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Old 08-18-2005, 06:34 PM   #1
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HELP! Corals bleaching

Well... I had a great 5 day vacation to Chicago, until I came home to a polluted reef tank. While I was gone, a 2" long Mandarin fish died and apparently polluted the tank. He probably died right after I left, because there wasn't much left of him by the time I pulled him out. So far, I have done four 30% water changes over the past five days.

Here are the livestock observations:
1) No other dead fish (only have five others).
2) One dead crocea clam (died three days after I got home, got him out quickly).
3) Two 80% bleached Montipora (plating).
4) Two 50% bleached Montipora (branching).
5) Toadstool coral fallen over and polyps retracted completely, although it is perking up a little now.
6) Cup coral polyps completely retracted.
7) Torch coral polyps completely retracted.
8)Six sets of Xenia severely shriveled up but still attached to the live rock.
9) Two sets of Zoo polyps completely retracted.
10) Candy canes, mushrooms, elegance coral all look just fine.

Here are the chemical observations (these are the only things that I test for since I only add B-ionic and rely on 10% weekly water changes to take care of all other trace elements):
1) Ca is 430
2) Alk is 3.5
3) Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 3 ppm, Phos .03
4) Temp 80 degrees, SG 1.025

The tank is 11 months old and I have never experienced ANY problems until this. Could the Toadstool be releasing toxins in distress? I'm confused about the ammon, nitrite and nitrate levels being so low since the fish that died was relatively large. Perhaps it spiked quickly while I was gone... I think that this may be the case since there is a moderate amount of cyano on the rocks (especially near the top) and I haven't had any cyano problems since I installed a phos-ban reactor. Could something have been released from the sand bed? ( it is only 3" deep).

Any opinions or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Any chance of those Montiporas coming back or should I get them out of the tank right now? I guess I'll keep doing some more water changes too.
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Old 08-18-2005, 09:22 PM   #2
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Anyone?
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Old 08-18-2005, 09:29 PM   #3
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Water changes are a good first step but you should also be running carbon. Be sure it is changed frequently for the first while. Have the skimmer adjusted to pull out the most it can. While corals are ailing, they will emit more than normal toxins (primarily soft) that will affect the entire tank.

Bleaching with SPS's is more commonly a light or irritant issue so be sure they are free of any detritus or excess mucus. You may end up having to frag those.

How's the pH?

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Old 08-18-2005, 09:36 PM   #4
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Was there a storm? Maybe you had a power outage.
Yes, PH?
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Old 08-18-2005, 09:42 PM   #5
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pH is 8.2

There was no power outage. If there had been, my wave maker would have reset to its default setting which it did not.

Carbon is running as is my skimmer... I run both of those 24/7. The carbor was just changed 5 days ago. Should I change it again? SPS--Frag off the bleached portions?
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Old 08-18-2005, 09:59 PM   #6
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I think you are doing just about all that can be done, I would change out the carbon again. As far as the SPS, I do not have much experience other than the fact that when they start to go, it is hard to reverse the process. That is just my experience (which is VERY limited as far as SPS go). I hope in your case you can
get it stopped.

Sorry to not be of much more help.
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Old 08-18-2005, 10:02 PM   #7
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The carbor was just changed 5 days ago. Should I change it again?
I would say yes. Steve can tackle the fraging question.

anyone taking care of the tank? Possible that a cleaning solution or something could have made its way in?
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Old 08-18-2005, 10:08 PM   #8
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As far as the SPS, I do not have much experience other than the fact that when they start to go, it is hard to reverse the process
That's what I thought. I just checked the tank and they're completely bleached... what a shame.

Quote:
anyone taking care of the tank? Possible that a cleaning solution or something could have made its way in?
No. I figured they could take care of themselves for only five days. I have Ca, Alk and top-off all set-up on a drip system. Everything worked fine while I was gone... as far as I can tell. They just had no food for five days.
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Old 08-18-2005, 10:14 PM   #9
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Wow, strange.
I doubt the Mandarin dying caused it, especially with your water readings.
are you simple inverts OK, like the snails?
sorry for all the Q's.
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Old 08-18-2005, 10:32 PM   #10
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Wow, strange
I know! I've beeen keeping all types of aquariums for over 25 years and I've never seen anything like this. Snails, featherdusters, linkia stars are all okay. I did lose a crocea clam. It seems like it has to be a toxin produced by either the toadstool or the Xenias. That's all thats left.

My theory so far is that this was a cascading effect precipitated by the death of the Mandarin. I think that the death of the mandarin touched off a brief, but large ammonia spike that was quickly brought under contol by the large amount of liverock, carbon filtration and skimming. The ammonia spike effected the soft coral which in turn released toxins that have been devastating some of my stony corals. Any opinions on this? Do I remove my soft corals... I sure would hate to do this based on a "theory". Steve, Hara, Quarry-- have any of you had a crash like this? If so, how long did your corals take to recover... and how did you do it. I really appreciate the assistance that you have provided so far.
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Old 08-18-2005, 11:20 PM   #11
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I don't do reefs so Steve would be a better resource, but IMO since your water quality seem OK, I would frag anything that appears dead and do the water changes.
It seems that you had an acute attack of some sort. Since everything was in harmony before, I believe that removing corals would be drastic under the circumstances.
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Old 08-19-2005, 11:58 AM   #12
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Wow, this is terrible. Sorry for that crash of yours. You've done so much water change over the past weeks, that's about the only good thing I can think about. You pretty much have new water in your tank now.

Aren't there any "coral medicine" of some sort? i mean, I am pretty sure these guys have poisoned each other after the ammonia spike. There's nothing positive I can come up with on this accident. Sorry, bro/sis.
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Old 08-19-2005, 02:05 PM   #13
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Aren't there any "coral medicine" of some sort?
That's a very good question. Anyone have an answer? I think that I remember someone mentioning "Coral Vital". I checked it on the web and it is indicated to be an "aid to damaged corals" and not a trace element additive. Anyone used this produst before?
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Old 08-19-2005, 02:07 PM   #14
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In a 72g aquarium I can't for the life of me imagine one (even healthy/large) mandarin doing enough damage to water quality that a tank would crash. I've had some serious ammo for a prolonged period that didn't cause a tank crash (feeding accident took a week to get in control of).

If a mandarin had died in my tank you would spend the next month wondering what happened to him (and then giving up looking). If you found him quickly and had a good clean up crew in the tank then I'd guess he was dead for less than 24 hours.

We did a rescue on some corals recently and lost a lot of them to RTN. Are your corals RTNing? What do you mean by bleaching? Are they getting lighter or going stark naked white? Stark white I'm afraid there's no recovering from... If they are getting lighter or browner then there's something up with the water that's causing them to stress.

Have you changed ANYTHING about the tank in the week or two before you left? Add anything? Change anything? Anything at all? Even something you might not feel is related?

I'd change the carbon frequently (every day/other day). As for the Monti's I'd frag a piece off of each if possible so that if it is RTNing you might be ablet to save a piece of it. What do they look like today?
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Old 08-19-2005, 03:12 PM   #15
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Are your corals RTNing?
Some of the LPS appear to be. The torch coral is starting to show bare skeleton. The plate coral is showing a little around the edges. The moon, candy canes, brain, and fox appear to be okay... right now. The cup coral seems to be okay but hasn't extended any polyps for a week (that is when I got home and noticed this).

The softies are hurting. Xenias are completely shriveled and getting worse. Toadstool is slumped over and has no polyps extended. The green star polyps, however, seem fine.

Quote:
Are they getting lighter or going stark naked white?
When I started this thread the SPS were getting lighter but still had color. That is when I determined that they were bleaching. Now, they are completely white... there is nothing healthy left to frag. It happened so fast!!! RTN?

Quote:
Have you changed ANYTHING about the tank in the week or two before you left? Add anything? Change anything? Anything at all? Even something you might not feel is related?

I can't think of anything at all. I only dose B-Ionic with a separate drip system for
each component. I rely on 10% weekly water changes for trace additions. I did my water change before I left... perhaps something was wrong with it. It is RO/DI that I buy from a local LFS, but things happen I suppose. How frustrating!!!
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Old 08-19-2005, 03:58 PM   #16
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I guess that's why they call it rapid... When it happened to the corals we tried to rescue you could literally watch the skin peel off of the corals. It was awful. Sounds like what you experienced.

Perhaps your change water had gotten contaminated somehow. Hopefully the ones you have left will rebound now.

When my xenias/kenyas crashed they decayed from the inside you. You could tell by looking at them that something wasn't right. If you think that's what's happening in your tank cut the tops off (especially the xenia since it wil all grow back anyway if there was still healthy tissue in the base). Nothing worse than not knowing what is going on with your system. It leaves you feeling so helpless.
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Old 08-19-2005, 09:18 PM   #17
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Be careful on the LPS corals, you could be experiencing polyp bail out but that is more typical with poor water chemistry, usually too high. The main concern to watch for here is brown jelly disease. More commonly brought on by a severe stress event that allows opportunistic bacteria to take hold. It will look like a cloud of brown goo hovering over the coral's polyp head. In a nut shell, the bacteria is consuming the coral flesh. The best way to deal with this is frag any heads that are affected to help save the healthy ones. Never fan a coral affected by it or you spread it. Light infections should be syphoned off the coral. The addition of stabalized vitamin C is very helpful as will be regular liquid vitamins for aquarium use. Be careful on the dosage of C as it will lower pH. Also remove the carbon for several hours after each dose.

As Hara said change the carbon. I would actually suggest changing it daily for a few days and then at least weekly for a while. Glad to hear you use it regularly.

The only thing I can think of here would be an ammonia, heat or unseen chemical issue. The water changes and carbon use will definately help repair what can be. Just be diligent.

As for the SPS, if the flesh is literally falling away it's more than likely the coral is a goner. RTN is a serious "no coming back from" problem in most cases as Phyl points out. If just bleaching (turning white but appearantly retaining the flesh) I would still lean towards a chemical issue whether that be air borne or from the animals in the tank who knows. In any event, frag the corals affected all the way back to the healthiest parts. Even if that means disposing of ¬ľ" or so of healthy bits. You want to make sure it does not spread further. Basically think of it as a fire break, you need to sacrifice some healthy parts to preserve the whole.

I would also let your chemistry fall a bit. The higher Ca will be added stress to already stressed animals. Try maintaining the chem closer to 2.8-2.8 DKH and 405-415 ppm Ca.

Cheers
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Old 08-20-2005, 08:53 AM   #18
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The only thing I can think of here would be an ammonia, heat or unseen chemical issue.
I've tested for ammonia several times (w/ 2 different test kits)... 0 each time. Unless it spiked and then came back down while I was gone that shouldn't be the problem. The tank is in my basement and it is always very cool down there so my temp never goes above 81 degrees. Even with my MH blazing away, the heater is still on often. I run my MH for 10 hrs/day and the PC for 11 hrs/day. Would cutting back on the photoperiod help? If so, to what duration?

Quote:
The main concern to watch for here is brown jelly disease.
I lost the torch coral and I did see a liitle brown jelly being released. I siphoned off what I could and removed the skeleton. Surprisingly, my very large elegance coral seems to be doing just fine. I thought that would be the first one that I would lose.

Quote:
As Hara said change the carbon. I would actually suggest changing it daily for a few days and then at least weekly for a while. Glad to hear you use it regularly.
I'm changing the carbon daily now (Kent's reef carbon).

Quote:
unseen chemical issue
I'm going to the LFS today to pick-up some chemi-pure and run that for a while too. Hopefully, that can pick-up any unusual organics that the carbon might miss.


Thanks again for the help!
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Old 08-20-2005, 02:18 PM   #19
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Quote:
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The only thing I can think of here would be an ammonia, heat or unseen chemical issue.
I've tested for ammonia several times (w/ 2 different test kits)... 0 each time. Unless it spiked and then came back down while I was gone that shouldn't be the problem. The tank is in my basement and it is always very cool down there so my temp never goes above 81 degrees. Even with my MH blazing away, the heater is still on often. I run my MH for 10 hrs/day and the PC for 11 hrs/day. Would cutting back on the photoperiod help? If so, to what duration?
I doubt the photoperiod would be much of an issue here unless something had recently changed in the intensity. Bulb change, spectrum, improved water clarity through recent carbon use (if not always using) or something amiss with your timer. If you have the option of just running Fluors, reducing the MH period won't hurt.

As far as the ammonia, it could have easily spiked in a 5 day period and returned to normal. Given the age of the tank, it should have processed the spike fairly quickly.


Quote:
Quote:
unseen chemical issue
I'm going to the LFS today to pick-up some chemi-pure and run that for a while too. Hopefully, that can pick-up any unusual organics that the carbon might miss.
No need for Chemi-pure it will do not better or worse than the Kent. The white beads in the Chemi-pure actually do nothing in a SW environment. If anything Seachem Matrix is your best bet but for the most part the Kent can be finished off with good results.

Cheers
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