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Help on Keeping SPS corals


Its_cchan
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Hey Everyone, so I am looking to purchase a couple of SPS corals. These will just be a few frags to test waters. Anyways, I would like to get some feedback from the more experience reefers on this topic. I would like to understand the parameter requirements (alkalinity, nutrients, trace elements, etc) and what has worked best for you. Please include your tank parameters, equipment you use to maintain constant parameters, what you are dosing to maintain these parameters, type of growth you are experiencing with your parameters, etc. Basically, give me the whole story. The other items lighting par and water flow I have done some research already, so I am all set there. Here are my parameters if it helps.

kH 7.7 

Calcium 480

Phosphate 0 

pH 8.0 

Nitrate between 0-5 ppm 

Water Temp 81 F summers/79 F winters. 
 

Salinity 1.025

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Im an SPS noob compared to many on the forum, but I'll chime in. 

Your parameters seem good to me. Happy to see an alkalinity near natural seawater, I think high alkalinity is one of the underappreciated coral killers in our hobby. 

The other ingredient that I havent seen mentioned yet is an established microbial community. IME most reef keeper find success with SPS in mature, established tanks with good microbial communities, while very few find success in recently established dry rock tanks. Thats certainly been the case for me. 

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Emeyer has hit the nail on the head.  There is no one thing that will make you successful, it is a combination of everything.  Everyone likes to throw the word stability out there but the definition of stability is somewhat left up tot he user.  OK, my alk has been stable for months... so I must have stability.  

Your aquarium is basically one big balance scale... its kind of like one of those mobiles that you built in grade school with all these different elements balancing each other.  Moving one may have less affect on the overall balance than moving the other.  Corals are somewhat like plants.. their growth is a result of endothermic reactions that are based on the conditions surrounding them.  Having mature biota is paramount in keeping everything in balance.  You can think of your microbial populations as an example of the the artic hare/ fox population dynamic.  When there are lots of hares... the fox population rises, the number of hares falls, and then the foxes starve and the numbers decrease.   

Your aquarium is the same way.  When you start an aquarium there is a boom of nutrients and a flush of biota explodes to process them.  Then the bacteria numbers shoot past available resources, their numbers crash, then nutrients spike, etc etc.  You can think of your tank nutrient processing as a sign wave and the frequency or oscillation of the wave form gets smaller and smaller over time as things stabilize.  Now, that waveform is subject to even more disruption with things such as light duration, temperature, adding fish, fish dying, salinity changes and water changes. In addition, the species that process different compounds grow at different rates, those that convert nitrate to nitrate gas being the slowest.  You never see a new aquarium owner saying "I can't keep nitrates up" while there are two year old tanks where people are dosing nitrates into them. 

I realize that this may not be helpful in specific terms but it will be helpful in the long run in terms of understanding just how complex things are. 

So, do I think your tank can grow SPS?  Maybe.. but if you walked up to me in the LFS and threw those numbers out at me my first repsonse would be...

1. what lighting and par do you have? 

2. you need a new phosphate test kit because if you really had zero phosphate , everything would be dead. 

3. Have you had any major outbreaks of cyano or dino?  Both are tell tales signs of nutrient instability / flux. 

4. How often do you do water changes?  Do you test alk before you add the new water to your tank? 

5. What is your plan for adding cal and alk to your tank when the sps start to grow?  Water changes can work.. but you have to understand that water changes to supplement cal and alk are pretty much the antithesis of stability.  "Oh, I will just add high alk new water once a week to combat my dropping alk/cal in my tank"  #yoyo_numbers 

6. Do you write down your measurements?  THIS IS PARAMOUNT.  What is killing your sps now is something that happened a week or three weeks ago... How would you know without a record of what things were and what you added or whatever. 

I am not trying to discourage you from collecting SPS but like most things, you can google and find the answers that sound good to you like "I never test and things look great" but what you may not know is that that tank might be 4 years old and hasn't had a new fish or coral in a year plus.  It can be challenging but also very rewarding. And it can also be utterly devastating (to your wallet and feelings) to have things die when you don't know what is wrong. 

This may all seem like overkill, maybe it is. But after watching my wallet turn into ashes I got serious about the whole thing.  Then things were going great and I got lax again... "this frag has been in QT for a week..I am sure its fine" and then I got burned again.  

 

I hope this is helpful. 

 

 

 

 

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5 hours ago, EMeyer said:

Im an SPS noob compared to many on the forum, but I'll chime in. 

Your parameters seem good to me. Happy to see an alkalinity near natural seawater, I think high alkalinity is one of the underappreciated coral killers in our hobby. 

The other ingredient that I havent seen mentioned yet is an established microbial community. IME most reef keeper find success with SPS in mature, established tanks with good microbial communities, while very few find success in recently established dry rock tanks. Thats certainly been the case for me. 

It is good to know that I am not the only one going through this. I think high alkalinity is bad if a person doesn't understand the relationship between coral tissue and skeletal growth. This requires a good understanding of the principal of high alkalinity and maintaining relatively high nutrients. Like you said, if these things are not understood completely, it is better to stick with alkalinity at or near natural seawater. 

My tank has been up for 4 months, which I know is relatively new. I recently started to see coraline algea spots on the rock-work which could signify my tank is getting that much closer to maturing. My other coral so far are doing great. I mostly have a lot of LPS, montiporas, favias, and anemones. I just hope I did not jump the gun to soon into the SPS scene. Thanks for the insight by the way. Keep me updated on how you do. How does your set-up look like? 

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3 hours ago, pdxmonkeyboy said:

Emeyer has hit the nail on the head.  There is no one thing that will make you successful, it is a combination of everything.  Everyone likes to throw the word stability out there but the definition of stability is somewhat left up tot he user.  OK, my alk has been stable for months... so I must have stability.  

Your aquarium is basically one big balance scale... its kind of like one of those mobiles that you built in grade school with all these different elements balancing each other.  Moving one may have less affect on the overall balance than moving the other.  Corals are somewhat like plants.. their growth is a result of endothermic reactions that are based on the conditions surrounding them.  Having mature biota is paramount in keeping everything in balance.  You can think of your microbial populations as an example of the the artic hare/ fox population dynamic.  When there are lots of hares... the fox population rises, the number of hares falls, and then the foxes starve and the numbers decrease.   

Your aquarium is the same way.  When you start an aquarium there is a boom of nutrients and a flush of biota explodes to process them.  Then the bacteria numbers shoot past available resources, their numbers crash, then nutrients spike, etc etc.  You can think of your tank nutrient processing as a sign wave and the frequency or oscillation of the wave form gets smaller and smaller over time as things stabilize.  Now, that waveform is subject to even more disruption with things such as light duration, temperature, adding fish, fish dying, salinity changes and water changes. In addition, the species that process different compounds grow at different rates, those that convert nitrate to nitrate gas being the slowest.  You never see a new aquarium owner saying "I can't keep nitrates up" while there are two year old tanks where people are dosing nitrates into them. 

I realize that this may not be helpful in specific terms but it will be helpful in the long run in terms of understanding just how complex things are. 

So, do I think your tank can grow SPS?  Maybe.. but if you walked up to me in the LFS and threw those numbers out at me my first repsonse would be...

1. what lighting and par do you have? 

2. you need a new phosphate test kit because if you really had zero phosphate , everything would be dead. 

3. Have you had any major outbreaks of cyano or dino?  Both are tell tales signs of nutrient instability / flux. 

4. How often do you do water changes?  Do you test alk before you add the new water to your tank? 

5. What is your plan for adding cal and alk to your tank when the sps start to grow?  Water changes can work.. but you have to understand that water changes to supplement cal and alk are pretty much the antithesis of stability.  "Oh, I will just add high alk new water once a week to combat my dropping alk/cal in my tank"  #yoyo_numbers 

6. Do you write down your measurements?  THIS IS PARAMOUNT.  What is killing your sps now is something that happened a week or three weeks ago... How would you know without a record of what things were and what you added or whatever. 

I am not trying to discourage you from collecting SPS but like most things, you can google and find the answers that sound good to you like "I never test and things look great" but what you may not know is that that tank might be 4 years old and hasn't had a new fish or coral in a year plus.  It can be challenging but also very rewarding. And it can also be utterly devastating (to your wallet and feelings) to have things die when you don't know what is wrong. 

This may all seem like overkill, maybe it is. But after watching my wallet turn into ashes I got serious about the whole thing.  Then things were going great and I got lax again... "this frag has been in QT for a week..I am sure its fine" and then I got burned again.  

 

I hope this is helpful. 

 

 

 

 

This information was extremely helpful and insightful, thanks so much. Here are some answers to you questions. 

1. I am currently on the wait-list to use the par meter, so once I get this, I should be able to understand the various par levels within my tank. 

2. You are right on this, I intend to get either the Hanna or Salifer phosphate kit. Which do you recommend? 

3. No outbreaks yet, I have noticed a couple spots on the rock work with Cyano and a bit of spots on the sand bed with Dinos. I attribute this to overfeeding the corals and the fish. I have reduced the feeding of the fish to smaller quantities once per day and target feed the corals once per week. 

4. I have a 60 gallon tank w/ 10 gallon sump. I do a 10 gallon water change once a week. I do not test alkalinity of the new water going into the tank and I would need to. Good call on this. 

5. I plan to check Alkalinity and Calcium everyday or every other day to make sure levels stay consistent and manually dose both if needed. I would like to go fully automatic with the dosing and keeping track of these parameters, but the equipment will be expensive. Eventually, I will save up some cash to set up an monitoring and dosing system. 

6. Yes, I test and keep track of my parameters at least twice per week. I know that I will probably need to do more frequent testing if I plan to keep SPS corals. 

You are very right in saying that there are a lot of misinformation on google on how to keep SPS corals, which is why I decided to ask her first. Not only for the sake of the corals but also not to be throwing money away.

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1 hour ago, Its_cchan said:

This information was extremely helpful and insightful, thanks so much. Here are some answers to you questions. 

1. I am currently on the wait-list to use the par meter, so once I get this, I should be able to understand the various par levels within my tank.   

Cool. 

 

1 hour ago, Its_cchan said:

2. You are right on this, I intend to get either the Hanna or Salifer phosphate kit. Which do you recommend? 

I use the milwaukie mi412 but it is expensive.  I would say hanna

3. No outbreaks yet, I have noticed a couple spots on the rock work with Cyano and a bit of spots on the sand bed with Dinos. I attribute this to overfeeding the corals and the fish. I have reduced the feeding of the fish to smaller quantities once per day and target feed the corals once per week. 

Both are usually caused by super low nutrient levels.  Ok, the jury is still out on what exactly causes them but the best thing that I read and that makes a lot of sense is that they are both extremely efficient at capturing nutrients are very low levels, like lower than other bacteria can.  Low levels can cause them to "get the upper hand" and populations to explode.  This is why reducing nutrients does not often work. 

4. I have a 60 gallon tank w/ 10 gallon sump. I do a 10 gallon water change once a week. I do not test alkalinity of the new water going into the tank and I would need to. Good call on this. 

No problem.  It is just a decent practice to get into.  BUY A HANNAH ALK METER. 

5. I plan to check Alkalinity and Calcium everyday or every other day to make sure levels stay consistent and manually dose both if needed. I would like to go fully automatic with the dosing and keeping track of these parameters, but the equipment will be expensive. Eventually, I will save up some cash to set up an monitoring and dosing system. 

Twice a week is plenty for testing.  You can hand dose once things start actually being consumed. 

6. Yes, I test and keep track of my parameters at least twice per week. I know that I will probably need to do more frequent testing if I plan to keep SPS corals. 

Again, twice a wee 

1 hour ago, Its_cchan said:

You are very right in saying that there are a lot of misinformation on google on how to keep SPS corals, which is why I decided to ask her first. Not only for the sake of the corals but also not to be throwing money away.

 

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