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View Full Version : Building a 20L LPS tank - Guidance Appreciated


hokejka
06/29/2017, 03:10 PM
Hey guys, so Ive been on here for about 6 months now just lurking. I did not want to post another newbie thread with question after question of the repetitive stuff so I did as much research as I could and bothered some buddies first. I am however right now at a high level of frustration.

Problem: Corals dying and GHA

Tank age: 6 months
Size: 20L Rimmed
Water: Instant Ocean Reef Crystals, weekly changes, Salinity: 1.026

Original Setup:
Light: Current Orbit LED (Set at about 70% W/B for 9hrs)
Heater: Aqueon 100 Watt - 77 degrees
Water Movements: 1x Hydor 240gph - water circling
HOB: Aquaclear 50 with sponge, Activated carbon, and biomax media

Current Setup: as of 1 week ago - HOB was replaced with another hydor powerhead ( the skimmer was added 6 weeks ago)
Light: Current Orbit LED (Set at about 70% W/B for 9hrs)
Heater: Aqueon 100 Watt - 77 degrees
Water Movements: 2x Hydor 240gph - water colliding in middle
Skimmer: Aquatic Life 115 Mini
Current Fish: Disbar Anthias, Wathcman Goby, 2 Oscellaris Clowns

Aquascape: Started with 12lbs of dry rock and 20lbs of live sand. Some zoos and scattered small lps frags.

CuC: About 12 Astrea Snails, 1 turbo snail, 1 cerith, 2 nassarius, 12 blue leg hermits, 1 zebra hermit

Tank Notes and Progress from day 1:
-I started the tank cycle with some household ammonia, instant ocean bio spira and seachem stability. I realized I put liek 100x too much ammonia as I used oz instead of mL. :facepalm: I basically did like 5x 20% water changes till I realized I had to do a 70% and another 50% to get ammonia at a workable level for the bacteria. In went another bottle of biospira. Great start! lol
-Inverts in at about day 10.
-Went slowly with fish over the next couple weeks.
-Week 6 (I now realize this was massive overload) we had a 2 shrimp and 2 fish (Disbar and watchman goby) some zoas and 1 torch. Zoas had to get moved lower since they were always closed and turning black. At least I now knew the light was effectively strong
- Week 7 - added one more fish (benghai cardinal)
- Week 8 - our LFS finally got some clowns so we picked too and we figured that would be our final setup. (5 fish and 2 shrimp... I know a lot, but atm they were all tiny so I figured by the time they grew we might upgrade the tank.
-Week 9 - In the past week one clown and the benghai die. Neither seemed healthy from the store. I panicked there was soemthing up with the tank
-Week 10 - We get a slightly larger clown to hopefully pair with the remaining.
-Week 11- original remaining clown died from getting beat up by bigger clown.
-Week 12- we already had random amounts of detritus but nothign bad. Cyano starting to come up now. (I thought it was coraline lol) More LPS corals added, all look amazing and juicy, zoos are dividing. Gave away the other clown.
-Week 14 - come back from vacation (10 days). One of the shrimp(fire shrimp is missing) I ghetto rigged an ATO and got an automatic feeder. All other fish are fine. Massive Cyano bloom. Corals closed.
-Week 15 - Corals not recover after big water change and deep clean. First sandbed vacuum.
-Added more to Cuc included sandsifting starfish. Long tentacle anemone added at some point.
Week 16 - 2 of the sexiest torches I had died. Brown all over. Wasnt sure if slime. Worried it may have gone all over tank as I left them in there for a while. GHAis starting to spread. Tiny bubble tip anemone added at some point.
Week 17 - had to go out of town for a week.
Week 18 - Come back, GHA is everywhere, huge cleaning, sandbed vacuuming of course. LTA dead. Added more to CuC. 2 turbo snails. Noticed them gobbling algae.
Week 19 - Tank recovered a bit. Gave away shrimp as it ate the starfish. Got pair of clowns. (currently have original goby, disbar, and now 2 clowns)
Week 20 - Got soem LPS corals to replace the ones that died. Added protein skimmer. Tank looking like its gettign better. Corals all open.
Week 21 - Got some more corals
Week 22 - Everything looks pretty good, CuC looked liek it woudl continue to clear all algae except it almost seems liek its coming back
Week 23 - Ton of algae back. Took rocks out and scrubbed them. Deep bed vacuum. I threw out the HOB filter. Added another powerhead. Cloudy water for 2 days then back to clean.
Week 24- All corals are pretty close up. Noticed 3 blue leg hermits on a dying coral. One was eating stuff from it. I couldn't tell if it was eating live or dead matter, if it came later or actually helped kill it.
Week 25 - today. I am 6 months deep and was expecting to be further along than just fighting back algae for a good part. I know I started with more fish than ideal but there have been much less for months, feedings have been veyr closely regulated and there is a skimmer and still coral heads are dying, lpss are hiding and GHA is still prevalent.

*Water testing done: Usually perfect water based on API water standards. Most recent test about 1 week ago was (and they are almost all identical to this):
Salinity: 1.027
pH: 7.8
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 10-20 (although testing at fish store told me it was 3ppm before when it said 20 throguh the API kit, idk what to trust now)
Calcium: 460
KH: 179
Phosphate: 0-0.25 (almost always 0)

Questions and concerns:
- I am worried about taking the HOB on the back. Logically I feel like a mechanical filtration trap for floating food/debris is needed but unfortunately the sponge system seems it can do more harm then good even if cleaned weekly. I am also worried a sudden removal of the biomax which holds the bacteria could be bad. However its been gone 1 week and no significant changes have happened.

- How can I finally get rid of this GHA?? I was thinking of doing a reactor but is it necessary? Fighting conch is too big for my tank and thats sand only anyways. What else can I do? I could do a fuge with some chaeto but is that ideal? Since there would be no mechanical filtration all the debris would get stuck in the chaeto. vodka dosing?

- Why are my coral heads dying? Is it possible the hermits actually eat them? Seems rare from my readings. Light?

-Should I remove the bigger hermits? I feel like they kill the smaller ones? I am missing many smaller ones and occasionally see dead legs and bodies on the sand bed. More so I am worried about them killign corals.

- I noted most of the bad stuff start to happen when I switched to reef crystals...I doubt its from that though as the timing for the stuff was aligned with normal maturation. Its not completely out of question though...I am however on a 3rd bag of the stuff so its not bag specific if it is the problem.

- Is the current setup pretty good?

- What do you think of lighting? Seems to be fine of the LPS opened up great at different times right?

Here are some current pics:

hokejka
07/06/2017, 03:38 PM
Update: I came to conclusion salinity and alk was too high. Salinity: 1.027 Alk: 13

I dont think that those 2 numbers are responsible for what was going on but from what I read they are not ideal. They have only recently ramped up. I was previously running 1.026 salinity with an dKH of 11 and corals were dyign anyways. I decided to swith to the Red sea blue tub. Says I shoudl be able to mix a pKH of 8 vs a pKH of 11 with instant ocean or 11-12 with reef crystals. I will slowly down the alkalinity with 20% weekely water changes and hope to be in the single digits soon.

Not sure what to think as I keep reading and see peopel runnign successful tanks filled with LPS runnign alkalinities even higher and high salinities occasionally.

Bagabaga
07/06/2017, 04:48 PM
Hair algae comes and goes as a tank settles in if it's on everything then it's a problem. Household ammonia has things other than ammonia in them that can get trapped in rock and sand and leech out later such as cleansers and other junk. That could be a huge problem

hokejka
07/06/2017, 05:47 PM
Wow I hope that did not happen... I made sure to buy the most "pure" with no additives but you never know

twitchy
07/06/2017, 07:46 PM
What is your source of freshwater? Do you have an RODI system or are you using tap water?

hokejka
07/08/2017, 12:41 AM
Yes have my own RO tested it and previously used a different source of DI that was a little better (obviously DI has less ppm) but no change between waters. Corals were dying before too

hokejka
07/10/2017, 10:27 AM
Havent had a cyano bloom in a while... Have had it for the past week. Tried to syphon as much as i could last water change a couple days ago. GHA is back very hard in some places. Looks like black fur in some rock crevices.

I am beginning to think my rocks are phosphate factories and the sand is doomed too. Can someone comment on my conclusion:

I feel like too much ammonia at the very start caused a massive (yet invisible) bacterial bloom; the full stock of fish and deaths of some critters continued to fuel it; the anemone could have killed my first torch which spread brown jelly around the tank creating a bad environment for most lps; this combination of dying LPS continued to fuel the bacteria; this large amount of bacteria was a fantastic fuel for the algae which can't seem to leave.

Conclusion, Im thinking I will not change a thing for next couple weeks besides small water changes and syphoning during the change. If there is no change Im thinking of starting over: acid dip the rocks and buy new sand.

*Only thing I haven't tried is a macroalgae fuge or algae scrubber... While I think it would help w the algae it still doesnt explain why so many corals died.

static916
07/10/2017, 11:19 AM
I think you're doing the right thing by giving your systems a good few weeks of not changing anything and keeping up the maintenance. Sometimes the system just takes longer to stabilize specially after deaths.

Before decided to acid dip give fluconazole a shot. I did it on my monitor tank where some corals kept growing stubborn algae with decent success and no affect on the livestock (snails).

hokejka
07/10/2017, 11:30 PM
I think you're doing the right thing by giving your systems a good few weeks of not changing anything and keeping up the maintenance. Sometimes the system just takes longer to stabilize specially after deaths.

Before decided to acid dip give fluconazole a shot. I did it on my monitor tank where some corals kept growing stubborn algae with decent success and no affect on the livestock (snails).

hmm sounds interesting... happy it worked for you. Cant hurt at this point. If no change I will try that. If nothing then ill dip them and start over. possible new glass AIO so I can get a better skimmer and have space for a GFO if an emergency comes.

I just did some readings and it seems a lot of you guys acid dip new rocks you buy. I just assumed they already were clean and ready to go so I rinsed mine. After searching specifically for this, seems like a lot of people had a ton of algae problems with regular dry rocks being algae magnets when they werent dipped prior to use. :headwally: wish I read/heard about this before. Idk if it woudl explain coral dying but it would explain the nonstop GHA

Bagabaga
07/14/2017, 04:20 PM
Just keep at it. Rocks and sand don't trap phosphates unless they have been used and killed a couple times. If it was fresh live rock from the ocean then you just need to wait long meet and maintain stable parameters. If it's dry rock you made live then that takes longest to cure in your system and settle out. Mine was dry rock and I had hair algae until November last year. 8 months until I was stable enough that hair algae stopped covering everything.

Is it bryopsis hair algae or just that stringy green stuff? If it's bryopsis you may try spot cleaning with a wire brush and rinsing the spot with hydrogen peroxide in a bucket a then rinsing in used tank water and replacing in the tank.

This hobby has taught many patience and it's hard to make it go faster. Slower is always better. And things take a long time. If you change one thing wait a week to see how it effects things before making more changes.

hokejka
07/14/2017, 09:49 PM
Just keep at it. Rocks and sand don't trap phosphates unless they have been used and killed a couple times. If it was fresh live rock from the ocean then you just need to wait long meet and maintain stable parameters. If it's dry rock you made live then that takes longest to cure in your system and settle out. Mine was dry rock and I had hair algae until November last year. 8 months until I was stable enough that hair algae stopped covering everything.

Is it bryopsis hair algae or just that stringy green stuff? If it's bryopsis you may try spot cleaning with a wire brush and rinsing the spot with hydrogen peroxide in a bucket a then rinsing in used tank water and replacing in the tank.

This hobby has taught many patience and it's hard to make it go faster. Slower is always better. And things take a long time. If you change one thing wait a week to see how it effects things before making more changes.

Kind of a mix of both. I have scrubbed the rocks before in a bucket. Dont want to do peroxide as I heard it kills the good bacteria too and you almost restart to bacteria colonization. I understand the algae taking a while to dissapear though...

While it is frustrating I do have patience. I just cant seem to wrap my head around why we had so many corals die. I doubt they would die bc of a pKH being 12-13? salinity? (some people talk about theirs being way over 1.030 (mine has never been close. The highest spike it had was 1.028 with a range usually of 1.026-1.027 which i recently dropped to 1.024-1.025. Besides those 2 things (that arents even in extremes) / some hair algae, I can't seem to find any reasoning for dead corals.

Bagabaga
07/15/2017, 02:45 AM
Spikes are bad. With a hardness as high as you have it a little evaporation is going to cause stress on the corals because it will spike and drop hard. Same goes for salinity. If you can't keep those both rock solid at those levels then you'd be safer lowering them over time to acceptable levels that most of us shoot for.

My tank is steady at 9kh and salinity of 35ppt. Calcium is at 420-440 per test.

hokejka
07/15/2017, 01:07 PM
That makes sense. Thank you! I currently refill what evaporates twice a day, although there do come days where I can only top it off once and those mini spikes might be enough to stress the corals. I will get an ATO in the next couple weeks. That will help keep salinity perfect. The hardness will slowly be coming down in the next couple weeks too as I do water changes. New salt is mixing at pKH of 8 so that will help. Did my first one a week ago with a 25% change and will go back to doing 10% changes...

I will say that the salinity adjustment and slight lowering of hardness with the last change must have made a difference as all the remaining corals are looking much better. However the corals that died the quickest were torches and I don't have any more left so I can't see if whatever was going on is helping on them. Might get a small frag and put it in next weekend to see how it does.

I do have an extreme cyano bloom rn. Not sure what from but I guess tank is still balancing from the deaths of corals and removal of HOB filter.

hokejka
07/15/2017, 01:09 PM
So so happy these have opened up again.

Bagabaga
07/16/2017, 10:48 AM
They look like they are returning to normal. Yeah an ato is amazing addition, once a week fill a 5 gallon bucket instead of three times a day by hand for me. I'm not home enough to do that.

I would reconsider adding anymore corals until you're levels are lower and stable.

hokejka
07/16/2017, 09:00 PM
I will take that advice.. thank you. I will keep this thread updated on any changes. If anyone happens to think of any other possibilities for the corals dying please lmk so I can address it.

hokejka
07/22/2017, 01:10 PM
Smart micro ATO just arrived. will install.

I need to move the tank to a new place in the house and build a stand so I might as well make exactly what I want. Planning a 30 gallon rimless display with 20 gal sump. My current aquaticlife skimmer works well one day then nothing the other day. Im annoyed with this so really looking forward to a badass in sump skimmer with a partition for growing soem chaeto. Will make a new tank thread soon when I am ready to start piecing it together.