View Full Version : Is my SPS dissolving?

01/02/2013, 08:28 AM

What do you think of the above picture? This is a red planet frag. The parts where you can basically see through the coral at the base were not like that when I got the frag a few weeks ago. It was also more red but right now I'm more curious about the structure appearing to dissolve than the color, perhaps those two are related.

This is not unique to this coral, I have at least one other that is doing this also. At the same time, I see growth and new growth tips on some of the longer established corals (blue millie for example). I have other corals that have not grown at all in 6 months. What do you guys think this is and what should I do about it? I think my parameters are in line (other than phos) but not sure what to make of this.

I know I have some algae. I have been beating it back week by week with manual removal and GFO but you'll see it in the pic above. Any help is appreciated.


phos - 0.12ppm (hanna test kit, using GFO to bring this number down)
cal - 420ppm (elos test kit; dose 2 part on dosing pumps)
alk - 10.4 dkh (hanna)
Salinity - 1.026 (refractometer, calibrated)
temp - 78- 81 (profilux probe)

01/02/2013, 09:56 AM
Phosphate is high enough to be a problem but not super high. The coral may be having trouble calcifying. Reduce PO4 to around .03ppm.
Check nitrate.
Seems to be off color and starting slow tissue necrosis from the base.
Try a little less light .
Give a good look for red bugs (tegastes).You can find a number of threads abut them on the sps forum.

01/02/2013, 06:56 PM
I agree that the coral appears to be dying at the base. Those suggestions seem reasonable to me.

01/02/2013, 09:49 PM
Interesting. I was expecting the common response to be "your calcium must be too low and therefore the coral is dissolving. Check you test kit." or perhaps that other corals are outstripping the calcium from the newer ones.

You guys seem to be suggesting that whatever is happening is more a result of other water chemistry factors or even just the health of the coral absent anything to do with calcium or alkalinity?

The suggestions so far:

Reduce the light - this would seem a strange result from too much light. Can someone explain how too much light could cause this?

Check for red bugs - I've seen red bugs before so I know what they look like in real life. I don't see any in my system but will keep an eye out. These frags also come from a reputable fragger on RC who has a TOTM tank w/ no redbugs (obviously taking him at his word) but again who knows. Do redbugs leave transparent skeletons like that though? Isn't one sign of red bugs no polyp extension? This frag (and the other) seem to have good PE.

Nitrates - this is the one I'm thinking is definitely possible - I don't test nitrates and I dont run any kind of biopellets. I know I have a phosphate elevation issue so likely also have high nitrates. I will pickup a test kit as soon as possible. How would high nitrates cause this?

Has anyone ever seen this before? It sounds like so far you guys think the issue is in the tissue, and the skeleton is just being left behind rather than the issue being with the ability to maintain the calcium carbonate.

01/02/2013, 09:55 PM
Maybe too much light is bleaching it?

01/02/2013, 10:32 PM
It's very difficult to impossible for any visible amount of calcium carbonate to dissolve in a running tank. Calcium at 412 ppm and alkalinity at 10 dKH is actually far above saturation. Reef tanks generally run at significant supersaturation:


Corals can be damaged by sudden increases in lighting, or simply overly intense lighting. I don't remember the exact mechanisms. You might want to dial back the lighting to see.

Water quality also can be an issue. Nitrate itself might or might not be a problem, but organics can be an issue, and the presence of nitrate might be correlated with higher organic loads. I probably can find some references for this, because water quality problems have killed a lot of reefs in the ocean.

01/02/2013, 11:15 PM
that coral looks brown to me... IMO that looks like to little light, what kind of lighting do you have and how is the flow in your tank?

Nano sapiens
01/02/2013, 11:17 PM
Your frag does look somewhat similar to what is happening here:


You'll notice the similar white skeleton at the base and light brown tip areas on this ORA Red Planet under ~190 PAR LED lighting. I've tried everything from feeding heavy to no feeding, reducing Alk from 10.5 to 9, various light schedules (7 to 10 hours) over many months without success. The coral was originally a solid 'brownish' color when I got it, which looked to me like a coral that hadn't received enough light.

Others have had similar issues, especially with RP Acros and it' seems to often be a case of 'light shock'. In my case I didn't acclimate the coral properly to my LED lighting after shipment. The coral can still grow slowly and have decent PE, like mine does, but it just can't get pigment production going properly. Lowering the coral to a lower light area for a period of time often results in pigment production and recovery.

I moved my frag down to the sand bed very recently (about 90 PAR) in moderate flow and fragged off a few small pieces, which I've placed in various locations throughout the tank with different lighting and flow. With some specimens, it can be a real challenge to find the 'Sweet Spot' where they do best.

01/02/2013, 11:47 PM
following this thread. learning along the way

sent from my galaxy s3

01/03/2013, 12:29 AM
There are a lot of things that can interfere with calcification and tissue growth. Nobody knows what causes stn;I suspect it's a number of things varying from case to case.
Alkalinity bounces play in most scenarios but your posted numbers are ok.
Alk and calcium are high enough as posted so I didn't consider them. Why would I ? Why do you suspect low calcium?It's 420pppm;isn't it?Excess PO4 which is part of the alkalinity may mess up calcification too,btw.

Too much light can push zooxanthelae activity to high levels,overproducing oxygen which can damage the coral and cause some bleaching. Browning may also occur if zooxanthelae increase in density( all zoxanthelae are brown). Nitrate could play a role here in overdriving zooxanthelae as well.

High total organic carbon may also be in play,perhaps overfeeding symbiont bacteria to a point where they are damaged or become pathogenic outcompeting the coral for other resources or increasing inpopulation to a point hwrthey do damage.

Allelopathy, from invasive algae or other sources may be occuring as well.

If you know red bugs and there not there then ok but I always look for them and/or acro eating flaworm bites. Didn't see any in the pictures.But I'm rarely able to see them as well as others can.

Don't know what kind ofl lighting you are using btw. Many have trouble with a switch to certain types leds for sps.

I don't know what you mean by transparent skeleton; I can't see that from the picture;just looks like tissue loss. If it is dissolving the Ph would have to be quite low with alk at 10+dkh. Even if the coral isn't calcifying the calcium carbonate wouldn't dissolve unless something is causing an acidic condition which would be more widespread ,I think. I suppose some pathogenic bacteria could cause some acidity in a localized area but that's a real reach.