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michael grady
10/02/2016, 10:53 AM
Hi Guys,

I have 500 gallon system with a 400 display tank. Mostly sps. Actually, just a few fish.

The tank has been running for about 18 months and seems to be doing well. My corals are growing and fish seem healthy.

I am running 3 400 watt radions about 8 hours a day and also 4 two bulb t5 fixtures, and am supplementing light with 4 3ft. led blue strips. The t5's and leds run 12 hours/day.

I have a mac daddy protein skimmer that runs 24 hours, and I grow macro in the sump.

now the issue...

all my corals have all faded over time, despite their continued growth and good polyp extension. My tank sort of looks a lot more gray than colorful as I would expect.

I have a good friend who is a fish guy (operates an aquarium maintenence company). He suggested I cut back on lighting and only run my skimmer during the day.

I was wondering if you guys have any other thoughts??????

Thanks!

Michael

ReefWreak
10/02/2016, 11:02 AM
It seems colors is the new holy grail of reefkeeping (used to be as simple as keeping corals alive!).

Frequently the idea is brought up that now that we have really good equipment for removing nutrients from the water, like big efficient skimmers, carbon dosing, etc, we're starving the corals, which is what is making them look more dull.

Some people swear by buying zeofit, aquaforest, etc etc amino acids and other products and adding them to get colors back. Others swear by adding more fishes, feeding them more often, with the theory being that providing more waste in the system will actually improve growth and coloration, rather than adding expensive supplements. I'm skeptical of everything, but I think a moderated approach from both sides is right.

For example, I've been having my skimmer only run from 4AM to 4PM, so it keeps my pH more stable late at night, as well as picks up food after the corals are done feeding (early night, after lights out), but isn't running 24/7, so in theory it should be leaving some food available for the corals as well. You could try that approach, as your friend suggested. Adding more food through either fish poop or direct feeding might help as well.

As far as lighting, I wouldn't necessarily say to reduce lighting. As much light as you can muster is still nothing compared to the sun on the open ocean as they're used to.

For clarification's sake, are you running 400w radiums (metal halide, MH, bulbs), or radion fixtures with the equivalent rating of 400w MH? I assume the former, but figured I'd check.

michael grady
10/02/2016, 11:17 AM
yes, sorry...400 watt metal halides.

I got in the habit of feeding the fish pellet food and they scoop them right up. I started wondering if maybe i was not letting enough food float around the tank, so I, just over the past week, started feeding frozen cubes that I let thaw out and drain. I don't rinse them..

how long would you expect it to take to reverse the trend, if underfeeding was an issue?

Thanks again!

pisanoal
10/02/2016, 04:43 PM
I looked into this extensively as a possibility for my stunted growth and poor colors a few years ago. Most people reported seeing a difference in a little as a week to around a month or 2. I would say monitor nutrients and nuisance algae so you don't go to far, and give it a couple of months before trying something else. Usually some pieces will start coloring faster then others. What is your alkalinity running? I've had better color success with lower alk levels closer to nsw. Best colors I got off some coral were actually around 7dkh, but some also suffered.

ReefWreak
10/02/2016, 10:18 PM
That's actually what I've started doing, switching from controlled pellets to broader feeding with frozen. How long, who knows. 2 weeks is a good start? Watch your nitrates and see if you can get them to increase to ~5-10?

michael grady
10/04/2016, 11:43 AM
My Alk run around 6 - 7 typically, and my nitrates are not detectable with the red sea kit.

just tested water...

nitrate 0
Ca 380
mg 1300
pH 8.26
temp79
sg 1.026

I am using the MRC orca pro2 skimmer..

i have tended to underfeed the fish. However, maybe I went too far?

ReefWreak
10/04/2016, 12:46 PM
If you underfeed a light fish load on a 500g system, and have an active refugium growing macro algae, and are running that skimmer, I would qualify that as a "low nutrient system" approaching "ultra low nutrient system", which could go towards explaining washed out colors.

You were right about that being the mac daddy of skimmers. I've always wanted one since I first saw them, talk about a beast recirc.

You could consider either adding more fishes, or cutting back on filtration.

The theory in keeping aquariums has traditionally been "keep nutrients (nitrates and phosphates) at zero to prevent algae growth" but in the last few years, as equipment has really made the hobby easier and more successful, we're doing a great job of removing nutrients too efficiently. Some of the more advanced SPS keepers have been keeping their nitrates at 5-10 and phosphates at .05-.1 to support better colors in their display.

Whether you decide to take that approach is up to you. You can do it through more fishes and feeding (my preference), or direct dosing of nitrates and phosphates. I would consider adding more fishes because it is simpler, but if your preference is low fish load, then by all means start looking into dosing nutrients. Freshwater fertilizers are a good place to start looking. I'd also spend some time in the SPS forum seeing what people are doing.

Many people are dosing KNO3 (potassium nitrate) to support coral growth and color. I bought a can and just haven't had the heart to use it since small tanks go from good to bad so quickly. But if I had a larger tank, I'd definitely consider ramping up nitrates slowly with KNO3.

michael grady
10/04/2016, 01:21 PM
Thanks for the kind advice...I'll start a thread on the SPS forum and see what they have to say as well. Can you just buy KNO3??

Adding more fish would be fine with me!!

ReefWreak
10/04/2016, 01:50 PM
Yep, KNO3 is a fertilizer for aquarium and non-aquarium plants. I bought aquarium plant fertilizer, but I think you can buy white-label bagged generic stuff for cheaper. There's always the argument that there may be contaminants and whatnot, so I just stuck with the aquarium plant version that others had used.

reefgeezer
10/04/2016, 04:12 PM
I assume the corals you are concerned about are SPS corals. If so, I'd wouldn't think the lack of particulate food in the water is an issue.

A lack of sufficient dissolved organic compounds might be a better answer if "food" is thought to be the issue. More fish that are fed better (thus creating more fish poop soup for the corals to eat) might resolve the issue. Creating artificial fish poop soup by adding Amino Acids or some protein rich supplement might also help.

Low Alk (IMO, anything less than about 7 dKh) might also be an issue. There isn't a reason to keep Alk that low if you aren't carbon dosing. You might try raising the Alk to 8-10 dKh SLOWLY and keeping it there for a while to see if color is affected. Alk stability is also a color & health issue for SPS corals. Where ever you decide to maintain the alk it should be stable 24/7 within about 1 dKh.

michael grady
10/04/2016, 05:52 PM
yep...I feel like I'm chasing the all thing too much. I have my apex running a MR dual chamber CR, and still can't seem to keep Ca and Alk up. I have the pH controller in the CR set to on at 6.5 and off at 6.4.. I keep a pretty steady stream of bubbles going in and just a drip...drip...drip of effluent. It tend to build up too much air within the CR and I have rigged a little valve so I can bleed the air out every now and then..

would you guys think i would need both a CR and a drip system of some sort?

BTW, does anyone ever add pics of their systems/corals on this forum? I'm happy to add some to show what I am seeing...

pisanoal
10/04/2016, 09:16 PM
I assume the corals you are concerned about are SPS corals. If so, I'd wouldn't think the lack of particulate food in the water is an issue.

A lack of sufficient dissolved organic compounds might be a better answer if "food" is thought to be the issue. More fish that are fed better (thus creating more fish poop soup for the corals to eat) might resolve the issue. Creating artificial fish poop soup by adding Amino Acids or some protein rich supplement might also help.

Low Alk (IMO, anything less than about 7 dKh) might also be an issue. There isn't a reason to keep Alk that low if you aren't carbon dosing. You might try raising the Alk to 8-10 dKh SLOWLY and keeping it there for a while to see if color is affected. Alk stability is also a color & health issue for SPS corals. Where ever you decide to maintain the alk it should be stable 24/7 within about 1 dKh.

Need to be careful running a ulns and raising alk above 8. Can cause burned tips. If you get more fish and start to see a rise in no3 and po4 then you can raise it up, but there are countless accounts of people burning sps tips (including myself) on a low nutrient system and alkalinity too high. IMO 10 is too high for 0 nutrients. 9 would be the highest I would go.

SouthFla
10/05/2016, 11:19 AM
I've been facing a similar problem albeit on a smaller scale (150G total). My soft, LPS and SPS corals grow noticeably and have good PE, but EVERYTHING is washed out. I have NEVER registered NO3 or PO4 using Salifert, Red Sea and Hanna ULR.

I recently started daily dosing of KNO3 and KH2PO4, purchased from Green Leaf Aquariums (http://greenleafaquariums.com/aquarium-fertilizers-supplements/potassium-nitrate.html). It's been not quite 2 weeks, and my torch, frogs, hammers, Favia, pocillopora and Monti's have absolutely exploded with color! I haven't really noticed much change with my acro colony tho.

I've been able to keep my PO4 at 0.02ppm, but am having trouble getting my NO3 above 1ppm (I'm targeting 2-5). You dose such small amounts and the fertilizer is so cheap that it's a VERY easy thing to try.

Good luck!

michael grady
10/05/2016, 07:03 PM
thanks guys...I have ordered some kno3 and kh2po4. I assume it will have dosing instructions, no?

I will also do my best to get the ca and alk up. It is my understanding that I should raise levels by adding Ca and alk, and then look to my CR to maintain the levels. Is that correct?

Also, I'll add some fish...and poop!

ReefWreak
10/06/2016, 08:29 AM
They generally don't come with dosing instructions, unfortunately.

You'll have to do some math. I've been doing a lot of googling, thinking about what I wanted to do for nutrients, and have found a few helpful links:

http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=849007

or this google search (https://www.google.com/search?q=kno3+dosing+nano+aquarium+site:www.reefcentral.com&espv=2&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjIsMnOosbPAhUEFT4KHRSQDoUQrQIIVSgEMAU&biw=1280&bih=939)

I would use 2 part dosing (or water changes) to bring up your CA and Alk to levels you want, then dial in the reactor to maintain those levels.

And yea, fishes with more food and more poop are beneficial in raising nutrient levels, though with fish food, you'll likely get more phosphates than nitrates, so you might start to see increasing phosphate levels faster than nitrate levels and may have to add GFO or supplement nitrate more.

reefgeezer
10/06/2016, 11:02 AM
thanks guys...I have ordered some kno3 and kh2po4. I assume it will have dosing instructions, no?

I will also do my best to get the ca and alk up. It is my understanding that I should raise levels by adding Ca and alk, and then look to my CR to maintain the levels. Is that correct?

Also, I'll add some fish...and poop!

Careful adding fish & supplements at the same time. You may drive up nutrients faster that you desire... particularly phosphate. Maybe try the supplements first and see if it helps. SPS corals are slow to respond sometimes. Be patient.

SouthFla
10/06/2016, 12:34 PM
Michael, HERE (http://www.theaquatools.com/fertilization-calculator) is the fertilizer dosing calculator I've been using. Select your fertilizer, select the weight used, select the amount of solution (RODI) it's dissolved in, and the amount of that solution you'll add to your tank, and it will tell you the amount of nutrient (I.e. PO4) added per dose. Works GREAT!

michael grady
10/07/2016, 07:22 PM
thanks again everyone for the kind help...I'll keep up to date with you...