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algae bloom in the cycle - is my reasoning correct?


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Hi all,


First I'd like to say that I have been reading a lot on this site and these forums and the information contained here is great (and overwhelming).


I do have a few questions right now tho and would like input from more experienced reefers to check if my reasoning is correct.


The situation:

I started my cycle 9 days ago and over the past few days I have seen an explosion of algae on my LR, as you can see in this image (actinics were off to show accurate color):




Currently I have the following values:

salinity 1.025

Ph between 8 & 8.5 (testkit only has .5 increments :( )

nitrite: 0 or undetectable

ammonia: 0 or undetectable

nitrates: 13.5

phosphates: 1.0


I did a test on the mixed water prior to filling and phosphates for my new mix are 0 or undetectable.

The LR I believe was cured when I bought it as the cycle went rather quickly to the nitrate stage.

For the moment I am using distilled water to make my saltwater mix & do my topoffs, a RO/DI system is under consideration for later.


The tank contains 15 liters of water and 2.2 kg of live rock, so just a hair under 4 gallons and 4.8 pounds of LR. There is no sandbed yet.

For reference, this is the tank: http://www.aquael.pl/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=168&Itemid=314〈=en (it's the 20 liter version)


I hope this info gives a clear picture so now for my questions :D

Am I correct in my identification that these are diatoms?

As my water tested 0 for phosphates prior to filling I suspect my LR is leaking phosphates, am I correct?

If the LR is leaking phosphates would I be right in my reasoning that very large waterchanges weekly would be the best route to go until this stops?

Or would it be more advisable to wait until the current algae bloom starts to die off after consuming the nutrients in there now?

I also figure I should hold off with a CUC until the phosphate issue is resolved?


I have comitted myself to take the slow and steady route to get this tank where I want it, if this means no corals for another couple of months, so be it.


Anyway, that's it for now.



forgot to add a few things

I will eventually add a sandbed but it will be dry sand, not live sand. So I will wait to add that until after the phosphate issue and initial algae blooms have passed.

As I won't have a refugium I was considering adding some decorative macro algae like dragons breath, again I was planning to wait until the phosphate issue is resolved as I don't want to be getting false readings due to the macro.


My stocking plans are to keep zoas & a ric or two. No fish. Once the tank had time to establish itself with corals I plan to add a few sexy shrimp (this would be after 6 months at least, possibly between 9 and 12 months).

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A little followup.

This weekend saw the start of slowly diminishing diatoms and a rise of hair algea (some green, some brown/reddish).

I restested my values, phosphate was the same as before at 1mg/l and nitrate was slightly up to around 20ppm. Ammonia and nitrite were both at 0 or undetectable (as they have been since day 4 or so).


Today I did a 10 liter water change, about 2/3 of the water volume in the tank. I siphoned up what I could in ways of debris and replaced the filter floss (this is the only thing in my filter currently).

Prior to adding the water I did a control test of my new saltwater mix: phosphates undetectable or 0.


About an hour after this change, running the pump full blast to ensure the water circulated & mixed well, I retested phosphates and nitrates, coming up with the following values:

-phosphate: between .25 & .50 mg/l

-nitrate: close to but under the 12.5ppm value of my testkit


I am starting to think my previous post was due to an attack of doubt after 'overreading'. I think my zeal to get as much information in my head as possible backfired on me.

I still want to determine if my LR is the source of my phosphates tho, I will test again near the end of the week and see what my levels are at.


I suspect that if it is leaking I should see values rise to 1 again? At least this is the impression I get after reading up on the subject.

If they are the same as today (or lower if those algae do their job for once) I guess I should do another WC (maybe not as large as todays) and could start looking out for a CUC?


Sorry if I seem a bit paranoid about phosphates and appear uncertain in general, I do a lot of reading believe me, but this is my first foray in saltwater and I guess my confidence is a bit on the low side.


I do have some experience in freshwater, started my first tank 16 or 17 years ago and the current one has been up and running for 4, quite stable too and the girlfriend loves it, I refer to it as her private TV. Saltwater is something else ofcourse but I figured that after nearly a decade of wanting to keep coral it was time to just go for it.


And now, back to reading :D

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Hi! If your tank is still cycling, I wouldn't worry too much about the phosphates - yet.


What kind of mechanical/chemical filtration are you running in addition to your biofiltration? When your cycle ends, you can add activated carbon (or something of your choice) and GFO (or another phosphate-absorbing medium) to remove waste, including phosphates. Phosguard and GFO are two pretty common ones. Many people with small tanks find that chemi-pure elite functions effectively as both, as it contains activated carbon and GFO, and will suit their needs.


I'd wait until your cycle is complete, then worry about everything. Your tank will go through the "uglies" as it adjusts to the new bioloads you add. If you want sand, I would add it now, rather than later.

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Thank you for your input and advice, it's much appreciated.


Currently there is only filter floss as mechanical filtration, I just want to trap anything that gets sucked up (like bits of algae that get loose) so it doesn't go back in the tank again. Nothing chemical yet as I want the values I'm seeing to be as true as possible.


I've measured nothing but nitrates for about 2 weeks now (I went to nitrates ridiculously quickly) and as diatoms are starting to regress I believe I'm nearing the end stage of the startup cycle, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong ofcourse, but from what I've been reading I am around the point many seem to consider adding their first CUC members.


As for added bioloads, the only one in the near future would be a small CUC. I'm just trying to decide if I should add them soon or wait until the algae starve off completely.

I have decided on no fish in this one and while I do intend to get some sexy shrimp down the road I don't want to add these in a very immature tank, my original timeframe plan for these is at least 6 months and possibly even later.


I'm probably staring myself a bit blind on my phosphate value, true. I just want to know where they come from, better to know the cause than keep fixing the symptoms in my opinion. Most likely it's just from the initial die off and I'm worrying over nothing.


I'd love to add the sandbed, mainly for estetic reasons as a barebottom tank looks, I don't know.. incomplete to me?

I'll sleep on it and see what I do.


I will update at the end of the week with the new values, which should give more clarity about what is happening and where to go from there.


Should I decide to add the sand I'll upload a FTS as well, it would be nice to have a starting point on here that I can look back on later.

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Partially Submerged

The parameters don't suggest there is actually much of a cycle happening, which is fine since you have LR and as long as you add livestock very, very slowly.


As tibbsy07 said, nitrates and phosphates are nothing to worry about yet. You can always grow some nice macroalgae in the tank or in a refugium later on. Plus nice water changes, of course.


Just for future consideration: In a tank this small, you should consider weekly total water changes. If have a 3g/11.something liter tank, and replace about 90% every weekend (I leave a little water at the bottom and in the filter). It's just a great reset, which is important in these small tanks. I could probably get by doing it every two weeks, but I am not going to risk it. I have no significant algae, corals are happy, everything else is happy, and I haven't measured any parameters other than specific gravity and temperature in months.

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Well, the plan is to introduce a small CUC first, maybe 2 or 3 (max) snails to start (small ones) and then wait and see how that goes.

Macro algae are planned as well, I was thinking dragons breath, for both display and nutrient export purposes.

This will be either this weekend (I'm running empty 3 weeks at that point) or the week after.


edit: I feel this is rushing a bit but as you said there doesn't seem to be much of a cycle going on, I believe the rock was cured and that I experienced a mini cycle only.

I could drop in some ammonia and force a harder cycle but I am planning on very little livestock so I would expect another bacteria die off and a new mini cycle as the planned livestock will not produce enough ammonia to sustain bigger bacteria colonies.


Then, if all goes well with that I planned to put in 2 small zoa frags and see how that goes before I would consider adding more coral.

I figured about 3 weeks of evaluation with only macro and CUC before adding the first frags? Then another 4 weeks of evaluating with only the 2 frags in before adding one or two more?


I will be staying with zoas (top and middle of the rock) and a ricordea or two (bottom of the rock).

I figured 4 or 5 (max) zoa frags, spaced well enough apart and 2 rics so as to give them enough room to grow out in the future.


The above is mainly an illustration of how I am planning to proceed, timeframes are not set in stone and may well be prolonged.

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Meh, definately overloaded my brain with too much reading and allowed myself to get spooked.

Values indicate the LR isn't leaking phosphates so in went the (dead) sand.

Most LFS I know of only stock turbos (too large for my tank I feel) and no macro algae but I got pointed to another store by a coworker. Store owner there told me had some dwarf ceriths so I figured I'd add 5 of them and they also stocked red macros so I picked that up up too.


Ofcourse, it's only after adding this that I realised I should have done a few days blackout to starve the algae already present in the tank prior to adding the macro. Another 'doh!' moment right there.


Anyway I'll be running for a weeks with this and keep to a standard maintenance shedule so I can evaluate things as they are and determine for what chemical filtration I will be needing after that.

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My little CUC has been grazing away at the algae and they are slowly regressing, I'm also seeing drops in nitrate & phosphate as well.


I've also noticed a few interesting guests this week.

Please excuse the postage stamp size, but my lens (and the person operating the camera) is bad at macro shots and these are 100% crops slightly resized down to lessen blur-o-vision.


What I believe to be a brittle star attempting to hide:


This guy is usually in hiding, above is the only time I have seen him so far.


A tube worm sitting right in front of the tank, one of three in total that I found


I really like this litte guy, hope he stays alive.


I've also seen 2 little shrimp, they are about 1/4 or 1/5th of an inch, transparant and quick. Haven't been able to photograph these guys... yet.



And here's a 'FTS' (the tank is higher than it is wide or deep so I just took a shot of the contents, there is about 3 inches of water still above the top of the macro)



I need to do something about the little airbubbles, I'll probably raise the water a bit higher when I do a WC this sunday which should lessen them. The filter works via an overflow/waterfall system to get water back in the tank.

I'm leaving the diatoms on the side windows tho as my snails enjoy them thoroughly and I don't want to steal their lunch ;)


My nimble nano also arrived this week so I can clean in the narrower areas where my old mag float can't go.


This is it for photos for the next few weeks, if all goes well the only change will be less algae anyway.

Thanks for looking.

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