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Old 02-27-2014, 02:42 AM   #1
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Poor SPS color in Low nutrient system

TL;DR - I have never registered a reading above 0 for nitrates, phosphates or ammonia (including when I cycled). My SPS colors suck. What do you think of my plan to "dirty" up my water just a bit?

The title says it all. I have two nano tanks, the problem is similar in both. However, for the focus of this thread, I'll focus on one, as I'm seeing the same issues in both tanks (setup and params are close to similar).

Tank:

Was born (became wet) Feb of 2013.

About 21-23 total gallons of water after rock/sand/etc.

36" wide by ~8" deep by ~9" tall (12 gallons)
20 gallon sump with a huge ball on chaeto
MP10 - dialed about 3/4 the way up
Koralia nano 425 on the other side
Return pump -- don't remember the GPH amount

One (1) full "unit" of ChemiPure. I also have a carbon filter pad I'll change once a month, as I decided to remove the filter from the return pump since it is a pain to clean.

I have not used a filter sock in probably 8 months.

AquaC Remora Nano skimmer

T5 Lighting. Bulbs were changed in the last month.

39W - 36” T5 ATI Coral Plus
39W - 36” T5 ATI Blue Plus

Params:

Temp: 76-77 (kept in check by an Apex)
Alk: 11.2
Ca: 465
Mag: 1400
Trates/trites/Ammonia/Phosphates: 0

I dose two-part as well as magnesium as needed.

Stock List:
  • Two (2) clowns
  • One (1) Banggai cardinalfish (was born in a tank in my city)
  • One (1) small goby (can't remember the name)
  • One (1) Maxima clam (it's about three inches now, and I know it will out grow the tank in the next couple of years. But it's happy as a "clam" now)
  • 6-8 SPS corals - Mostly acros, but I have a small chalice & a pocillopora in there.
  • One (1) RBT anemone (recently split and looks amazing)
  • One (1) Maxi Mini anemone

Have a good sized cleanup crew as well as a few sexy shrimp & a pistol my goby never decided to pair up with.

Feeding Schedule

I completely overfeed marine cuisine. Most of what I feed the fish ends up in the sump. They are fat and really happy.

2-3 times a week I will target feed reef chili. Other days I'll give a capful of ZooBlast or Phyto.


Water changes

I've been pretty religious about doing 5 gallon a week or every two week water changes, depending on time. I do use RO/DI water and Red Sea Pro salt.

So?

My skimmer pulls very very little simmate, even if it's on the most aggressive setting. At this point, it takes 2-4 weeks for it to fill up.

I do not think I have adequate room to add another fish, as I'd worry about territorial aggression issues. I see pods running rampant all over the tank day and (especially at) night. Stomatellas that I never added to the tank on purpose are everywhere. I don't have GHA in the tank, and got over the early cyano issues with one dose of chemiclean 5-6 months back. However, my acro colors totally suck. I will occasionally get some STN. I've lost a few small frags to RTN. My anemone's look amazing.

I've been talking with my LFS owner, and we're both thinking my water is ****ed near "sterile" and my SPSs are starving. Here's the plan we've come up with, and I'm curious if any of you have had similar experiences, and what you think.


1.) No water changes for at least a month. In a month, I might do a gallon or possibly two to replenish some trace elements. Basically, until I read any nitrates at all, I'm not going to worry about it.

2.) Keep feeding my fish the same, but up the phyto/Reef Chili to daily target feedings until I start to read phosphates and/or nitrates.

3.) Pull the carbon filter that is in my sump to catch junk before going back into the display. I'll replace that with a simple filter that contains no carbon.

4.) In a month, if I see no 'trates or 'phates, I'll pull the chemipure to see what happens.

What do you think? I've read studies that show some phosphates are good for coral growth. My growth isn't anything to write home about either. I feel like I'm doing everything right. However, spending lots of time reading, it seems like everything is pointing to my water being way too clean.

Thanks in advance!
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Old 02-27-2014, 03:02 AM   #2
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You posted a lot of info and that's good. If I had to pick one thing to start fixing your problem it wouldn't be water quality. It seems fine. Instead I would focus on your lighting. Your tank is only 9" tall and two 39W bulbs sitting over it could be doing more harm than good. In other words, the intensity might be too strong. I've always used LEDs and don't know a whole a lot about T5s so I might be wrong. However, given your perfect water quality I would start with lighting and then look into your flow. 3/4 of 1575 gph capable powerhead in addition to a Koralia could be too strong as well.
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Old 02-27-2014, 03:30 AM   #3
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Thanks MarinaClown.

I think that is an astute observation. I started with LEDs and ended up melting most of what I had in the tank when it was new (they were running at about 10%). I think it was a serious newb mistake on my part.

My lights sit about 1.5-2 feet from the water surface. While I haven't tested with a PAR meter, isn't it reasonable to assume that my tank is like a 24" setup with lights 1.5-2 feet off the water with SPSs in the top 8" of the tank? The LFS I go to has acros up to the water edge with a 6 bulb fixture. He's getting crazy crazy colors and growth, whereas I get good encrusting, but corals turning brown.

The reason I added the koralia is the surface agitation was rather poor on the opposite end of the tank.

Here are a few photos:

L9991336.jpg -- RBTA (has since split and continues to look awesome)
L9991553.jpg -- mili - looks okay usually way nice Polpy Extension, but the green acro to the right has only gotten lighter in the last couple of months
L9991552.jpg -- Maxi Mini - looks awesome and isn't tossed around by flow.
L9991551.jpg -- My first acro. Used to be a dark purple. Now most of the flesh is just kind of "blah"

For comparison, here is that acro when I got it. -- photo.JPG Blues are a bit exaggerated by the crappy iPhone photo. But I think it helps to illustrate the color loss.

Thanks for the response!
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Old 02-27-2014, 03:44 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gaker View Post

My lights sit about 1.5-2 feet from the water surface. While I haven't tested with a PAR meter, isn't it reasonable to assume that my tank is like a 24" setup with lights 1.5-2 feet off the water with SPSs in the top 8" of the tank?

That's a good question and unfortunately goes beyond my knowledge and expertise. To be more specific I don't know if light penetration/distribution over the air going into a shallow reef tank is the same as a regular 2ft tall tank where the light is spread mostly over water. Hope what I just said makes sense to you. Best way to find out is using a PAR meter as you mentioned.
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Old 02-27-2014, 03:47 AM   #5
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I would be careful experimenting with nutrients though. If your corals are already fragile and vulnerable you probably don't want to do anything that would stress them out even more...and potentially cause a massive wipe out of corals.
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Old 02-27-2014, 03:53 AM   #6
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I do agree with you there. Do you find it odd that with multiple test kits between me and my LFS testing, I have never registered ammonia, nitrates or phosphates? __ever__


ETA: I'm using either Red Sea or Salifert test kits
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Old 02-27-2014, 03:55 AM   #7
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Actually now that I think about it your corals might need more light. If your light fixture is 18-20 inches above the tank and your coral placement is in the middle then it's like the corals are over two feet below the light. That technically means that your Light is not penetrating deep enough to reach your corals. You should probably try lowering your light fixture little by little and see how it goes before raising nitrates.
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Old 02-27-2014, 10:09 AM   #8
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If his mini and rbta are happy with their lighting shouldn't the acros be also. They all need about the same lighting requirements
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Old 02-27-2014, 10:24 AM   #9
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Sps don't brown out in low nutrient systems. They turn pale colored but not brown. With the amount you feed I don't think you have a low nutrient system. IMO the colors don't look that bad, sps corals morph all the time depending on what lighting they're under. What kind of bulbs do you use?
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Old 02-27-2014, 11:32 AM   #10
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Browning of the corals is from not enough light, bleaching is to much light. From your pictures I don't see either. Coral will look different under different lights, could that be why you think they don't look right? I feed my sps tanks pretty much every day, but I over skim and am very strict with my 2 wc/week schedule
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