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Dinoflagellates - Who's beat them?

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Nano_Addict

Hey all!  I've been struggling with a dino outbreak for going on two months now.  I've mostly been trying to be diligent about water changes and maintaining proper parameters, but things are not improving and I'm starting to see coral losses.  

 

Basically, i'm looking for suggestions on what the community has done to successfully treat their tanks.  I know there's rarely a silver bullet in situations like this, but I'm not even sure where to start.  Some resources online say add nutrients, others says to remove nutrients. 

 

Thanks for the help!

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Clown79

Waterchanges and low nutrients are the worst for dino's.

 

They feed off the extra elements in new water.

 

Main cause of dino's: lack of nutrients and biodiversity.

 

I have beat them twice.

 

@Tamberav has beat them numerous times too.

 

I documented what I did on my lagoon journal to beat them. It's a lengthy process but gone after a month.

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MrObscura

I beat them. Had them a few months ago. I dirtied up the tank real good, feeding heavy daily for 3 weeks without cleaning the glass or doing a waterchange. By the time I cleaned the glass to get a look in the tank dinos were completely gone and corals looked better than ever. 

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Tamberav
10 hours ago, Nano_Addict said:

Hey all!  I've been struggling with a dino outbreak for going on two months now.  I've mostly been trying to be diligent about water changes and maintaining proper parameters, but things are not improving and I'm starting to see coral losses.  

 

Basically, i'm looking for suggestions on what the community has done to successfully treat their tanks.  I know there's rarely a silver bullet in situations like this, but I'm not even sure where to start.  Some resources online say add nutrients, others says to remove nutrients. 

 

Thanks for the help!

 

Depends on the species of dino. There is no magic bullet but ID'ing the type you have would be the first step if you are able. They sell 10-15 dollar toy microscopes on amazon that would get the job done. 

 

I had Ostreopsis this time around. I kept doing regular maintenance and water changes but brought nutrients up with seachems bottled products, used DIY coral snow so the skimmer could pick them up, and eventually UV eradicated the last remaining strands. My Ostreopsis was very toxic to corals and it goes into the water column at night (disappears) unlike some other types of dino. This is why I used coral snow/manual removal and UV to attack this type. 

 

I had another type years ago but not sure of the ID. That one was harder to deal with as it stayed on the rocks. I did multiple blackouts and no water changes, I did siphon it out into a fine sock/floss and replaced the water. It got weaker and weaker from the blackouts and lack of water changes and a pH spike was the final nail in its coffin that time. 

 

My guess is your water is too clean since it sounds like you are on top of maintenance. I would test nitrate and PO4 with GOOD test kits. 

 

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ninjamyst

I beat them after figuring out the right actions to take.  Like others have said, you have to do the OPPOSITE of what you think you should do.

  • Get nitrate up to at least 2ppm.  It is better to dose nitrate directly rather than overfeeding.  Look into stump remover as a nitrate source.
  • Manually remove as much as you can with toothbrush, siphon, etc.
  • DON'T try to add a lot of CUC because dino may release toxin and kill your CUC slowly
  • BE PATIENT.  It's not going to disappear overnight.  It will take a few weeks, maybe even months.  You may get other nuisance algae like GHA / cyano.  But it's better than dino.  
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lizzyann

UV and blackout followed by adding extra bacteria, phytoplankton, and pods did it for me first time around. In the past week or two they started coming back after the tank was fed less and off routine for a couple weeks. Ostreopsis both times, I thiiiink.

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Nano sapiens
16 hours ago, Tamberav said:

 

Depends on the species of dino...

 

True.  Many have experience with one or maybe a couple types of dinoflagellate, but very few (if any) have dealt with them all

 

I have had them three times in the 11 years of my 12g nano and have just about eliminated this last episode.  Each time, I can attribute the bloom to something traumatic that happened to the system such as too many fish removed all at once, overly vigorous cleanings/removal of too much detritus/bacteria, removal of too much live rock at one time, etc. 

 

Adding nutrients is typically the way to reduce/eliminate them.  I do it through increased feeding, some add NO3 and or PO4 directly.  Takes time, but you can beat them if you are patient.  One 'quick'n'dirty' method I use to determine if increased feeding is the right way to go is to not feed the aquarium for a few days.  If the dino bloom is steady or gets worse, then that's an indicator that increased nutrients are quite likely needed. 

 

Of interest is that running very low PO4 and NO3 ('undetectable' or nearly so with good grade test kits) doesn't necessarily mean the aquarium will get dinos.  Of importance is the total amount of nutrients being utilized/processed at any one time in the system (the bacteria, archaea, fungus, corals and other organisms can utilize/process/sequester any added nutrients very quickly and remove all but traces from the water column).  If you feed heavily and don't use efficient nutrient removal techniques, the test kits can show very low nutrient levels in the water column even though the total system itself is actually nutrient rich.  This is how my nano aquarium normally runs (undetectable (or nearly so) PO4 and ~1-2 ppm NO3) and dinos are typically not visible.  But if my overall system nutrient levels drop substantially...then I'll get dino blooms.

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vegasgundog

Years ago when I started my biocube 29g I had them. Ten day black out finally worked. 

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mcarroll

Agreed with others that we need more info in order to give good advice.  Tank history, including all recent test results (especially for phosphates and nitrates) and a photo or two would all be of great use.  :-)

 

The pictures will (among other things) give is a sense for how severe your bloom is.

 

The one clue you offered...

 

10 hours ago, Nano_Addict said:

I'm starting to see coral losses.  

...suggests two things (assuming you DO actually have dino's):

  1. Toxins may be starting to become a factor.  Until you're sure that's not the case I would run a 1/4 dose of activated carbon and change it weekly.
  2. Phosphates are at zero.  Dosing phosphates up to 0.10 ppm would provide immediate relief/stop damage to your corals (and be otherwise harmless). 

#2 is actually a double-whammy. 

 

Firstly, having no dissolved phosphates available is directly harmful to your coral's well being (and anything else photosynthetic). 

 

Secondly, it is also a key factor in causing the dino's to begin blooming/toxin production. 

 

Generally, here's the scenario:

  • Once dino's begin to starve for phosphates (which they are terrible at competing for) they will be provoked to switch from photosynthesis to heterotrophism for energy and nutrients. 
  • Photosynthetic apparatus get's re-purposed toward mucus production, which provides shade/reduces photo-damage AND serves as an excellent primary carrier for toxins.  (Toxins are also a byproduct of their photosynthetic apparatus.)  (Their mucus has other important roles too.)
  • If a bloom progresses to its "tipping point" then you'll have to take a stronger corrective action on adding nutrients.

..but then we still want to confirm what's going on before jumping to conclusions.  :-)

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thecoralbeauty

I beat them- low nutrients and lack of biodiversity due to cleaning out my gross sump sludge caused them, and adding macro algae drove my nutrients to 0. (Even after having my tank up and stable for over three years.)

 

Removed the macro algae but kept the carbon for toxin absorption. Dosed phyto (still do as a precaution), added as many different species of pods as i could find, added more surface area (bright well brick) and species of bacteria (different bottles of bacteria/different brands, added sand from other reefer's tanks) let my nitrate and phos rise to 40 and 1, respectively. Filter socks and manually blowing off the rocks to keep them from smothering any corals. 

 

3 day blackout also helped me get the upper hand- but this was more of a time-buyer than an actual solution. 

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mcarroll
4 hours ago, thecoralbeauty said:

my gross sump sludge

Good advice on the post, BTW.  

 

Dosing straight phosphates and nitrates rather than phytoplankton is the only way you could have been more direct in your approach.  Phyto is less direct and increases the magnitude of algae growth post-dinos and can even cause an initial spike in dino growth in some situations, but obviously it can work!  🙂 

 

With dosing anyone can easily target the minimum phosphate and nitrate levels to effect a "treatment" such as it is.   Maintaining >0.10 ppm phosphates seems to be the "right level" to get past a tough outbreak AND grow some healthy algae to replace it.  Nitrates are far less crucial – maintain >5-10 ppm for good results.  (If you understand the basic idea of composting in your garden, you'll get the basic ideas in this article:  The role of nutrients in decomposition of a thecate dinoflagellate  A lot of testing was done (not by me) to arrive at the phosphate and nitrate levels specified, BTW.)

 

Is it safe to assume you were exaggerating on that "sump sludge" description and that you just removed an accumulation of detritus?  If there was anything down there grosser than that, there was (is?) something wrong with your system. 😉

 

Assuming detritus...

 

And not to make a mountain out of a mole-hill or anything....but detritus is interesting.  At least to me.  🙂

 

I think many folks would be surprised to find out how crucial detritus is to a healthy reef.  (Lots of articles in this search, for example: https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=detritus+reef)

 

As you discovered with your experience, it's actually a very important source of phosphates, micronutrients – and perhaps most importantly, an enormous habitat for microbial diversity.

 

The negative things that most people associate with it aren't really the fault of the detritus! 🙂  

 

There's usually a founding issue of overcrowding, overfeeding, lack of system maintenance, rushing a setup, improper setup, etc, that actually causes the "problems".  

 

Detritus is a bystander in all those situations, not a cause.  

 

Different topic, but algae is another bystander that takes a lot of blame for mostly those same issues.  

 

There's always a founding issue with "algae problems" too, but look how so many folks fear algae like it's the boogeyman or smallpox or something.  This fear is usually most-pronounced in newbs.  Experience, if enough is allowed to accumulate, necessarily softens that stance over time. 😉

 

There can be cases where you do need to clean out some detritus just like there are cases where you need to remove some algae.

 

Detritus and algae get removed from real reefs too, after all.  Almost all of it.

 

But that doesn't mean the algae or detritus was a problem.  

 

Healthy reefs have both algae and detritus – couldn't live without them.  

 

(They certainly aren't villains in the story as they are often made out to be. :D)

 

BTW, the best way I've found to deal with detritus is to have enough flow everywhere to keep it from settling.  That includes the sump.  

 

I think the ultra-soft-flow pumps out these days make that difficult and are somewhat part of the problem...it takes a certain amount of force to lift a piece of detritus against gravity and many of these pumps don't generate that much even at peak output.  "Wide flow" = "Bad IMO" becuase of this.  Tunze nanostreams and seio prop pumps work well, just to give an idea as to what WILL do the job.  (Key points in this article:  Function of Funnel-Shaped Coral Growth in a High-Sedimentation Environment)

 

That makes detritus perpetually-available coral food (sometimes even fish food) rather than an eyesore and a maintenance item.

 

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Nano sapiens
13 hours ago, mcarroll said:

Good advice on the post, BTW.  

 

Dosing straight phosphates and nitrates rather than phytoplankton is the only way you could have been more direct in your approach.  Phyto is less direct and increases the magnitude of algae growth post-dinos and can even cause an initial spike in dino growth in some situations, but obviously it can work!  :-) 

 

With dosing anyone can easily target the minimum phosphate and nitrate levels to effect a "treatment" such as it is.   Maintaining >0.10 ppm phosphates seems to be the "right level" to get past a tough outbreak AND grow some healthy algae to replace it.  Nitrates are far less crucial – maintain >5-10 ppm for good results.  (If you understand the basic idea of composting in your garden, you'll get the basic ideas in this article:  The role of nutrients in decomposition of a thecate dinoflagellate  A lot of testing was done (not by me) to arrive at the phosphate and nitrate levels specified, BTW.)

 

Is it safe to assume you were exaggerating on that "sump sludge" description and that you just removed an accumulation of detritus?  If there was anything down there grosser than that, there was (is?) something wrong with your system. 😉

 

Assuming detritus...

 

And not to make a mountain out of a mole-hill or anything....but detritus is interesting.  At least to me.  :-)

 

I think many folks would be surprised to find out how crucial detritus is to a healthy reef.  (Lots of articles in this search, for example: https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=detritus+reef)

 

As you discovered with your experience, it's actually a very important source of phosphates, micronutrients – and perhaps most importantly, an enormous habitat for microbial diversity.

 

The negative things that most people associate with it aren't really the fault of the detritus!  :-)  

 

There's usually a founding issue of overcrowding, overfeeding, lack of system maintenance, rushing a setup, improper setup, etc, that actually causes the "problems".  

 

Detritus is a bystander in all those situations, not a cause.  

 

Different topic, but algae is another bystander that takes a lot of blame for mostly those same issues.  

 

There's always a founding issue with "algae problems" too, but look how so many folks fear algae like it's the boogeyman or smallpox or something.  This fear is usually most-pronounced in newbs.  Experience, if enough is allowed to accumulate, necessarily softens that stance over time. 😉

 

There can be cases where you do need to clean out some detritus just like there are cases where you need to remove some algae.

 

Detritus and algae get removed from real reefs too, after all.  Almost all of it.

 

But that doesn't mean the algae or detritus was a problem.  

 

Healthy reefs have both algae and detritus – couldn't live without them.  

 

(They certainly aren't villains in the story as they are often made out to be. :D)

 

BTW, the best way I've found to deal with detritus is to have enough flow everywhere to keep it from settling.  That includes the sump.  

 

I think the ultra-soft-flow pumps out these days make that difficult and are somewhat part of the problem...it takes a certain amount of force to lift a piece of detritus against gravity and most of these pumps don't generate that much even at peak output.  "Wide flow" = "Bad IMO" becuase of this.  Tunze nanostreams and seio prop pumps work well, just to give an idea as to what WILL do the job.  (Key points in this article:  Function of Funnel-Shaped Coral Growth in a High-Sedimentation Environment)

 

That makes detritus perpetually-available coral food (sometimes even fish food) rather than an eyesore and a maintenance item.

 

Good advise and I agree with the general ideas. 

 

As is typical in reef keeping, there are often different ways to tackle similar problems.  I use a somewhat different protocol to reduce and eliminate a dino bloom that largely avoids 'the uglies' and highly elevated PO4 levels, but that's because I'm old school and have stupid amounts of patience  😉

 

 

Detritus:  As in most things reef related, too much of anything can be a problem and the same goes for detritus.  It used to be quite common back-in-the-day for reef aquaria to develop thick detrital deposits that blocked advective flow to the resident substrate bacteria (inefficient nitrogen cycling).  This was largely due to insufficient flow which is less of an issue today since the importance of proper flow is much more widely appreciated. 

 

A certain amount of detritus is indeed healthy for a reef aquarium.

 

 

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SeaFurn
15 hours ago, Nano sapiens said:

Of importance is the total amount of nutrients being utilized/processed at any one time in the system (the bacteria, archaea, fungus, corals and other organisms can utilize/process/sequester any added nutrients very quickly and remove all but traces from the water column).

Liked your post but I’m not sure I understand this part. If the organisms you mentioned are efficient at removing nutrients from the water column and hence you get readings of zero when you test, where else would there be nutrients the system to still make it nutrient rich? 

 

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Nano sapiens
1 hour ago, SeaFurn said:

Liked your post but I’m not sure I understand this part. If the organisms you mentioned are efficient at removing nutrients from the water column and hence you get readings of zero when you test, where else would there be nutrients the system to still make it nutrient rich? 

 

An aquarium that has high nutrient input and doesn't employ continuous highly efficient nutrient removal systems can be thought of as 'nutrient rich' as the nutrients are taken up continuously by the organisms fueling respiration, reproduction, predation, etc. (since added nutrients don't disappear, they can be incorporated into the life in a system and/or exported via various means).   As hobbyists, we tend to think in terms of nutrients mainly as what we can measure in the water column (PO4 and NO3), and while this is partially correct and can be substantial in some systems, it's only a portion of a system's total 'nutrient pool'.

 

For example, there are many reef systems that can process a great deal of added nutrients very effectively without continuous nutrient export/sequestration tools such as skimmers, GAC, GFO, etc.  These are typically mature systems, often with a relatively high volume of biomass to water volume and some run very low PO4 and NO3 levels.  Just means that these two nutrients are at or below the system's utilization levels for these particular substances (if below utilization levels by 'X' amount (different for each individual system), then that's when dinos can proliferate).  The recommendation to boost PO4 levels to 0.1 is basically a sure fire way to make sure that other resident organisms have enough PO4 to outcompete the dinos.

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gwillings

No matter what advice is given, it will not help until you have identified what type of dino's you have. Ostreopsis is one of the hardest to get rid of, and I fought it twice in a BC32. First time, I did a blackout for a week, that is nothing but a band aid. To properly fight ostreopsis you have to not do water changes, and siphoning will do nothing as the dinos will pass through just about everything you use to filter them out. A UV sterilizer will kill them. But, generally with any dino's you are going to have to raise your phos and nitrate levels. Stump removed and seachem phosphate will raise them both. The success I had beating them was due to mcarroll.

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Clown79
11 minutes ago, gwillings said:

No matter what advice is given, it will not help until you have identified what type of dino's you have. Ostreopsis is one of the hardest to get rid of, and I fought it twice in a BC32. First time, I did a blackout for a week, that is nothing but a band aid. To properly fight ostreopsis you have to not do water changes, and siphoning will do nothing as the dinos will pass through just about everything you use to filter them out. A UV sterilizer will kill them. But, generally with any dino's you are going to have to raise your phos and nitrate levels. Stump removed and seachem phosphate will raise them both. The success I had beating them was due to mcarroll.

I had ostreopsis.

 

I manually sucked them out daily into a filter sock, replacing the water into my tank

 

No waterchanges for a month

 

Cut photo period to 7 hrs

 

Added copepods and rotifers

 

Started dosing phytoplankton every other day

 

Fed coral food daily

 

Once I started the pods and phyto, they started dying off immediately. Before that, all else was a bandaid.

 

 

Got my nitrates to 5 and phos to 0.10

 

Dino's gone, clean tank. No additional algae.

 

Phyto dosing is not good if you don't have anything using it, then it becomes a nutrient issue.

When you dose pods, they feed off the phyto, it's what keeps them producing as well.

 

Corals seem to love it too.

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Nano_Addict

Thanks for all the replies!  I'm going to get some current levels and a photo and post them soon.  It's definitely counter-intuitive regarding the nutrient levels, but it very well could be the case.  Whenever I test for nitrate or phosphate, they come back as around 2.5 and 0 respectively.  I'm running some activated carbon in the back chambers, but it hasn't been changed in a few weeks.  Maybe I'll swap out one of the pouches to help combat some of the toxins the dinos can put off.  I'm also going to put in an order for some pods and phyto and probably send in a triton test kit, just to make sure there's nothing else seriously off in the tank.

 

Additionally, some of the losses I'm seeing could be from an incident about two weeks ago where my alk got out of whack.  One of my dosers ran dry while I was on vacation and the alk dipped to 5.5 from 8.3.... definite possibility to stress out sps.

 

Thanks again everyone, and i'll be back with some more details soon! 

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mcarroll
3 hours ago, Nano_Addict said:

Additionally, some of the losses I'm seeing could be from an incident about two weeks ago where my alk got out of whack.  One of my dosers ran dry while I was on vacation and the alk dipped to 5.5 from 8.3.... definite possibility to stress out sps.

That's a certainty rather than a possibility...recovery can take months and some sensitive corals might succumb and die.  

 

Lack of available phosphates in that case would prevent or delay recovery and possibly even cause more damage.

 

Get photos and some proof on the dino angle.  Until then it sounds like you really just have a stability issue and lack of phosphates.

 

For this reason I would start dosing phosphates asap.  I would test and dose daily until you stop seeing ultra low levels.  >0.03 ppm should be your minimum.

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gwillings

At this time, I am no longer running a biocube 32, I have a 55 gallon up and running and planning on moving to a 150 within the next year. 

Congrats on beating dinos CLown79.

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Nano_Addict

Hey all, back with another update.  Still battling...

 

I've added pods to the tank, started dosing phyto to keep them fed and upped my overall feeding of the tank, and haven't done a water change in about 4 weeks... still no change.  Parameters have been stable, but nitrates and phosphates are at zero according to the salifert test kits.  Triton test kit didn't show much, but does seem to contradict the salifert on the phosphate, if I'm understanding it correctly.  Other than that some low iodine which i'm getting a supplement and test kit for soon, results are in the pictures below.

 

As for next steps, I'm not really sure.  I ordered the toy microscope so I can identify the monster I'm fighting, that should at least give me a little more direction.  Other than that, the plan is to just keep everything as stable as possible and potentially start dosing nitrates and phosphates.  Any recommendations on some brands or solutions to buy for this?

 

Thanks again for all the help.

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mcarroll

0.03 ppm can be hard to discern on most test kits. 

 

Try filling a second vial with only tank water (similar depth as the test vial) and comparing it to the Salifert test vial.  Tank water is your zero reference....looking at tank water side-by side with the test water will usually make any slight color difference more apparent.

 

Use the same trick with your nitrate test if it's hard to read too.  (Mine is.)

 

Show us some pics when the scope gets here!

 

Seachem and Brightwell make additives for N and P that should be easy to find.

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Tamberav

@Nano_Addict

 

Did you ever post pictures of it? Does it go away or mostly go away at night?

 

If it's Ostreopsis....UV will kill it real fast.

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Nano_Addict
7 hours ago, mcarroll said:

0.03 ppm can be hard to discern on most test kits. 

 

Try filling a second vial with only tank water (similar depth as the test vial) and comparing it to the Salifert test vial.  Tank water is your zero reference....looking at tank water side-by side with the test water will usually make any slight color difference more apparent.

 

Use the same trick with your nitrate test if it's hard to read too.  (Mine is.)

 

Show us some pics when the scope gets here!

 

Seachem and Brightwell make additives for N and P that should be easy to find.

Great idea comparing to the actual tank water.  I'll try that next time.

 

6 hours ago, Tamberav said:

@Nano_Addict

 

Did you ever post pictures of it? Does it go away or mostly go away at night?

 

If it's Ostreopsis....UV will kill it real fast.

I haven't posted any pictures because it's almost too depressing to photograph the tank at this point.  I'll snap one just for reference soon.  I'd say about half disappears at night.  The stuff that's on the sand mostly stays, but the rocks look almost clean by morning.

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lizzyann

Ditto what Tamberav said, definitely try UV if you haven't yet. I think it was the strongest factor in getting mine knocked back. Mine was ostreopsis as well though, some may not be as susceptible to UV.

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