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DyloHeath

High Phosphates? Need some help.

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DyloHeath

My phosphates in my nano tank have consistently stayed between 0.25 and 0.5, now that I'm adding SPS to my tank I need to take control of the problem.

 

My tank is about 12 months old.

I just can't seem to figure out what is causing it.

I use salifert tests for everything.

 

My nitrates are 0

I do a weekly water change of 20% using red coral pro salt. While cleaning the top layer of sand (I've only just started cleaning the top layer)

I've tried feeding less. (Cleaning mysis, and less pellets). Instead of every day, its every other day.

I have a refugium mod on my HOB filter with chaeto growing like crazy

I've tested my RO water for phosphates, has 0

 

I've notice my sand has either diatoms or cyano (images attached), and the only place I can see hair algae is on the end of the HOB filter, maybe 3 strands at max. Not growing in main display tank.

 

I purchased a skimmer yesterday (still needs to break in). Might help a bit with leftover organics.

 

I can't seem to figure how to fix this, I would prefer to find the source than relying on GFO, etc. I dont have a sump so everything will need to be a hang on type.

 

Any suggestions would be great.

 

Thanks

 

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seabass

SPS doesn't necessarily require low nutrient levels.

 

Phosphate comes from organics (like from food).  My guess is that your sand bed is full of organics (probably the cause of the cyano).

 

Inorganic phosphate probably isn't being fully consumed due to the lack of nitrate in your water.  The lack of nitrate becomes a limiting factor, reducing the uptake of phosphate.

 

In addition to your skimmer, I would consider:

  • fully cleaning your sand bed
  • possibly using activated carbon filter media (to remove organics from the water column)
  • dosing nitrate to encourage more phosphate uptake

 

I think you have more of an organics problem than a phosphate problem.  Reduction of organics and increase of nitrate may be the key.

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DyloHeath
10 hours ago, seabass said:

SPS doesn't necessarily require low nutrient levels.

 

Phosphate comes from organics (like from food).  My guess is that your sand bed is full of organics (probably the cause of the cyano).

 

Inorganic phosphate probably isn't being fully consumed due to the lack of nitrate in your water.  The lack of nitrate becomes a limiting factor, reducing the uptake of phosphate.

 

In addition to your skimmer, I would consider:

  • fully cleaning your sand bed
  • possibly using activated carbon filter media (to remove organics from the water column)
  • dosing nitrate to encourage more phosphate uptake

 

I think you have more of an organics problem than a phosphate problem.  Reduction of organics and increase of nitrate may be the key.

Thanks for the reply.

 

I currently have activated carbon in my HOB filter, but I might not be using enough.

 

I have a feeling the problem revolves around my sand.

 

Isn't fully cleaning the sand bed risky in this situation. I haven't touched the lower layers of the sand in almost a year, and I know the lower layer is full of nasty surprises. Do you have any suggestions on cleaning the sand?

 

I think I'll dose some nitrate once my skimmer properly breaks in, and see how that goes.

 

And what are your thoughts on carbon dosing with vinegar or vodka?

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Garf

I don't think that sand bed is too deep, there shouldn't be the anaerobic bad stuff that can really harm things. But still, I'd clean the sand bed a section at a time, turkey baster blast off the rocks and corals, and do your normal water change. The next week, repeat, cleaning the other section. How many gallons is your tank? How many fish? You may want to reduce the WC to 10% and skip a week. 

 

Also, you may want to hold off on the skimmer for now.  I wouldn't dose anything yet till you get things more in balance. 

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DyloHeath
5 minutes ago, Garf said:

I don't think that sand bed is too deep, there shouldn't be the anaerobic bad stuff that can really harm things. But still, I'd clean the sand bed a section at a time, turkey baster blast off the rocks and corals, and do your normal water change. The next week, repeat, cleaning the other section. How many gallons is your tank? How many fish? You may want to reduce the WC to 10% and skip a week. 

 

Also, you may want to hold off on the skimmer for now.  I wouldn't dose anything yet till you get things more in balance. 

Okay good to know. Sandbed is about 1.5 - 2 inches.

 

By cleaning the sand are you talking about using a vac or using a turkey baster for the top layer of sand?

 

My tank is only 10 gallons, 1 fish (royal dottyback).

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ninjamyst

phosphate is necessary and shouldnt be 0.  My SPS always suffer if both phosphate and nitrate drop to 0.  SPS care more about flow and lighting with stable alk and calcium.  You should be stirring your sand often and vacuuming it during water change.  

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DyloHeath
2 minutes ago, ninjamyst said:

phosphate is necessary and shouldnt be 0.  My SPS always suffer if both phosphate and nitrate drop to 0.  SPS care more about flow and lighting with stable alk and calcium.  You should be stirring your sand often and vacuuming it during water change.  

I've only just started to stir the top layer of my sand, I will slowly work towards vacuuming based on the posts here.

 

Do you stir your sand throughout the week without a water change?

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Garf
6 minutes ago, DyloHeath said:

Okay good to know. Sandbed is about 1.5 - 2 inches.

 

By cleaning the sand are you talking about using a vac or using a turkey baster for the top layer of sand?

 

My tank is only 10 gallons, 1 fish (royal dottyback).

Vac it. 

 

And i'd look into flow also, the stuff on the sand can be because of a dead spot. plus, you will need flow with sps

 

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Garf
2 minutes ago, DyloHeath said:

I've only just started to stir the top layer of my sand, I will slowly work towards vacuuming based on the posts here.

 

Do you stir your sand throughout the week without a water change?

I am using a turkey baster to stir up the sand (not blowing it, but digging in and squeezing so i create mounds/craters) usually before a water change, and perhaps in between, usually on a day when the filter sock is to be changed (I change every two days). 

 

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DyloHeath
14 minutes ago, Garf said:

Vac it. 

 

And i'd look into flow also, the stuff on the sand can be because of a dead spot. plus, you will need flow with sps

 

I recently added a 240 GPH wavemaker into the tank, along with the HOB filter flow. I think this is already helping a bit. Maybe more flow?

10 minutes ago, Garf said:

I am using a turkey baster to stir up the sand (not blowing it, but digging in and squeezing so i create mounds/craters) usually before a water change, and perhaps in between, usually on a day when the filter sock is to be changed (I change every two days). 

 

Okay thats a good idea, I'll start with that. I'll order a vac too

 

What vac do you use?

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seabass
5 hours ago, DyloHeath said:

And what are your thoughts on carbon dosing with vinegar or vodka?

IMO, I feel it's typically a bad idea (especially to correct for lack of sand bed maintenance).  It complicates things; plus ultra low nutrients can cause other issues in itself.

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DyloHeath

Ordered a vacuum to slowly start working on the sand. I'll update in maybe a month on how it went.

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mcarroll

Firstly, your tank looks great from what I can see of it in the photos.

 

BE CAREFUL about making any changes to the things that matter to your corals.

 

I'm gonna recommend some non-impacting (to the corals) changes that should help the whole tank.

 

On 6/8/2020 at 6:50 AM, DyloHeath said:

My phosphates in my nano tank have consistently stayed between 0.25 and 0.5, now that I'm adding SPS to my tank I need to take control of the problem.

Not a problem.

 

On 6/8/2020 at 6:50 AM, DyloHeath said:

My nitrates are 0

Not good in a new tank, but at a year old MAYBE not a problem.

 

On 6/8/2020 at 6:50 AM, DyloHeath said:

I've tried feeding less. (Cleaning mysis, and less pellets). Instead of every day, its every other day.

Wasted effort on cleaning frozen food....too much hype was generated around that whole idea that it started to seem credible and caught on.  Forget about it.  All you're doing is make-work and depriving your fish by cutting back on feedings.

 

Feed your fish well.  I would try to anchor mostly on frozen foods vs pellets though.  

 

On 6/8/2020 at 6:50 AM, DyloHeath said:

I have a refugium mod on my HOB filter with chaeto growing like crazy

I would try to decide whether you want a reef or a chaeto tank.   IMO this is your problem....it's keeping healthy algae from growing in the display, leaving you with "junk algae" that CUC won't eat.  Ditch the chaeto or the whole refugium.

 

On 6/8/2020 at 6:50 AM, DyloHeath said:

I've tested my RO water for phosphates, has 0

Chasing numbers at this point.

 

On 6/8/2020 at 6:50 AM, DyloHeath said:

I purchased a skimmer yesterday (still needs to break in). Might help a bit with leftover organics.

Skimmer is good.  Light-weight filtration combined with aeration.  Perfect combo.

 

On 6/8/2020 at 6:50 AM, DyloHeath said:

I can't seem to figure how to fix this

Running a refugium that you don't need is the only problem I really see here.

 

Keep in mind that cyano is ugly, but not harmful – quite the opposite, it is beneficial.  It's trying to keep your tank from crashing as your chaeto soaks up necessary nutrients and loads down he tank with excessive organic carbon....which leads to more crucial nutrients being tied up away from where it's needed by excessive carbon-fueled bacterial growth.

 

Again, ditch that chaeto....maybe the whole refugium if it's only there for the algae.

 

The cyano should clear up on its own....but expect a small patch or two to always be around.

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DyloHeath
17 hours ago, mcarroll said:

Firstly, your tank looks great from what I can see of it in the photos.

 

BE CAREFUL about making any changes to the things that matter to your corals.

 

I'm gonna recommend some non-impacting (to the corals) changes that should help the whole tank.

 

Not a problem.

 

Not good in a new tank, but at a year old MAYBE not a problem.

 

Wasted effort on cleaning frozen food....too much hype was generated around that whole idea that it started to seem credible and caught on.  Forget about it.  All you're doing is make-work and depriving your fish by cutting back on feedings.

 

Feed your fish well.  I would try to anchor mostly on frozen foods vs pellets though.  

 

I would try to decide whether you want a reef or a chaeto tank.   IMO this is your problem....it's keeping healthy algae from growing in the display, leaving you with "junk algae" that CUC won't eat.  Ditch the chaeto or the whole refugium.

 

Chasing numbers at this point.

 

Skimmer is good.  Light-weight filtration combined with aeration.  Perfect combo.

 

Running a refugium that you don't need is the only problem I really see here.

 

Keep in mind that cyano is ugly, but not harmful – quite the opposite, it is beneficial.  It's trying to keep your tank from crashing as your chaeto soaks up necessary nutrients and loads down he tank with excessive organic carbon....which leads to more crucial nutrients being tied up away from where it's needed by excessive carbon-fueled bacterial growth.

 

Again, ditch that chaeto....maybe the whole refugium if it's only there for the algae.

 

The cyano should clear up on its own....but expect a small patch or two to always be around.

Thanks. 

 

I will only be making small changes each week and tracking how the coral reacts. So far I have taken out one of the rocks, and cleaned 1/4 of the tanks sand. maybe a little aggressive but the coral are thriving after 24 hours which is good for now, I will keep watching.

 

So I looked at my timeline, and this tank is only 6 months old, but is using everything from the older tank which is nearly a year old. Not sure if moving to the smaller tank resets everything, but its all the same sand, water, rock, etc

 

You have an interesting point about the chaeto. Are you talking about chaeto in general or based on my tank because its in the HOB?

 

 

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mcarroll
9 hours ago, DyloHeath said:

You have an interesting point about the chaeto. Are you talking about chaeto in general or based on my tank because its in the HOB?

More in general....noting wrong with an HOB refugium per se.  Lots of things to do with a refugium aside from growing algae too.

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DyloHeath

An update for everyone as promised. I manage to drop the phosphate from 0.5 to 0.01 over the course of 2 weeks.

 

Phosphate yesterday was 0.03

 

Today it was 0.01

 

Simply from feeding less and cleaning the sand. Amazing. Corals are still thriving as normal. Love learning new things!

 

@mcarroll I still need to read those articles! 

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seabass

With phosphate falling so quickly, you should consider resuming your previous feeding schedule/amounts.  Just keep up with your sand bed maintenance to prevent a build up of organics.

 

Barring excess nuisance algae growth, I would shoot for a measurable level of 0.03ppm of phosphate (as too low a phosphate level can cause as many issues as too high a level).  A higher level isn't necessarily something to worry about (as long as coral health and maintenance is maintained).

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mcarroll
7 hours ago, DyloHeath said:

An update for everyone as promised. I manage to drop the phosphate from 0.5 to 0.01 over the course of 2 weeks.

 

Phosphate yesterday was 0.03

 

Today it was 0.01

That shows you how high demand for phosphate is in your tank's ecosystem, in addition to showing how much phosphates come into the system with food that you add!  😃

 

Phosphates

To make an analogy with an engine, consider phosphates the "oil" that lets your tank's photosynthetic "engine" run without melting down or blowing up.

 

"0.01 ppm" on your test kit is equivalent to the light on your dashboard going off:

 

image.png.c53847b4b17f1ffbdf3d505152f657ae.png

 

Just as with the engine light, this analogy is really over simplifying it as MANY things rely on a supply of dissolved phosphates to grow....it's not only used for photosynthesis...that's just one crucial aspect of it for corals, et al.

 

Remember:  There was nothing wrong with where your PO4 levels were before.  "High."  Or however you want to consider it.  (Low compared to my tank.  LOL)  You've officially chased your first number....good to get it out of the way now at the beginning vs later.  😉

 

I agree with @seabass that you should go back to feeding how you were (or better).  (better ≠ more)

 

The only thing that feeding less is really an answer to is over-feeding....which means food being wasted and not eaten.  Unless that's happening (ie. you're seeing food going to waste), there's a good chance you should be (or at least could be) feeding more.  

 

Flow

How strong or weak your flow is also figures in significantly.  

 

Weak flow limits feedings as gravity drags food items to the substrate too fast, where bacteria go to work on it.  Not desirable..we want corals or fish to be the recipients.  

 

Strong flow makes over-feeding almost impossible since food can be kept adrift until a fish, coral or something else eats it.  (Of course there's a balance with other factors...it's not as simple as "more is better".)

 

IMO, if you're seeing either food or detritus accumulating on the substate or rocks, then I'd look at the quality of food and quality of flow before anything else.  

 

Whole food items, for example, tend to be targeted more aggressively for consumption as well as being neutrally boyant, so don't have much tendency of their own to sink.  Not all foods are like that.  

 

Soft flow (as seen from most pumps these days, but not all) can actually be too soft.  "Soft" is just an easier way to say/understand that flow has low velocity.  Velocity is what allows flow to do work though.  Like more strength lets you lift more weight, more velocity lets flow do more work....such as keeping bigger pieces of food or detritus afloat for longer against the force of gravity, etc.  We're hyper-focused on GPH.  Taking that to our analogy, increasing GPH is just making the weights bigger (volume), instead of making them heavier or giving the lifter more strength.  You have to have lots of GPH for a reef....I've read something like 30,000GPH for some reefs in the wild...but the velocity inherent to that flow is arguably much more important.  (You'll never hit 30,000 GPH, so this is a good thing!!!  Just a little off the radar.)

 

"Perfect flow" in my book is where no detritus accumulates anywhere in the system.  Not always possible in every tank, but it is possible.  With changes, it can probably happen in most tanks...some changes will conflict with expectations though so may be more or less possible for any particular tank.  For example, sand beds are a common thing that needs change...many sand beds are composed of particles that are the same size/density of the detritus and food we're trying to keep afloat...so flow has to be kept low to keep the sand in place...and detritus has to be allowed to settle.

 

Just some thoughts...  😉

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DyloHeath
1 hour ago, mcarroll said:

That shows you how high demand for phosphate is in your tank's ecosystem, in addition to showing how much phosphates come into the system with food that you add!  😃

 

Phosphates

To make an analogy with an engine, consider phosphates the "oil" that lets your tank's photosynthetic "engine" run without melting down or blowing up.

 

"0.01 ppm" on your test kit is equivalent to the light on your dashboard going off:

 

image.png.c53847b4b17f1ffbdf3d505152f657ae.png

 

Just as with the engine light, this analogy is really over simplifying it as MANY things rely on a supply of dissolved phosphates to grow....it's not only used for photosynthesis...that's just one crucial aspect of it for corals, et al.

 

Remember:  There was nothing wrong with where your PO4 levels were before.  "High."  Or however you want to consider it.  (Low compared to my tank.  LOL)  You've officially chased your first number....good to get it out of the way now at the beginning vs later.  😉

 

I agree with @seabass that you should go back to feeding how you were (or better).  (better ≠ more)

 

The only thing that feeding less is really an answer to is over-feeding....which means food being wasted and not eaten.  Unless that's happening (ie. you're seeing food going to waste), there's a good chance you should be (or at least could be) feeding more.  

 

Flow

How strong or weak your flow is also figures in significantly.  

 

Weak flow limits feedings as gravity drags food items to the substrate too fast, where bacteria go to work on it.  Not desirable..we want corals or fish to be the recipients.  

 

Strong flow makes over-feeding almost impossible since food can be kept adrift until a fish, coral or something else eats it.  (Of course there's a balance with other factors...it's not as simple as "more is better".)

 

IMO, if you're seeing either food or detritus accumulating on the substate or rocks, then I'd look at the quality of food and quality of flow before anything else.  

 

Whole food items, for example, tend to be targeted more aggressively for consumption as well as being neutrally boyant, so don't have much tendency of their own to sink.  Not all foods are like that.  

 

Soft flow (as seen from most pumps these days, but not all) can actually be too soft.  "Soft" is just an easier way to say/understand that flow has low velocity.  Velocity is what allows flow to do work though.  Like more strength lets you lift more weight, more velocity lets flow do more work....such as keeping bigger pieces of food or detritus afloat for longer against the force of gravity, etc.  We're hyper-focused on GPH.  Taking that to our analogy, increasing GPH is just making the weights bigger (volume), instead of making them heavier or giving the lifter more strength.  You have to have lots of GPH for a reef....I've read something like 30,000GPH for some reefs in the wild...but the velocity inherent to that flow is arguably much more important.  (You'll never hit 30,000 GPH, so this is a good thing!!!  Just a little off the radar.)

 

"Perfect flow" in my book is where no detritus accumulates anywhere in the system.  Not always possible in every tank, but it is possible.  With changes, it can probably happen in most tanks...some changes will conflict with expectations though so may be more or less possible for any particular tank.  For example, sand beds are a common thing that needs change...many sand beds are composed of particles that are the same size/density of the detritus and food we're trying to keep afloat...so flow has to be kept low to keep the sand in place...and detritus has to be allowed to settle.

 

Just some thoughts...  😉

I was overfeeding, but now im under feeding. I will find the right balance soon. And by that, I used to feed a lot where the majority would end up uneaten and eventually rest on the sandbed due to not enough flow, and putting more food than the tanks needs.

 

Basically this "IMO, if you're seeing either food or detritus accumulating on the substate or rocks, then I'd look at the quality of food and quality of flow before anything else.  "

 

Question: Do you turn off the flow in your tank during feeding? I've always turned off the flow while feeding the corals, and leave it off for 10 minutes. I feel like this is another bad habit of mine, as reading other responses the coral  will eventually take up the food during high flow as they are very efficient at collecting with there feeders. Plus, in the ocean there is no option to turn off the flow 😄

 

I will be adding another wavemaker in the next few days, along with some new rock. Nothing extreme. I've been watching the food circle the tank with the flow on and have identified a number of deadspots the food ends up resting in.

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mcarroll
On 6/23/2020 at 7:21 PM, DyloHeath said:

I've always turned off the flow while feeding the corals, and leave it off for 10 minutes. I feel like this is another bad habit of mine, as reading other responses the coral  will eventually take up the food during high flow as they are very efficient at collecting with there feeders. Plus, in the ocean there is no option to turn off the flow 😄

Bad habit, I dunno.  But shutting off the flow during feeding is kinda of a specific tool for a specific kind of situation at the very least....and sorta unnatural.  😉

 

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seabass

Yeah (like Matt said), turning off pumps has typically been encouraged when target feeding (although many people expand this to mean feeding in general).  I also feel that pumps should be on whenever broadcast feeding.  Fish and most other livestock should be able to feed with your pumps on.  Although, target feeding may still be necessary for some things.

 

I only broadcast feed.  Mostly 'cause it's easier; but also because I don't currently keep livestock which require target feeding.

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DyloHeath

Quick update:

 

Feeding a little more frequently, Phosphate seems jump around 0.03-0.06 on a daily basis. I think I've got the feeding controlled now. Will work on more flow next.

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