which is relatively high in Ca, but I would be able to switch to another brand to find one that's more alk oriented (I seem to remember an article by Steven pro, right? He came and spoke at TCMAS not too long ago) <Steve's a good friend of mine...Just chatted with him today, in fact. A great guy and wonderful friend of the hobby!> Also I am wondering if I could get some of the nuisance algae growing in the water change container so as to use up the nutrients fueling it before it goes to the tank. Interesting thought-utilizing algae in your storage container- but I think it's putting the "cart before the horse", as they say. Sooo much better to pre-treat the source water before use, and employ continuous nutrient export processes (i.e., your water changes, "purposeful" macroalgae growth in the system, chemical filtration and protein skimming).> I know in the end I am just putting off getting an RO/DI, but I'm a poor college student, so I gotta do what I gotta do. <I hear ya...At the very least, you might be able to find one of those water stores or a vender of some sort that can sell you RO/DI water. Id id that when I was in college, and it was less expensive than an RO unit...Kind of a pain, though. Basically, my point is that it's easier to reduce/eliminate unwanted substances from the source water before you use it than it is to get it out of your system.> Also, in my 40 reef I currently have an Ocellaris Clownfish and a Coral Beauty (who nips every now and again, but seemingly only at leathers). <An unfortunate habit- but a trade off worthwhile to me nonetheless when keeping this lovely fish!> I would love to eventually add a Neon Goby, a Sixline Wrasse and maybe a Firefish. I would do the Goby first, then the Firefish, then the Sixline, probably in month increments as they come out of QT. Am I overcrowding? <Good order of introduction, but I think it is a bit of a crowd in this sized aquarium. I'd eliminate the Sixline, as it may become a behavioural problem in this sized aquarium with a relatively docile population. I'd stop adding fish with the Neon and the Firefish.> I've got a built-in fuge and air driven skimmer (I'm using double limewood airstones) supplemented by a Prizm skimmer. <Great! Make sure the skimmers are cranking out skimmate regularly.> Once again, as always, thanks!! Wes <Well, Wes- I'm really thrilled to hear how well you're doing things. Your husbandry is very good! My only recommendation is to employ some form of water pre-treatment for your source water, and you'll be in great shape. Do see if you can find an inexpensive or used unit. Best of luck, and continued success! Keep sharing your husbandry practices and ideas with others! Regards, Scott F.>

Re: Another Nutrient Export Fan (Cont'd.)   6/24/07 Thanks for the quick reply. I'm blushing. <Ha! Well- fellow nutrient export geeks get me going!> Just gotta keep convincing my fianc?that all the time is worth it. I live in a 3rd floor apt with no elevator, so hauling the RO needed for my kinda water changes would be hellish. I am trying to convince her we could use the RO/DI for ourselves mainly, but it's been a tough sell. <Yup- the old "We should get a (insert expensive aquarium gadget here) because it will be great for our house- and it also works for the aquarium" pitch is a real "Hail Mary" shot...almost never works for me! But I hand it to you for trying! LOL> Ah well, with all things patience usually wins. For now things are coming along well, so I'm taking it slowly. I do keep quite a bit of Chaeto in my fuge, and it's growing, so I know that something is happening there nutrient export-wise. Skimmate comes, just always takes tuning to get a good amount of dry foam. <Well, any skimmate is better than none, IMO> Wish I had the money for another Aqua C Remora (that's what is on the FOWLR). <Well, you'll get there eventually. Makes it all the more sweet when you do..> I also thought I'd mention that I have some cinder blocks in the FOWLR tank that are getting quite full of life--tunicates, coralline, small feather dusters, etc. The pH has been stable, and I've noticed no excess nuisance algae, in fact, much less than with my reef. <Interesting..> I think I might have read somewhere on WWM that using something like cinder blocks wasn't recommended, but for my tank (a 50 x-x tall), it's the best way to aquascape. <Well, it's definitely a different approach! Some people use 'em to support aquariums. This is the first time of heard of someone using them IN an aquarium! I was wondering if they leach stuff that has a negative impact on water quality...Apparently not, in your case!> Plus, my Fuzzy Dwarf Lion loves the caves. It's my 'industrial' looking tank. <If the animals are happy and healthy, who cares?> Yet again, thanks. <My pleasure!> A few weeks ago I caught my fianc?on wwm, so I know I'm in good shape for the future. Wes <Wow- that's a huge breakthrough! Who knows- maybe she'll want a system of her own one day! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Exporting Nutrients to Fight Nuisance Algae! - 6/19/07 Crew! <Scott F. your Crew Member tonight> First of all, thanks for all the help your site has provided even though I have never posted a question!! <We're happy to be of service!> I have recently (12weeks) setup a FOWLR 180litre (sorry I'm a metric fanboy!!) with 30kg live rock and 7.5cm live/aragonite sand substrate with a total lighting wattage of 60 watts split evenly across marine white and actinic blue fluorescent tubes (on for 9hrs a day). For water movement, I have two Seio M620 (2400l/hr) power heads and the filter outlet (internal Juwel thing). Protein skimming is achieved with a Deltec MCE 300. My salinity is currently at 1.022 (which I am raising to 1.024) from instant ocean and RO water. Other params are: NH3 = 0, NO2 = 0, NO3 = ~25 and PO4 ~0.15.Livestock are a green spotted Puffer, Fuzzy Dwarf Lion, a 3-4" Blue-legged hermit and half a dozen or so Turbo and Astrea snails. So here lies my problem: Hair (algae)! The crab is usually good at stirring up the substrate and picks off a lot of algae. Recently (7-10 days) he has become very lethargic (but not when I offer him food (such as a minute chuck of silverside, etc)) and as an effect, I believe the hair algae is taking a hold. I currently change 10% of my water once every 2-3 weeks. I am now stepping this up to once a week to try and rid the nutrients in the tank. <The stepped up water change schedule is definitely a benefit, but do check your source water to assure that it is of the highest quality (RO/DI treated water is useful here, but make certain that your TDS are low to non-existent, or it may be time to replace your membranes). The nitrate and phosphate readings seem to reflect some buildup of nutrients within the system, caused by either your feeding/husbandry/bioload and/or source water.> My Lion has only just started eating and as such has been eating every other day - maybe 1/3 of a silverside between him and the GSP. I have read your site and have a stack of possibilities I would be very grateful if you would comment on: 1)Add a green macroalgae to help compete for nutrients <Certainly an assist, but the addition of "competitive" macroalgae is just another component of a multi-pronged attack on nuisance algae. Nonetheless, the growth and regular harvest of macroalgae is an affective adjunct to other nutrient export processes. I'd use a fast-growing species such as Chaetomorpha.> 2) Add another crab (but this doesn't account for why the other is sluggish) <I'd rather attack the root cause of the algae problem, excessive nutrients.> 3)Add a Flame Angel <As above- adding bioload to an aquarium is generally not a good way to combat the problem! While herbivorous fishes and animals can be of benefit, once again, I implore you to go after the root cause...> 4) Reducing feeding to twice a week <I'd rather see you reduce the quantity, but maintain a regular feeding schedule, taking care to avoid excess food accumulating in the aquarium.> I am wary of adding livestock to combat my problems as it's cure rather than prevention. <Excellent point; I'm glad that you realize this!> Could it be that the messy eating habits of the puffer and lion may require a more herbivor-istic tank mate? <More like "the messy eating habits of these fishes require more aggressive nutrient export processes..."> It's easy to echo everyone else's comments - but keep up the good work!!! Thanks, Neil <Well, Neil, I think that this is a frustrating, yet easily solvable problem. Continue a frequent water change schedule with high-quality source water (again check those RO membranes). Utilize chemical filtration media, such as activated carbon, Poly Filter, etc., and replace them frequently. Continue to use good water movement to help keep the water highly oxygenated. Adjust your excellent skimmer to make sure that you are getting regular production of skimmate (daily would be ideal.). Consider increasing the sand bed depth to foster greater denitrification processes. Hang in there. Just keep doing these small things on a continuous basis, and you'll see the algae problems begin to diminish. Best of luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Thoughts/Suggestions For Optimizing Nutrient Export? - 06/05/07 Hi, <<Hello>> I'm trying to set up an effective Sump/Refugium utilizing macro algae (most likely Chaetomorpha) for nutrient export. <<A worthwhile endeavor...though my preference is to keep the two systems/methodologies separate...i.e. in different vessels. This makes it much easier to provide/allow for their differences in application>> I have constantly high Nitrate levels (30 ppm+) in my 130gl long tank. <<Mmm, yes...this needs to come down>> I don't use RO/DI water, perhaps this is the cause of my high nitrates? <<Is a possibility, yes...and easily tested to verify>> Tank has been up for about 2 years, however no fish for the last 6 months or so following an outbreak of ich. System is as follows: 130gl acrylic tank (w/ 2" fine sand substrate) <<Doubling the sand depth would likely provide some help with your Nitrate issues>> Live Rock (75 lbs) 2 Magnum 350 filters <<Hmm, another possible source of Nitrate. Are these employed as sediment/detritus filters? Are they cleaned at least weekly?>> 30 Gallon DIY Rubbermaid Sump containing 5 gallon Refugium (5" DSB in refuge). <<This small refugium will be/is "helpful"...but a larger dedicated container could make all the difference here>> Skimmer - Coralife 220 Needle Wheel Super Skimmer <<Does this work for you? A better skimmer may be another solution...>> Lighting (power compact w/2 10k & 2 actinics - 384W Total - on approx. 12hrs a day) Livestock: 4 Crocea Clams (added 3 wks ago) <<Do consider (seriously) exchanging one or both Actinic lamps for more 10K lighting>> 1 Sm brown Mushroom coral (hitchhiker from clam… cool!) 2 Blue Devil Damsels (added yesterday) <<Not planning on keeping any other small or passive fishes then>> 4 Conch Snails 1 Med. Red Leg Hermit 2 sm. Blue Leg Hermits Parameters: Nitrate 30ppm Ammonia 0 Nitrite 0 pH 8.2 Temp 79-82 SPG 1.022 <<Is better; even in a FO/FOWLR system to keep this at NSW levels (1.025/026), in my opinion>> My primary question pertains to the sump/refuge and how I can optimize its effectiveness. <<Okay>> 1st-off this is a DIY Rubbermaid sump not a commercially made sump. <<Is still useful/efficacious>> Originally I had the overflow going into a chamber of bio-balls as it enters sump, however I removed this about 9 months ago after reading that bio-balls can increase Nitrates. <<To over-simplify...yes>> The overflow now goes into a white filter sleeve with two small bags of ceramic media inside (should I increase this media?). <<Actually mate, I would ditch them altogether...let your substrate and live rock be your bio-filter...much more efficient, and will govern/process its own Nitrate production>> Should this overflow return be submerged, partially submerged, or is it best to be out of the sump water and drip from the filter sleeve to the sump? <<I recommend "submerged"...helps with the noise, too>> Currently it is submerged. <<Very good then>> The skimmer then skims water from the sump and returns it to the refugium w/DSB. Naturally after leaving the refuge it is pumped back up to the display tank. <<Okay>> In the refugium I have a small amount of Chaetomorpha and a bit of Live Rock rubble as well as two Conch snails. The Chaetomorpha has been in two weeks and does not seem to be growing and starting to bleach some. <<Something amiss...>> I have about 30 watts of light on the refuge 24/7. <<This species of macroalgae appreciates/needs a "rest" period. Try lighting the refugium on a reverse-daylight schedule>> Should I increase this? <<Doubling the wattage would also be helpful, yes>> Change the lighting cycle? <<Bingo!>> Also what other inverts, sand stirrers etc. would you recommend adding to the refuge. <<If your intent is merely reduction of nitrogenous/organic compounds and Brittle Star would be useful...if you also with to produce planktonic and epiphytic matter to supplement the display then consider a few specimens of a small Nassarius snail species (and remove the Conchs!)>> And should I aerate the sump. <<Not necessary...and creates a huge mess with salt creep>> I currently have a small air stone in the sump (not the refugium). <<With your skimmer and good water flow this is not necessary>> The refuge seems to get decent water movement from the skimmer return. <<Indeed>> Regarding water changes, I have recently increased my 25% water change to twice a month as opposed to once a month. However I was thinking of moving to a 5% two times weekly regimen. Would you recommend this? <<Some might...I don't. "Very frequent" and "very small" water changes have little benefit in my experience...along with oftentimes exposing livestock to constantly changing/bouncing water chemistry or water that still has ongoing chemical processes from being used too soon. Your current regimen of 25% twice-monthly is about ideal...in my opinion>> 2ndly (or is that 3rdly) I originally was planning to make this a predator tank, however have now decided to make it a more docile/eventually reef community (Tangs, Clown(s), etc.). <<Do be aware/do your research beforehand...neither Tangs nor Clowns can/should be considered "docile">> This being the case I'm thinking it should be safe to add a cleaner crew to the main display. Any specific suggestions? <<Bristle worms, Nassarius and Cerith snails, small Brittle Stars...>> Do you suggest a cleaner crew in both main system and refugium or just one or the other? <<Will find their way to either/both>> Last two questions (promise). <<No worries>> You probably noticed I tend to have a 3 to 4 degree temperature swing as listed above. <<Yes...and I don't consider this to be a problem>> I've been considering getting a chiller to try and control this. <<If you like...though you could try a small fan mounted to blow across the surface of the tank (or the sump...or both!) before making the larger investment>> Do you think this temperature swing will be detrimental to my livestock as it stands now? <<I do not>> And lastly I know my system may be "under-lit" for keeping the clams and the one coral I have long term. <<Agreed...though merely changing all to 10K bulbs could prove enough>> I keep both the clams and mushroom high in the tank (8-10 inches from water surface). <<Okay>> Would you suggest more watts? <<If you wish to keep Actinic lighting...yes>> Perhaps MH lights? <<This is "my" preferred choice>> Any other suggestions for reducing Nitrates are greatly appreciated. <<Have made several...>> Thanks for all your help/advice. Jameel <<Is a pleasure to share. EricR>>

Dilution is <one short-term> the <semi-> solution to pollution   12/6/06 Hi crew <Hi there, Mich here.> I was wondering if you could help me out.  I've read a little on the subject but I was hoping you can clear it up. <Will try.> What I am wanting to do is replace weekly or bi-weekly water changes with a daily one gallon water change. <OK> My system consists of 120 gallon reef tank 20 gallon refugium and 30 gallon sump. <For a total of 170 gallons.> I was wondering if this will be enough for nutrient export. I have tried it for a week and its a lot less stressful on my fish. <Worth a try.  Keep an eye on your water chemistry.  Less stress on the fish (and the fishkeeper) is always a good thing.  In theory I think a reduction in stress may even help reduce fish waste.>   Anyways just looking for an alternative to my ten gallon weekly water change. <If it's easier it's worth a try.  In general you have been changing 10 gallons of water a week versus 7 gallons of water a week.  You may end up changing more water because it is less hassle.  Go for it!> Thanks. <Welcome.>

Deep Sand Beds and Trace Elements - 10/8/06 Dear Crew: <Paul> I have read many articles praising the ability of a DSB to remove nitrogen and phosphate from the water column.  I have also noted the postings that urge an adequate flow of water to prevent the DSB from accumulating detritus and becoming a nutrient sink.  As a result, I have a DSB in my aquarium system with a 10x water flow. <Good> Nevertheless, here's the question that continues to trouble me: If a DSB's can import nitrogen and phosphate from the water column, how is the same nitrogen and phosphate exported from the DSB? <Mmm, a few ways...> With macro algae filters, the answer is easy:  you simply trim the algae to export the nitrogen and phosphate from the aquarium system.  What is the equivalent export action with respect to RDSB's? Are we to assume that garbage just keeps going in with nothing ever coming out? Thanks very much! Paul. <Similar to the algae growth mechanism, phosphate is incorporated biologically in a trophic web of chemical feeding microbes through larger life forms... And a good deal is insolubilized... converted from available phosphate to much-less solid forms of phosphate compounds. Here's a link to a nice piece re this topic by RHF: http://www.advancedaquarist.com/issues/sept2002/chem.htm Bob Fenner>

Phytoplankton, reactor   7/4/06 Hi folks. I have been wondering if a AquaMedic Phytoplankton reactor would be useful in my reef tank. I have a 180 gal. reef tank with a DSB ( 275gal. total system water). Two refugiums are also running on this system. <Very nice> The first is a live rock with a DSB with blue light. The second is an upstream fuge with Chaeto and no sand with light running opposite. The tank has been running for seven months and I have gone thru the predictable algae bloom sequences. But the most fascinating event is when the macro algae vanished for no apparent reason. During the fifth and the sixth month I was battling Derbesia turf in numerous location on my live rocks. Early in the set-up I put two Emeral <Bam! Emerald> crabs in hopes to control this Algae. In addition I put a Sailfin Tang and a bunch of Hermits crabs and a variety of Algae eating snails to control it. Since the snails eat only Micro-Algae and the Emeralds might eat the turf Algae I wasn't convinced that they were guilty of eliminating all of turf Algae. My own theory is that I think the loss of algae was from the maturing of the whole system and the uptake of nutrients from the two refugiums. <Very likely the principal factor> All parameters of the tank are in normal range. Phosphate were high in the first three months and then zero. Currently my fish and coral list is Purple tang, Sailfin tang, Lemon Peel Angel, Lawnmower Blenny, Mandarin Goby, Sandsifting Goby. Coral: Ricordea, Euphyllia ancora, Frogspawn, Mushroom, Feather Duster, Crocea Clam, pulsing Xenia. My questions is does the lighted refugiums/scraping of algae off the grass provides enough Phytoplanton to feed the tank on a constant basis? <Mmm, plankton... is floating not attached... but likely the reproductive events of the glass-attached algae are contributing some algal plankton> I like the Idea of the reactor feeding some of my inverts plus provide foods for the zooplankton in my refugiums. <Me too> But Is it already happening anyway? <To some extent, yes> My other question is how do Copepods travel from the refugiums to feed my fish and Corals? <Yes... get "sucked up", pumped, or overflowed (depending on make-up of your systems components...)> Does it take some human intervention like stirring of sand or shaking of the refugiums? <Mmm, nope> Thanks for taking the time to answer every e-mails that come your way including mine. Sincerely Stephan <Thank you for writing, sharing. Bob Fenner>

Nutrient issues, SW    6/6/06 I have a 72 gal reef tank and I can't get my nitrates to drop below 20ppm and my phosphate to drop below 1.0. Before I removed my hang on the back filter my nitrates where 40ppm. For the phosphates I put a mess bag full of phos-X in the refuge tank. I have been changing about 25% of the water with store bought water the last month 1/2(doesn't contain any nitrate), but that hasn't seemed to work. So I added live sand bed to the refuge tank, and about 20lbs to the main tank (I did this about 1 week ago). my sand bed is about 4" deep. I have about 75 lbs of live rock. In the refuge tank I have a protein skimmer, UV sterilizer, a 20,000k light with 2 clumps of Caulerpa. Should the just kept doing the water changes, or leave it alone and let everything take it course? <... Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm and the linked files above. There are a few approaches to chemical nutrient/concentration control... and some indeterminate synergistic troubles in allowing their accumulation. Bob Fenner>

Dirty Sand 6/5/06 I have a brown red film that will go away at night and comes in about 2 hrs after the lights come on. What would be causing this? Is it the lighting I am using. I have a power compact 260 watt with 2 actinic blue and 2 12k lights? <Most likely Cyanobacteria, a photosynthetic bacteria.  Can indicate a nitrate or phosphate problem.  Also common in new tanks and will often cycle out after a while with no action needed.> <Chris> I thought aquariums were supposed to ease stress? Is it time to call it quits? Hi Bob, <Actually this is Adam Jackson with you tonight.> It's been some time since I've written to Wet Web. A year at least. But today I find myself loathing my tank (as usual) as I sit reading my email. <Sorry to hear that.> I've had a 75 gallon reef for 5 years, and it has never looked the way I envision it. <I to am guilty of being overly critical of my own work.> I've taken advise from so many people: "too much food, too much light, skimmer too small, not enough water flow, poor filtration, poor town water, " I've heeded the advise of all these people. <While all of the comments are general…all have some merit to them.> I run 2 skimmers <What type?> , six very powerful powerheads, jetting in every direction, feed so little I'm afraid everyone is starving <How much are you feeding?> , turn down the lights after only 6 hours, and after all is done, try to see something for my efforts. Instead, I sit in my living room and listen to the constant hum and buzz of powerheads, filters and skimmers, as the Cyano bacteria creeps ever further throughout the system. As if this ugly nuisance algae isn't enough, the tank is plagued by Aiptasia with 2 inches long stinging tentacles that refuse to die, no matter what I assault them with! <You have a nutrient problem here. What is you water change regime? What is your stocking level? What type and how much substrate do you have? What are water chemistry readings, specifically nitrates and phosphates? What is your source water. How old are your light bulbs and what type of lighting do you use? I apologize for all the questions but they are necessary for me to help you. Also if you don't already have one please look into the benefits of setting-up a dedicated refugium as a means of nutrient export.> I, at this point, only have one more question left to ask you and all your staff: Is it time to call it quits? <Of course not.> I seriously await your response. Pam <Adam J.>

Foamy water & Skimmer on overdrive 10/28/05 I have a 70gal reef tank, established 3 years now. I did a 10 gal. water change yesterday using Red Sea Salt (same brand I always use) my water is very foamy, and my BakPak II skimmer is now going crazy, filling to the top with pretty clear but mildly slimy water every 3 minutes. I unplugged it over night last night (so I could go to bed). All inhabitants seemed to be doing well this morning so I did another 5 gal water change (to flush it out more). <Good> Kept it off all day today (while at work) and when I came home the refugium underneath is full of foam just from the sump hose flowing into it. As soon as I plug in the skimmer it fills to overflow with the slimy water. I did not use anything that could have had soap. Do you have any idea? Still the animals seem fine. Carol <Hmm, some thing/s are either going on in your system (a mass spawning event for instance... by small animals in the substrate...) or someone has poured in some other something that causes mass foaming. In either case, dipping, toweling off the excess foam and the water changes are the route to go here. Bob Fenner>

Nutrients in a reef, what? Hello I'm not quite sure what they mean about nutrients in a reef? << No problem.  Basically this means "left over food".  When you feed your fish or corals little pieces of food don't get consumed.  Also, fish waste is another big source of nutrients.  All that food and waste break down into simple molecules.  The two main items we are usually concerned with are phosphate and ammonia based molecules.  These are basically fertilizers for your tank and are the food source for algae, Cyanobacteria and bunch of stuff most aquarists don't want growing their tank.  So, to have a clean and healthy reef tank, we need to eliminate, remove,  or prevent such nutrients from entering the system.  I hope that helps. Adam B. >>

Nutrient Control Issues Hey, <hey.  Ryan with you today> Thank you for all the help in the past.  Today I noticed some things in my tank.  First off I noticed that a lot of my tube worms were gone...they were the worms with 2 long appendages that would feel around.  On the same rock I noticed that what looked like twigs...(single twigs sticking straight up) were also gone, from about 60 only 5-6 are left. <Many setups lack the required nutrients to keep these guys alive> My aragonite has started to turn green, purple and pink on the surface. Finally one of the rocks has a black algae that just boomed.  Does this mean there is something going on in the tank. <Yes, algae growth from excess nutrients is my guess> It has been operational for 2 1/2 months. <OK> The parameters are SG 1.0225, pH 8.2, nitrite 0ppm, ammonia 0ppm, nitrate ~10ppm .  I recently added 2 candy cane corals and I also did the DIY moonlighting http://www.kaotica.com/frag/diy/moonlight/.  Is there any cause for concern...I'm sure it is probably just the tank running its course but I would like to make sure. <I'm not sure exactly what's causing your outbreak because you didn't include any info about your setup.  Perhaps this article will be more helpful: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nutrientcontrol.htm.  Good luck! Ryan> Thank you very much, Todd Hawman

Re: New article Hey Bob, <Scotter> Glad to hear that the book is coming into the home stretch now. <Thank goodness!>   Looking forward to checking it out while kicking back under a palm tree somewhere very tropical....yeah right...in my dreams!  Argghhh! <Oh! Do you want to come on out to our new digs on the Big Island?, We're set to close escrow end of April... and need help locating, buying, moving furniture... some vacation now!> I'll settle for an arm chair with Leilani and Pepper (my dogs) by my side...oh.. and Nadine I guess too! (hah! hah!)  Anyway, here is my latest effort as an "author."  This article is about nutrient control and export, which seems to be one of the main topics that we receive daily on the FAQ's. <Yes!> Feeling rather confident with my first "publishing" foray, I bit the bullet and sent it to FAMA as well.  Hopefully this will be a useful addition to the WWM library. <Good all the way around.>

New Print and eBook on Amazon

Marine Aquarium Algae Control

by Robert (Bob) Fenner


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