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SuncrestReef
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Hey John - really sorry to hear about the tank troubles and hope you are able to rebound soon.  Wish I could help you out with some donations but, as you know, I had a very similar experience and lost most everything as well and still haven't been able to get things back in order.

Not attempting a hijack here but thought I would throw in some details from my situation and see if there is any common thread - especially around the biome issue @EMeyer

My initial crash was over 2 years ago now with likely culprit being some metal contamination of my Ca reactor media. After cleaning up from that, I started having some success only to face various rounds of die offs that took out all but one acro (a piece from Jim that appears to be indestructible) and damaged or completely killed lots of encrusting montis and caps along with a host of other SPS and LPS.  I have tracked down a few other potential sources of problems - including a rusting out return pump - but water sample ICPs have failed to flag anything in particular except high phosphate (higher than my test kits for some reasons - 0.25 or so) and high lithium (not sure it's really a problem).  So, massive water changes and incorporation of an algae scrubber (along with my refugium) have all led to nothing but short term relief.  I am stumped to the point that I just left it alone for the last 3 months or so and finally am starting to see the return of color to a few corals and some growth starting again.

During this time, I lost one fish but have seen no effect on inverts such as conch, starfish, various snails, sea cucumbers etc. or pods in the refugium that would suggest broader issues.  Other than the addition of the home made scrubber, I haven't changed out any equipment or sources of food, water, etc.  Parameters have drifted a bit as I dialed back my Ca reactor to account for the coral loss but no dramatic spikes or dips in the general parameters.

As far as the phenomenology goes... the acros went by various routes - RTN, STN and what looked like "burning" of tips.  For most corals, however, the damage (bleaching/tissue loss) appeared on the surfaces that were most exposed to light - typically those that were parallel to the light source.  This had me thinking that it was, in some way, metabolically related (similar to running high PAR in low nutrients) but neither was the case in my tank at the time (probably 250 - 350 PAR, 4 Nitrate, 0.1 Phosphate).

Now John and I probably are at almost opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of tank setups where he runs lots of automation including dosing, testing, water changes etc. and I am much more hands off normally so there probably isn't much to point to there BUT we both submitted water samples to Eli during our periods of struggles so maybe there is something to be learned there.  I also had a fairly "stilted" distribution of bacteria if I recall correctly (over abundance of cyano variants and high level of denitrifying bacteria I believe).  While this may not be the same as John's, I wonder if there are some parallels.  Unfortunately, I don't have tests form "before" my initial issues for comparison but maybe Eli could add some context that would be enlightening? @EMeyer

I actually did pick up some media from John to try and diversify my biome from his incredibly successful tank but I think it was right about the time he started to have some issues - I think one of your colonies had just started to STN at that time - so may have been too late.  Would be interesting to retest my system with Eli and see how it compares to my and John's previous analyses.

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For what it's worth, I went through something similar last year.  Easy-hearty SPS coral colonies I had for years, like monti cap's, started dropping out as well as some LPS.  All parameters were good and the lights had not changed.  My thought process and research pointed towards replacing the Vibrios that might have been present in my tank.  I had success in Iodine dipping the rest of my colonies/frags and I started a regular regiment of Dr Tim's Eco-Balance and Refresh.  I added some new BIO Balls to the sump when I dosed the new bacteria to get things started.  I then added Eco Balance after each water change, and the ReFresh in-between changes every 4-5 days.  Things stabilized and normalized within a month or so and I've since backed off the treatment and new SPS frags/colonies are doing well again.  

I now always dip new frags and add some "good" bacteria from time to time.

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John, really sorry about your coral loss. I run into unexpected loss a few months back with my torches and otehr SPS. All params looked good with no large swings. When I sent my water sample for testing, I found out that I was low on Iodine. Some, survining corals are recovering but I know exactly how you feel. At least I was able to find the cause of my die off. I am rooting for you, but you may have to add this one to the list of misteries of life. 

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Here are some photos of the damage.  Not pictured are whole colonies that have already been removed from the tank.  You'll notice a lot of bubble and other algae due to the high nutrients.

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But not everything is bad.  Here are a few that seem to be OK, or only a tiny bit of recession:

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Oh, what a shock to learn that your dream tank has rapidly gone downhill.  And even worse to see that the club's skilled aquarists have experienced the same.  

Well, that helps me prepare to the nearly inevitable setback ahead for me.  Hopefully learning that your issues are shared by so many others is some comfort. 

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3 minutes ago, Manny Tavan said:

I’m gonna venture a guess and say that the sand likely is the culprit. Try removing 10% of it every week until there is no more sand

Just out of curiosity, in what particular way?  As a host for undesirable bacteria, sink for organic or inorganic contaminants?  Not saying it isn't the case but just wondering about the rationale.

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6 hours ago, albertareef said:

Hey John - really sorry to hear about the tank troubles and hope you are able to rebound soon.  Wish I could help you out with some donations but, as you know, I had a very similar experience and lost most everything as well and still haven't been able to get things back in order.

Not attempting a hijack here but thought I would throw in some details from my situation and see if there is any common thread - especially around the biome issue @EMeyer

My initial crash was over 2 years ago now with likely culprit being some metal contamination of my Ca reactor media. After cleaning up from that, I started having some success only to face various rounds of die offs that took out all but one acro (a piece from Jim that appears to be indestructible) and damaged or completely killed lots of encrusting montis and caps along with a host of other SPS and LPS.  I have tracked down a few other potential sources of problems - including a rusting out return pump - but water sample ICPs have failed to flag anything in particular except high phosphate (higher than my test kits for some reasons - 0.25 or so) and high lithium (not sure it's really a problem).  So, massive water changes and incorporation of an algae scrubber (along with my refugium) have all led to nothing but short term relief.  I am stumped to the point that I just left it alone for the last 3 months or so and finally am starting to see the return of color to a few corals and some growth starting again.

During this time, I lost one fish but have seen no effect on inverts such as conch, starfish, various snails, sea cucumbers etc. or pods in the refugium that would suggest broader issues.  Other than the addition of the home made scrubber, I haven't changed out any equipment or sources of food, water, etc.  Parameters have drifted a bit as I dialed back my Ca reactor to account for the coral loss but no dramatic spikes or dips in the general parameters.

As far as the phenomenology goes... the acros went by various routes - RTN, STN and what looked like "burning" of tips.  For most corals, however, the damage (bleaching/tissue loss) appeared on the surfaces that were most exposed to light - typically those that were parallel to the light source.  This had me thinking that it was, in some way, metabolically related (similar to running high PAR in low nutrients) but neither was the case in my tank at the time (probably 250 - 350 PAR, 4 Nitrate, 0.1 Phosphate).

Now John and I probably are at almost opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of tank setups where he runs lots of automation including dosing, testing, water changes etc. and I am much more hands off normally so there probably isn't much to point to there BUT we both submitted water samples to Eli during our periods of struggles so maybe there is something to be learned there.  I also had a fairly "stilted" distribution of bacteria if I recall correctly (over abundance of cyano variants and high level of denitrifying bacteria I believe).  While this may not be the same as John's, I wonder if there are some parallels.  Unfortunately, I don't have tests form "before" my initial issues for comparison but maybe Eli could add some context that would be enlightening? @EMeyer

I actually did pick up some media from John to try and diversify my biome from his incredibly successful tank but I think it was right about the time he started to have some issues - I think one of your colonies had just started to STN at that time - so may have been too late.  Would be interesting to retest my system with Eli and see how it compares to my and John's previous analyses.

The only sample I'm finding from you is in august 2019, does that sound about right?

If so, based on my records, it looks like your tank had a very low balance score similar to what John's later developed. Both of your tanks had very low levels of Pelagibacteraceae, but each of your tanks included different atypical families in its place. Both tanks also had elevated levels of Vibrionaceae. 

Keep in mind Pelagibacteraceae is the most abundant group in the ocean (a top contender for the most abundant organisms on the planet), and Vibrionaceae includes quite a few known pathogens. So I think its plausible these specific deviations from the typical pattern are functionally important.

 

 

 

 

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15 hours ago, EMeyer said:

The only sample I'm finding from you is in august 2019, does that sound about right?

If so, based on my records, it looks like your tank had a very low balance score similar to what John's later developed. Both of your tanks had very low levels of Pelagibacteraceae, but each of your tanks included different atypical families in its place. Both tanks also had elevated levels of Vibrionaceae. 

Keep in mind Pelagibacteraceae is the most abundant group in the ocean (a top contender for the most abundant organisms on the planet), and Vibrionaceae includes quite a few known pathogens. So I think its plausible these specific deviations from the typical pattern are functionally important.

 

 

 

 

Thank you for confirming Eli - I think this could well be an important key here and perhaps the one common thread.  I had a couple of tests done as part of your initial sampling phase with the club but they were pretty consistent so I think the one that you are referencing is a good representation.  So, in my case, I could see the initial crash due to some metal contaminants having an effect (primary or secondary) on the bacterial diversity which, at least as of the August 2019 date, had not recovered (crash was probably a year or so before that) and could underlie the problems of getting rebooted without addressing the imbalance directly.  Definitely sounds like a worthwhile approach (i.e. trying to rebalance the mircobiome) as one of the prior posters had done.

Doesn't sound like John had any precipitating event he can point to but perhaps facing a similar situation currently.  Maybe we should discuss a strategy and try a coordinated "treatment" paradigm to try and rebalance? @SuncrestReef  Might be hard given our different setups and husbandry but perhaps we could come close re products/dosing etc.?

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John, I'm so sorry. It does happen to all of us. I think I saw your tank early this year and it looked great!

I've been quietly battling my own issues. I figured out my problem but it took a long time. I had transitioned from bare bottom to crush coral substrate and had not problems...for a while. I had also switch to ReeFi lights at the same time. At any rate, my brother eventually helped me figure it out (he does tank maintenance for Premium Aquatics). Go figure, my issue was a buildup up nitrate, which let me to start carbon dosing. Well I ended up with too much phosphate, hair algae growth and then GFO. Eventually I dealth with the issue and pulled most of the rock and substrate, and got it back into balance.

So hang in there. We aren't proud of our failures, but it's part of the hobby and we all benefit from talking about the hard parts of reef husbandry.

Forgot to add that I lost a lot of SPS, but luckily a few nice pieces survived and are clawing back--Like my Walt Disney which was just a spec on a rock at the worst of it. Now encrusted to about a quarter size with several branches starting.

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On 12/10/2020 at 11:06 AM, albertareef said:

Doesn't sound like John had any precipitating event he can point to but perhaps facing a similar situation currently.  Maybe we should discuss a strategy and try a coordinated "treatment" paradigm to try and rebalance? @SuncrestReef  Might be hard given our different setups and husbandry but perhaps we could come close re products/dosing etc.?

As I said in PMs, I think its worth trying the live sand/live mud treatment. Figured I'd echo that sentiment on the thread to spur some discussion. 

https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/effects-of-live-sand-mud-on-the-microbial-communities-in-my-tanks-updated-with-new-data.684209/

This treatment improved the microbial communities in my tank. 

 

Its also worth considering removing any sterilizing influences. UV sterilizers appear to preferentially kill free living types like Pelagibacteraceae, leading to atypical communities. 

 

Finally it is beginning to look like in-tank antibiotic treatments are not entirely off the table. People said for a long time you couldnt do it because it would kill the beneficial bacteria in your tank. (Funny how many statements in our hobby get repeated endlessly without any evidence!) Turns out, at the right dose, they only improve things...

 

But I'd absolutely start with live sand/live mud. It is what I did when I found atypical communities in my display tanks, and its done nothing but improve things. Including coral health. 

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Also, take heart! Coral reefs in nature go through a continual cycle of destruction and regrowth.

In nature, coral reefs are described as "disturbance dominated" "non-equilibrium" communities. In other words, they don't go through a succession process, reach their apex community, then remain in that condition forever. Instead, they are destroyed every few years or decades by storms, and then new corals regrow on top of the old corals. 

So from a certain perspective, our periodic tank crashes are not that unnatural, except theyre caused by other things besides storms. 

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2 hours ago, EMeyer said:

As I said in PMs, I think its worth trying the live sand/live mud treatment. Figured I'd echo that sentiment on the thread to spur some discussion. 

https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/effects-of-live-sand-mud-on-the-microbial-communities-in-my-tanks-updated-with-new-data.684209/

This treatment improved the microbial communities in my tank. 

But I'd absolutely start with live sand/live mud. It is what I did when I found atypical communities in my display tanks, and its done nothing but improve things. Including coral health. 

@EMeyer, Thanks for pointing your R2R article.  I missed the original posting.  Very Interesting.

@SuncrestReef, My new tank is setup and needs a jumpstart of fresh biology.  I'd like to add some live sand (but where the heck would I add Live Mud?)    If you want to place and order together and split it - I'm in.

One catch...  At least the link Eli has in his R2R article, they're out of both sand types, and the only mud they have is the dark "muddy" mineral mud. 

PM me if you you find a source, and want to split an order. 

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On 12/13/2020 at 7:24 AM, EMeyer said:

Finally it is beginning to look like in-tank antibiotic treatments are not entirely off the table. People said for a long time you couldnt do it because it would kill the beneficial bacteria in your tank. (Funny how many statements in our hobby get repeated endlessly without any evidence!) Turns out, at the right dose, they only improve things...

This is interesting.  Would likely be best to be done in combination with some before/after testing and supplementation (live sand?) from a trusted source I would think but could be the ticket to "reset" a seriously out of whack microbiome.  I picked up some live sand to give it a try since it seems like a logical step.  Also took the UV sterilizer out of service (needed a new bulb anyway).  Hopefully things start looking better at some point.

Thanks for the advise and insight Eli! @EMeyer

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  • 3 weeks later...
3 hours ago, obrien.david.j said:

@SuncrestReef - Checking in.   Have you stabilized, any improvements?

Thinking Happy/Hopeful thoughts for you and your reef now that it's 2021.

Sort of.  I’ve slowly brought PO4 down to 0.02 ppm but NO3 is still higher than I want at 16 ppm.  The remaining SPS corals have slowed the pace of decline, but they’re still losing tissue and I’ve lost a few more colonies over the past few weeks.

I’m working on a plan to completely rebuild my sump to include a roller mat for better filtration, and a careful inspection of every component for any rust or damage.  I also need to test for stray voltage to see if that could be a cause.

But I still don’t know for sure what the root cause could be.

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8 minutes ago, Manny Tavan said:

I’m curious. Do you use rowaphos or gfo?

I’ve been slowly dosing Brightwell Phosphat-E for the past couple months, and once the levels got low enough I stopped dosing and resumed using my GFO reactor.

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4 hours ago, SuncrestReef said:

But I still don’t know for sure what the root cause could be.

Super frustrating John - I know the feeling.  After just leaving mine alone for a few months, I have started to see my encrusting corals making a comeback by coloring up and spreading fairly well.  The lone acro starting encrusting and growing again and a few things I thought were completely gone have shown signs of coming back.  I did recently add a bag of live sand and some miracle mud per some other suggestions and that at least hasn't hurt anything.  I would be curious to run another ICP and aquabiomics analysis but I think I will wait a bit longer to see if the comeback is sustained.  I added some additional test frags of various types over the weekend to see how things go.

Hope your's  turns around soon.  I didn't see the spike in nutrients (but my phosphate has been high for a while) still suspicious that this might be a side effect rather than causal to the problem (e.g. reduced intake due to die off) but obviously, it doesn't hurt to be confident in your mechanical filtration regardless.

Good luck!

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4 hours ago, SuncrestReef said:

Sort of.  I’ve slowly brought PO4 down to 0.02 ppm but NO3 is still higher than I want at 16 ppm.  The remaining SPS corals have slowed the pace of decline, but they’re still losing tissue and I’ve lost a few more colonies over the past few weeks.

I’m working on a plan to completely rebuild my sump to include a roller mat for better filtration, and a careful inspection of every component for any rust or damage.  I also need to test for stray voltage to see if that could be a cause.

But I still don’t know for sure what the root cause could be.

Your plans make sense.

On my end, I had a crash in my frag tanks - while working on setting up the new display tank.   I either overfeed for the smaller volume of water (yes, PO4 and NO3 were up like yours), or my water flow was off, or the phase of the moon shifted...  (feels like it some times)   In either case, I'm all set up to start the new display tank with Mostly new stock.   So I feel your pain.

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