View Full Version : Is this Algae or Bacteria? Growing on everything

Starvin Marvin
03/23/2017, 05:53 PM

Was just wondering if anyone recognizes what this is? I'm not sure if it's Algae or Bacteria or Diatoms or what exactly.

It's brownish and stringy and is definitely growing, even noticeably within a 24 hour period. It's on the rocks and sand bed mostly but also a sponge filter pad around my wave pump.

It comes off really easily with toothbrush, turning into a powder almost. You can pinch it with tweezers or by hand but it swishes and smears. It isn't like bryopsis or GHA from my experience.

It's brownish. Nothing wants to eat it either, except for my Ponch Snail but he stumbled around the sand bed like a peg-legged pirate and doesn't really put a dent in it.

Tank has been up for around 3 months. Nitrates are approx 5-8, can't tell because API says around 5-8 and Red Sea says higher than 4 on low range and undetectable on high range.

Phosphates show 0 on Hanna.

Everything else is normal for a reef tank.

A possible contributing factor is that my RO system failed a few weeks ago and I kept using it while waiting for new membrane and DI to arrive in the mail. TDS was around 50-70 during this time and we have really hard water.

I've done lots of water changes, probably 10% weekly on average.

It's a 110g water volume system.

Running NOPOX at 13 ml per day for at least 8 weeks. Skimmate is light brown/tea coloured and stinks horribly. Which I think is normal.

I tried to run Chaeto in addition to this but it all died and started disintegrating and nitrates spiked up to 50 until we noticed the Algae or whatever it is growing. Took out the Chaeto and within 2 days it was back down to around 5-10 nitrates.

There is the typical white film on the glass from Nopox.

I have 120 lbs of CaribSea LifeRock, which was new. I have a 1" and a 4" MarinePure Ceramic Block in the sump.

1 emerald crab, a handful of snails, a couple hermits, 2 tangs, 2 firefish, a goby, a blenny, and a clown.

Lots of corals and mushrooms, all livestock is happy except for the stuff that this Algae/Bacteria is growing on.

Here are some photos:





And I sucked some up into a Syringe easily and checked them out at 20x magnification inside a water drop:



And at 800x magnification. It's somewhat blurry - cheap microscope:



Also here is a short microscope video:


Thank you very much in advance! I'm stumped on this one and want to proceed properly to restore this tank back to normal.

Oh - I am feeding approx 1 frozen cube of food per day to this tank, with the occasional dose of Red Sea Reef Energy.

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03/25/2017, 03:36 PM
Did you ever find anything out or get help on this?

Starvin Marvin
03/25/2017, 06:39 PM
Did you ever find anything out or get help on this?

Hey, not really. I decided to do a thorough scrubbing of every rock in the tank with a toothbrush, and sift the gravel. Since as mentioned above, this stuff basically explodes into particles when you scrub it, I was concerned it would spread around the whole tank.

So what I did was hook up a 1/2" hose syphon directly from the display tank into a felt 100 micron filter sock clamped onto the side glass of the sump.

Then I clamped the hose so it was draining into the filter sock, creating sort of a continuously cycling syphon hose where I didn't have to worry about filling up any buckets and it had full velocity that the hose could handle which is a lot for a 1/2" hose.

Then my wife went around scrubbing it all off the surfaces and rock and stirring up the sand with a toothbrush and I reached in and held the syphon hose like a Dentist sucking drool out of your mouth while he grinds your teeth. It was really slick actually, took us around 45 minutes to get the whole tank done and by the time we were finished the filter sock was really starting to get plugged up but was still not overflowing yet.

Then I added Seachem Clarity to flocculate/coagulate the particles and put a couple of fresh 200 micron mesh Filter Socks in the sump and let it sit overnight.

In the morning it looked great. It's still growing, as I haven't really addressed any root causes, but I think reducing the bio-mass of the stuff helped it stay more in check.

I'll repeat this again once it grows to an elevated population again.

Hopefully I'll get lucky and someone who knows exactly what this is, will stumble across this post and chime in.

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03/25/2017, 09:09 PM
looks like dinos :(

usually they're more snotty and have bubbles, but algae tends to attach (can't be blown off) and bacteria usually forms mats of waste. The stringy stuff is most likely dinos.

search for reef dinoflagellates (images)







Starvin Marvin
04/02/2017, 11:03 AM
Thank you for the informative post! That might be what I have, but I'm still struggling to get it under control.

It seems to bloom instantly after adding fish food...

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04/02/2017, 12:53 PM
Check out the Dino thread

04/03/2017, 06:04 AM
I vote chrysophytes. golden algae that can arrange single cells into filaments.

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04/03/2017, 06:49 AM
Can you get higher magnification shots?

Starvin Marvin
04/16/2017, 09:42 AM
Can you get higher magnification shots?

I don't have a better microscope, so no, not readily.

I did however have this stuff completely outbreak overnight and I took some videos and photos with just the natural sunlight filtering through the window, it comes out better on the camera.

Last night - I syphoned off all the rocks and sand into a filter sock in the sump. It removed a very large percentage of this stuff. The tank actually looked pretty good!

I went to bed, slept for about 7 hours, and woke up to THIS!!

Are you still thinking this could be Dino's? Or you thinking its Diatoms for sure now?









This video shows me easily blowing it off the rocks with a turkey baster:


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04/16/2017, 10:16 AM
I would post these in the dino thread and ask for more feedback.

It's missing the usual bubbles but it grew overnight so it might develop bubbles under light.

The very fast assembly does point to dinos but you really need a sample under a microscope to tell.

It looks like it could be one of four things: bacteria, mucus, golden algae or dinos

If you're carbon dosing, you might have excess bacteria. If it's only coming off coral tissue, it could be mucus due to an irritant.
There's a good chance that it's golden algae given the long structures you posted above.
Even among dinos, there are several different strains... post in that thread.

Starvin Marvin
04/16/2017, 06:16 PM
Ok. I see bubbles now developing and it's grown back a lot over the day even after I syphoned it all off this morning. Some of the strands are 4-5 inches long already!!

Bubbles are popping up everywhere.

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04/16/2017, 06:32 PM
Invest in a cheap microscope and take pics.

04/17/2017, 01:46 PM
Seems like bubble algea.

Do water change 40-50% every week for the next month. And you should starve out the algea.

Had this issue many times before.

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Starvin Marvin
04/18/2017, 06:48 AM
The bubbles are only entrained air by the looks of it - they don't have a green membrane around them and dislodge easily when disturbed.

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04/27/2017, 12:51 AM
Definitely not bubble algae

caleb bruyn
05/19/2017, 06:52 AM
I have the same problem and have been working for 2 years to eliminate it completely. It always returns but does seam better after a cleaning and water change; but it always grows back. I have a 200 gallon display so it takes a lot to clean, if not for my large corals I would have scrubbed with bleach and started over.

Starvin Marvin
05/19/2017, 11:17 AM
Yea, I'm still batting it but lately it has been only growing in the sump where there is NO light.

Which I find really weird. Huge strings of it grow in there. Like 8" long stuck to the filter Socks and waving around slowly in the water towards the protein skimmer side.

It looks literally like a head of hair.

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