Two new builds. Two headaches. What are we doing wrong?

Discussion in 'General Reef Discussion' started by jlanger, Jul 17, 2019.

  1. jlanger

    jlanger "The North Remembers"
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    This thread is going to discuss what has been happening with two experienced reef keepers that have been having various issues with their two new builds; myself and @KJoFan.

    Last year, we both started new builds. New tanks. New rocks. New filtration. New excitement!
    But over the course of the past year, that excitement became confusion, irritation and frustration.
    Our systems have been plagued with various outbreaks like cyano, dinos, lyngbya and nuisance algae. Some of these are to be expected but with all of our experience, we should be able to quickly overcome these problems and begin growing a new reef. That has not really been the case; with either of us.

    Here's my "quick" story... (I think it's accurate, but you can find full details; here)
    In October 2018, I rebooted my 120gal system with a brand new tank, new rock (dry Tonga shelf; bleached and cured), new substrate (ReBorn media), a new sump with all new filtration (ATS unit, skimmer, CaRx, Cor pumps, etc.). The system was cycled using bottled bacteria cultures; Brightwell, Dr, Tim's. An initial bout of diatoms came and went so I started adding some LPS corals that I had rehomed while starting this system. The LPS corals did fine, so I started reallocating SPS corals that I had from the old system. Those corals looked okay for a short time and then they crashed and died. My rock started to get covered in a transparent "algae" that I hadn't seen before; turns out it's lyngbya. I treated my tank by running very little light and different chemical treatments which knocked out the lyngbya after a couple of weeks. Seeming on the mend, I once again added more coral frags and new frags I picked up from the Spring Expo. The exact same events happened; LPS corals looked fine, SPS corals faded and died. So further investigation proved that I had a nutrient deficiency (zero nitrates and zero phosphates) so I started tweaking my ATS unit to lessen it's efficiency. Also during this time, my new calcium reactor and dosing pump arrived so I added them to the system. The nutrient levels didn't increase and now my alkalinity levels started to rise. I started getting cyano on the substrate and rocks; now dosing Dr. Tim's again. I removed the ATS and calcium reactor from my system and waited for the parameters to level out. Once my alkalinity was back in my target range (8-8.5dKH), I added some new SPS frags. Same result; fade, die.
    It is now mid-June 2019.

    At this time, I was at a loss for what was happening. In my previous system, I could grow large montipora colonies in beautiful colors. In this system, they wouldn't last three weeks.
    During this time, I noticed Karen was experiencing some of the same issues with her new build; here. Old systems were successful, the new was plagued with various issues. So I asked her a simple question, "Is this your first build that used dry rock?" I noticed that both of us were having problems and a common factor was the use of starting out with dry rock. All of my previous systems have been built on collected live rock that was overnighted and properly cured. Maybe all of these issues we were experiencing had something to do with the rock we started out with. It was just a theory. (I know that there are tanks that were started using only dry rock and they didn't have issues, but I wanted to find out more.)
    Karen reached out to me and we started having a conversation about the rock in our systems and the possibility of adding some collected live rock. Maybe there was something in real live rock that was missing from our systems. We decided that we would order some rock together and try it out on our systems. A couple of quick searches and we decided on going with Tampa Bay Saltwater for our live rock.

    At this time, Karen stumbled upon this video.



    Everything that Mike Paletta was describing in the video was what was happening with our systems; mine, at least. I was convinced to order the live rock right away.

    I ordered a single box (25 pounds) of live rock that was to be shipped out for this week.
    I received an e-mail from Deb at TBS asking if Tuesday would work for delivery and I said "Yes!" They packaged the live rock and sent it via Southwest Cargo. I drove over to the airport (very convenient process) and picked up the box by 05:30PM that same day. The box of rock was in my curing container by 7PM; that's fast service!

    Here's some pics from Tuesday night.

    Here's information for Tampa Bay Saltwater from the label on the box.
    They were great to purchase from; timely responses to e-mails and up-to-date notifications on the shipment and follow up.

    [​IMG]

    One of the main reasons we decided to go with TBS for the live rock was that the rock is shipped completely wet; in water.
    The rock is packaged very well. Upon opening the first two thick bags, there is water filling the bags so that the inner bags are double insulated.

    [​IMG]

    Upon opening the second pair of thick bags, the rock is [almost] completely submerged.
    At this time, I was expecting the aromas that comes with opening up a box of fresh live rock. 9I actually enjoy that smell as it means I'm making another reef!). But to my surprise, there was no smell at all. The rock was clean and fresh; no die off. I could already tell that the rock was covered in life.

    [​IMG]

    For only 25 pounds of rock, there was a nice collection of pieces. All of the pieces were covered with a variety of sponges, barnacles, macroalgae and some corals. I could already see numerous snails and other hitchhikers crawling around.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Here's just a couple of pics detailing the variety of life living on the rock.
    There's numerous colored and textured sponges on the rock. I would bet every rock has live barnacles living on them. And there are some coral species on the rock that are still alive as they produced a slime when exposed to the air.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    And what's a box of live rock without some hitchhikers; various snails, hermit crabs and other crabs. These guys were all picked off and placed into a deli container to await their fate. (My Harlequin Tuskfish might get some live food!)

    [​IMG]

    As of right now, I have the live rock curing in a Brute container with heat and circulation. I made a polycarbonate shelf that holds the live rock about ten inches above the bottom if the container so that if any more hitchhiking crabs find their way off of the rock, they will end up spending their days on the bottom. I am somewhat disappointed that there wasn't an octopus stowed away in the rock.
    My only complaint at this time is that I wish we would've ordered more rock; it's awesome!

    Once Karen is available, we will split the rock up and add it to our systems.
    My plan is to add the rock to my sump beneath my ATS unit. It's a cryptic zone that is directly fed from my drains, so the rock will receive plenty of flow and provide a great refuge for sponges, pods and other critters. Initially, I might place it in my display to help seed the rock in the display for a short time; it'll also give my tuskfish a chance to clean out any remaining crabs.

    I thought this new thread would be more useful than clogging up both Karen's and my build threads.
    After months of struggling to know what is happening with my corals, I'm excited to know that this might be a solution and get my reef back on track.

    I'll keep posting updates; and I'm sure Karen will as well.
    Wish us luck!!!
     
  2. KJoFan

    KJoFan I contributed!
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    Ahh, so exciting!

    I won't re-hash my entire journey with my current tank as you can visit the build thread for most of that. But, I do want to add that with all these issues I've contemplated all kinds of things causing my problems. I wondered if my source water had something that was causing problems, so I upped my filtration game and went with the separate DI resin beds and still no change. ICP tests were coming up roses, so that probably wasn't it.

    Around the same time Jason reached out to me about the dry rock start, I had someone on R2R reach out to me with the same issues Jason and I had been experiencing whom also started their tank with dry rock and had seen past success with other systems. Now we had three people (small sample I realize) with two things in common. Struggling tanks and dry rock starts. This just solidified our decision to give the live rock route a try. But, it brought up another potential source for the issues, both me and the R2R reefer had SCA brand tanks. We wondered if there were higher than normal tin amounts leaching into our water. But, we debunked that by finding other successful SCA tank owners, even successfully keeping acros.

    As many have seen, I've also contemplated my lighting causing issues in some way. But, I've been reassured by other GHL Mitras users that they are solid, successful lights, so I'm going to let that part ride for now as well.

    So, here we go with the live rock and I know we've both got our fingers crossed this will help us turn a corner. I haven't even seen the rock in person yet, but I'm impressed with it. I, too wish we would have ordered more, but I think this was a good way to experience it without going all in.

    I do plan to also start out with mine in the sump, as I do have a little fear of bringing in some bad hitchhikers, and I don't have a Tuskfish to clean up. :) I may consider replacing at least a portion of my existing display rock with this stuff if it goes well and looks decent. We'll see how it goes.

    Jason has been great taking on the lion's share of the work in this and I hope we both see success and can become happy reefers once again.
     
  3. spsick

    spsick Acro-poor-a
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    I have some input here, if you’ll hear it.

    My current system has gone through 2 upgrades now but was started entirely with old Fiji I had acid washed. I just kept adding some as I upgraded so any seeding I got was from frag mounts and I think a bottle of instant ocean bacteria initially. It takes way longer to get a tank going from dry.

    The first 2 years was an AIO with no filtration just 25% weekly WC. I’d say it took a year before I could keep any SPS and the greatest leap was going from a Maxspect LED to a T5 fixture, which had given me previous success.

    The system had its best success as a 40bdr with just a skimmer and WC for filtration. Since upgrading again and adding a fuge it has done ok but not the explosive growth I had before. But also no hair algae in the display so that’s nice. I still can’t grow an acropora millepora for the life of me but Oregon tort grows like a weed.

    I remember back to my old days and I had more fish and fed multiple cubes a day which I think was what gave me greatest success, but that tank also was full of live rock and a DSB so who knows.

    Now to the point: I think we overfilter our tanks and underfeed, whether it be directly or indirectly through fish poo. All the nicest tanks I see have a ton of fish to support their filtration. Heavy in:heavy out. Perhaps have the ATS out of the gate was delaying the establishment of fauna/bacteria/planktons?

    Stay the course. With your dedication to the hobby and your tanks I guarantee you will find long term success.


    Side note: how many mantis shrimp did you get? I got rock from TBD years ago and there was tons of them and gorilla crabs. But also teeming with life. FWIW it’s spendy but New Wave got hundreds if not thousands of pounds of beautiful ultra indo rock a few months back :)
     
  4. OP
    jlanger

    jlanger "The North Remembers"
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    @spsick, We'll hear just about any input!

    I watched the Paletta video about three times that first day because 1: Mike Paletta, 2: his comments about his tank described mine to a tee and 3: what he discussed with the Europeans rang true.
    My office system was started up with dry rock and I experienced some Dinos and bryopsis early on. Once those issues passed, I was good with adding corals; soft corals. I had decided early on that that system was going to be soft coral dominated and if I placed any SPS frags into the tank, they didn't survive. I chalked it up to not dosing and different lighting scheme, but I never had any luck with any SPS frags in that tank. If it's true that it takes a year or longer for dry rock to become "live" enough for SPS, I'm seeing it with my own eyes in my own tanks.

    I agree that the ATS was too much too early. I designed this system based on the success and pitfalls of my previous system. The old system was packed with coral and fishes; and I feed heavy! My original ATS unit could manage nutrient levels but it could never lower them, so I built a bigger unit. Since this system is still in its infancy, the bigger ATS didn't help matters. (It's a tad embarrassing when the manufacturer of the ATS unit cannot use his own product on his own tank. #smallerATSindevelopment)

    I have not seen any mantis shrimps. There were two small [gorilla] crabs that were pulled immediately and I'll be watching for more.

    To expand on Karen's comments, I also sent in a Triton test and all of my parameters were in line; iodine was a smidge low.
    I'm running a 6-stage RODI system with great water quality and I'm using the LiveAquaria salt mix.
    My tank was built by Planet Aquariums.
     
  5. KJoFan

    KJoFan I contributed!
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    First of all, your comment on LED vs T5...nooooo. I can't get it out of my head that I'd find better success with at minimum, a hybrid fixture, same as I'm seeing in my frag tank with a hybrid.

    Second, I seeded my tank initially with Prodibio Biodigest, good, bad or otherwise. And my rock was dried out rock from my previous tanks, so even though I treated with lanthanum chloride and cooked for months before it went in the tank, it maybe still was harboring nutrients which have led to my GHA issues. But, none the less it was dry.

    I would agree with the overfiltering to some degree, though I was wondering if my GHA explosion was due to increased fish load and thus increased food. I did not start with an ATS, but I did start with a huge fuge and a huge fuge light and had trouble keeping nutrients up for the first....year? of the tank's life.

    Now, out of curiosity, when you say "spendy", how spendy are we talking?
     
  6. OP
    jlanger

    jlanger "The North Remembers"
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    Same thoughts...
    I looked at some live rock yesterday when I swung into Wet World to kill some time, but it didn't have any sponges (or other life) growing on it; typical drab base rock.

    (Side note... Wow, has AWOF really gone away from saltwater.)
     
  7. Mandarin_Jake

    Mandarin_Jake Senior Member
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    AWOF had some ice damn issues this past winter that really damaged the ceiling/roof over the main Saltwater areas. Doug - pretty much the only person I've worked with when getting anything there (very rarely), said that they are taking the opportunity to redo everything and reopen the saltwater portion after a period of time, so we'll see what that's like. I haven't been the biggest fan of their husbandry or mark ups, but doug is honest and knowledgeable. Sorry for the side bar.

    Sent from my E6810 using Tapatalk
     
  8. spsick

    spsick Acro-poor-a
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    Don’t take it too seriously. I think T5s are just easier upfront. I think LED can work on bigger or older systems that have greater biodiversity.

    Like $12/lb spendy but it was primo stuff. I bought some just to QT and add to my current system (I had run out of dry rock)
     
  9. infinityends

    infinityends Senior Member
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    Need a beta tester? :D
     
  10. DarkSky

    DarkSky Administrator
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    There for sure is something related to starting with dry rock and SPS issues. My last 45g build had no issues growing SPS, frags quickly encrusted and became mini colonies over the course of a few months. I'm still struggling keeping things alive in my 220g, it'll be one year old 7/25. Coraline has completely encrusted every rock and space available. Maybe I just suck at this. :)
     
  11. KJoFan

    KJoFan I contributed!
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    Hey, at least you’ve got coralline growing well. I get it on my back glass and pumps but am hard pressed to find a spot on any of my rock. And I’m about 18 months into this tank. Apparently my rocks are a hostile environment.


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  12. Davy Jones

    Davy Jones Senior Member
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    Ill be following along here. Have had my share of sps issues, but i cant chalk it up to anything in particular. Ive always assumed it was my fault. Still most likely is lol but wouldnt mind seeing your success, as I am planning a 150 gallon build with a plumbed 50 frag tank in the future. I like the idea of tbs rock in the sump, so as to avoid some of the hitchikers getting to the display where the coral live.
     
  13. NotJacques

    NotJacques Senior Member
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    Very interesting thread... I haven't had a chance to watch the video yet, but what about live sand? Did the tanks start with dry sand, reused live sand, bare bottom tanks, or new live sand like CaribSea?

    Sorry if I missed something on this above
     
  14. KJoFan

    KJoFan I contributed!
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    Mine started with new dry sand. I’ve reused sand in the past and that was not the route to take I found.


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  15. OP
    jlanger

    jlanger "The North Remembers"
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    Sucks to hear, but it’s also reassuring to hear that there may be a correlation between dry rock starts and SPS issues. Which rock did you use?
    My rock doesn’t have much coralline algae growth on them, but I have the hottest pink trochus snails!!!
    I’m using TLF ReBorn media for my substrate, so it was a dry media.
     
  16. csb123

    csb123 Senior Member
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    Your experiences are similar to mine. Many on R2R have had similar problems with using dry rock. I have no hard evidence, but if I start a new system I’ll do the following. Acid and bleach new dry rock, then cure it with live rock from vendors or hobbyists with no lights for 3 months. I feel this would encourage a stable microbiome.
     
  17. DarkSky

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    I used a mix of some of my old rock from my 45g, and a bunch of dead rock from Marty's old tank. I did cure it for 3 months in my garage before adding it to the display tank, and then went another 3 months before having light above the system. I honestly avoided almost all of the new tank uglies but for one small outbreak of cyano I took out with chemiclean.
     
  18. H2OHOH

    H2OHOH Senior Member
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    Very interesting thread. I used dry rock on my 80, seeded it with a couple pieces of like rock and went slow. Didn’t really put too much in tank for about 3 months. Just happy to have a reef tank. I added a couple fish so there was some life.

    Didn’t really add any coral until about month 4. Easier sps. Would look good for about a week or so, then fade away. Months would pass, failure would continue. At about month 8-9 I could put in a green slimmer, digi, birdnest and have some success. At about this time my rock looked great and I had pretty good corline growth. I really like nice looking live rock...so that was a little motivating itself.

    I have some issues here and there, and I am in the middle of a bump. however, it took me about a good year to feel pretty confident when I added a coral that I had a good chance for it to stick and grow.

    My very first reef tank was a 60 cube. I bought a box of 40-50 of live rock from Fosters I think. Scrubbed and curred it a bit, and had pretty good success at about month 3-4.

    I am not super patient, that is why I have a fish tank too. But these just take time I think. Very profound right. Reefking taught me that, be patient.
     
    #18 H2OHOH, Jul 18, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2019
  19. spsick

    spsick Acro-poor-a
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    What we really need is the Reefking to chime in here and tell us what we’re doing wrong!
     
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  20. OP
    jlanger

    jlanger "The North Remembers"
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    There seems to be enough occurrences (in TCMAS and other forums) that support what Mike Paletta speaks about in the video.
    When looking at the systems as a whole, there's not much testable or visible evidence to point to why this occurs. Triton tests point to nothing being out of normal range. I do get coralline algae growth on my snails, substrate and pumps. My sump is full of pineapple sponges, micro-brittle stars and baby trochus snails. My LPS corals are doing fine; good polyp extension (fluffiness) and feeding responses. So you'd think from an initial standpoint that everything is okay, but the SPS corals don't cooperate; and all I want are the montipora and A. millepora corals.

    I don't think Charlie Veron is a member of TCMAS, but I'd listen to everything that he has to say.
     

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