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Post-mortem advice requested (long even for me)


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TL;DR version: All LPS dead, hair-algae consuming snails keeling over. I.E. "Haaaalp! What's gone wrong with teh coralz?!!!?"

LONG version:

9 gallon Eheim "Aquastyle" nano tank, up since November 2011. Over the past few months all the LPS in my tank (one 3 headed frogspawn and 2 caulastrea colonies grown out from frags) would slime up, retract & slough tissue. Then generally look like cr@p for a couple days, recover & seem to do well for a few weeks - even grow new heads. Then repeat - the 5th time or so did the aforementioned stony corals in for good... it's just a softie + macroalgae tank, now. Zoas/palys and ricordea seemed only slightly ticked (if at all) when this happened; the fish/hermit crabs/fire shrimp were completely unaffected.

Equally concerning is that certain kinds of snails have also started having issues at the same time this was going on - nerites, astrea and banded trochus seem to have trouble in the first few days following acclimation (whether done via drip procedure or the "float & huck" approach); those that fall off the rocks/glass seem "stunned" but usually would anchor their foot when nudged over to the side and start moving, but much more slowly than I've seen them do so in the past. All of them are dying much more often than hermit crab predation can explain. By contrast the florida ceriths, nassarius and strombus (dove snail/"nano conchs") are all fully active with no loses... the last of these I added practically by tossing the snail across the room into the tank (not literally but it was a VERY short acclimation) and it's doing fine a week later.

post-70644-0-48749500-1398381396_thumb.jpg post-70644-0-96040400-1398381396_thumb.jpg post-70644-0-49170100-1398381397_thumb.jpg

Tank gets a .5 to 1 gallon water change every few days (so ~1.5 - 3 total per week) in lieu of dosing. Admittedly only a couple of parameters are tested routinely; after the first uneventful year or so and a LOT of wasted money on testing kits I scaled back to just checking s.g., alkalinity and ph.

Done every few days:

s.g. (maintained at 1.025/1.026)

alkalinity ~3 to 3.5 meg/l (~8-10dkh but hugging the low side this winter)

ph is between 7.9/8 (morning before lights come on) to 8.2 (at night just before lights out)

photoperiod is about 8 hours

Temp is set to 78F... random spot checks w/ IR gun show it to be within .5 of this.

Checked at a local store monthly or so (lo-fi test kits so I generally look for low/OK/high vs specific readings):

magnesium ~1200-1400

calcium mid-to-low 400's

nitrate & phosphate "undetectable"

Tests for copper have also come back negative, both by test kit and running a polyfilter pad for a week. Ditto ammonia.

Forgive the crappy smartphone photography - resizing was unkind as well.

Advice? Commiseration? Constructive contempt, even? All are welcome if it helps me get my tank back on track.

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Hey Bulk,


That's awful! Since 2011 too?


If they are reacting to the water contents- something has them spooked.

Could be anything-right?


Have you had anything on your hands lately that could have washed off in the tank?

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are you using RO/DI for your water changes? There's no way you can have that much algae and not have a nitrate/phosphate issue. And the fact that you do so many water changes makes me think it's your water but I'm not sure. Do you run gfo and carbon?


I've always found that with my snails, I have to acclimate them slowly. Corals I just toss in but not snails. I've had a few die on me as well when I didn't acclimate them properly. I'm sure there are some instances where they do ok if you toss them in but I don't think it's ideal. I feel like those were just the hardy ones that didn't want to die or something.

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Heh, my tank's basically a giant turf scrubber in those "sad" pics - several corals had just kicked the bucket as well as some snails, too. Corner filter unit runs a mix of purigen/seagel changed monthly (normally; I've taken to swapping media every two weeks since things got bad in December/January). The hair algae's gotten better through that and a change of water source + manual removal... 5 minutes with a toothbrush & siphon makes up for the snails that aren't there anymore and don't seem to survive long enough to make a dent otherwise.


I'll upload a newer full-tank shot tonight when/if I get off work.


Larking around on some local home-brewer's forums turned up rumblings that Fulton County PW may have started using chloramines intermittently over the past year and not reported this on their annual WQ reports (and say they don't when called). Originally the tank ran off a Zerowater pitcher (which is only rated to "reduce" these) - I switched to using distilled around the second/third time the corals receded back in December.


Sadly, the recession events kept happening & culminated in the loss of the aforementioned LPS corals mid March.

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As for the contaminated hands leading to a contaminated tank? I don't THINK that's the case - normally I scrub under plain tap water for a minute and dry off prior to doing anything (& use power-free nitrile gloves if reaching into rockwork/moving corals).


Leads to serious alligator hands during the winter.

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I haven't completely ruled dinoflagellates out... but the stuff I pull out manually looks a heck of a lot like hair algae, albeit brown. More stringy & fibrous as opposed to snot-like. Or can dinos grow on hair algae? I suppose one can never assume that only one thing can go wrong at a time. :rolleyes:


Plus, if it were dinoflagellates shouldn't my ceriths be ailing as well? They practically bathe in the stuff and have restored my sandbed to mostly-white in the past month - so I know they're eating it.


Will try for a decent macro shot later tonight. Provided I don't wind up sleeping here at the office - voip phone system cutover not going so well.

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Same sand since startup, about 1/2 - 3/4" deep. I stock a small army of dwarf hermits, porcelain crabs and ceriths to keep it picked clean.


I suppose I could use a stronger siphon at water change time and remove a cup or two a week. Hmmmm what sand to replace it with? I'm assuming "dead" aragonite rinsed in RO would the the way to go - no nitrite spike and it'll become live by being in the tank and mixing with the stuff that's there.


As promised, here's an updated tank shot - most of the HA being held in check except for the completely covered blue hypnea macroalgae start on the front-right glass - took a lot of doing to find it in ATL and I'd rather not toss it. All the same I can NOT figure out how to get this one clean.



So if it's dinoflagellates mixed in, FW dips of anything that can be removed? and can pockets be treated with a syringe full of RO top-off water applied directly to the problem spot with pumps off, or am I looking at draining the tank to get it?

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  • 3 weeks later...

Is it the same sandbed since the tank started? Maybe it's that?



give that sandbed a good cleaning and go from there

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Really looks like most of the dino pics I've seen. Brownish with lots of bubbles that makes the tank look dirty even though maintenance is good.

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A bittersweet update from a week ago: a bunch of factors lined up to form the proverbial Voltron of Fail.


So... say your salt mix is a little on the old side (and already prone to being unstable post-mix). AND your NEW test kit is fubarred (reading consistently 30% high even against included reference! - my alkalinity's actually about 6 and I appear to have been KEEPING it that low for months! :blink: ). AND you've got some water quality issues due to having a fish that's a known challenge to keep in a smaller tank. AND an old-but-shallow sandbed.


Then you MIGHT wind up with an impending dinoflagellate bloom (pocket micrososcope on order to take diagnosis out of realm of "completely educated guess") and a tank that looks much like the "sad" photos above.


I've been dosing 1ml of Aquavitro 8.4 in with the twice-daily top off shot to get the alkalinity back into the happy range and to elevate the PH somewhat over the last 5 days. Tank now looks like this:




Zoas opening back up, most of the snails have started moving again, stringy bubbly brown "hair algae" (again, likely dinos) greatly receded. Fingers crossed, feel like a complete tool. :rolleyes:

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