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HELP! 1.5yr old tank, parameters perfect, why do stony corals just die?!


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I'm feeling frustrated and defeated. I don't understand why corals that used to thrive in my system are struggling or have died off completely, new corals struggle and usually die.  The last couple frags I added died within a week or two. The stylopora was losing chunks of flesh like it was being eaten or just dissolving?!  Seems like only softies are happy, and not even all of them...

I feel like my system should be running perfectly right now, the tank filling with sps. It's got all the bells and whistles...

I have been struggling to get nitrates/phosphates down, I guess I overfeed? I started dosing no3/po4-x. Also, there's lots of vermitid snails (more in the history summary)

I think I need someone with experience (eyes for parasites?) to come take a look at my tank and offer advice.

 

Params tested today -

Alk: 8.8(hannah), 8.34(Trident)

Ca: 440(hannah), 399(Trident)

Mg: 1440(Red Sea), 1360(Trident)

Nitrate: 5(Nyos)

Phosphate: .08

 

System:

- 120g display, 30g sump

- 450gph turnover

- 2 MP40's and 1 ReefWave 45 (see attached MP40 schedules)

- 3 Kessil A360x (see attached light schedule, the AB+ line is redSea's AB+ program recommended schedule)

- smallish sand bottom, 1-2" thick

- filter socks

- refugium with rocks and chaeto, inverse photoperiod

- big UV on 24/7

- Carbon 24/7

- GFO 24/7

- big skimmer

- 5 stage rodi

 

Brief History

- Started with Fritz Pro RPM blue box salt, BRS 2-part dosing

- initial corals growing well, stylopora and birds nest grew significantly. mushrooms big and lush, dividing

- never really got nitrates/phosphates under control, hovered around 20nitrate and .15phosphate

- discovered what Vermitid snails are when they started covering everything in my tank

- ran out of BRS 2-part, switched to Triton method 4-part (cause the sump was designed for it and I had the dosing pumps for it, figured I should)

- got lazy about manual testing, relied on the Trident and 4-part dosing too much - calcium eventually dropped to ~300, no idea how long it was there

- after a while I noticed coral growth was slowed, leptosiris mostly died away, purple stylo eventually slowly died all the way

- Triton ICP test came back okay but said Iron was high, recommended weekly water changes with Tropic Marin salt - https://www.triton-lab.de/en/showroom/icp-oes/155893

- switched back to BRS 2-part, switched to Tropic Marin Pro reef salt

- 5 or 6 weekly ~20% water changes

- Some things seem to be responding well, leptosiris, favias...

- Added new frags - blue stag, birds nest, purple stylo - all those died quickly. The softies mostly seem okay (except for the sinularia), the brains seem alright too.

 

See attached photos of the tank:

- Blue eyed blond zoas have been closed for months, they used to be open and spreading. Candycane not spreading like it was. Paly growing fine

- New brain coral frags doing okay. New softie frags doing...eh, alright? look at the sinularia(?) in the back, it's turned shrunken and spotty, looks like it wants to die

- Leptosiris that I thought was dead is coming back! Frogspawn is hanging on but doesn't have the extension it used to, not growing like it was

- look at that totally dead stylo skeleton I'm reluctant to remove from the tank, encrusted with corraline algae...the biggest skeleton grown in my tank

- New birds nest frag is just about dead, growing algae. that orange thing looks sad

- sponge and blasto look happy

- nems look happy...never had the bubble tips but it used to be one RBT and now it's 3 that host 2 clowns

 

Corals that should be thriving are still dying and I don't know what to do or how to figure out why. help?!

 

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Just a question, how often are you using carbon? With all the loss it could be grenading your tank, also how big is the green sinularia? They release pretty toxic stuff i have seen.

Edited by islandVib3s
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yup, ULR hanna phosphate checker.

It's always seemed a bit odd (but fortunate?) that I've never had an ugly phase... I did introduce a foxface fairly early on, but I've never had any kind of algae problem. I had a bit of a dino bloom once or twice.  My first ball of chaeto melted away and had to be replaced, the chaeto I have now seems to be established but not growing much.

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Posted (edited)

Forgot to mention feeding schedule -
- One cube frozen food in the am (~3 grams)
- 4x4" sheet of nori + some pellet fish food around noon
- One cube frozen food in the pm
- Feed corals twice a week after lights off with reef chili and aminos

 

Livestock

- a foxface and two tangs, 3-5"

- two clowns

- 8 anthias and 3 chromis

- some firefish, inverts

Edited by GreenJeans
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Dang man, everything you are talking about sounds exactly what I've been battling for over a year now. In my decade of reefing, this last one has been the most unsuccessful as far as growing corals. Everything just slowly loses tissue until it's gone. There have been a couple colonies that seem to be unaffected which is strange. I too am at a loss.

My calcium reactor holds about 4 gallons worth of media and I dumped a full container and bought all new stuff in case that was the problem. The only thing I haven't done is start replacing pumps and other internal equipment in the off chance they're leaching something. That'd be a real expensive experiment.  I'm also about to order a grounding probe to remove any chance of random stray voltage. I have an unbearable amount of asterina starfish which I constantly see on the dead skeleton. Then I start thinking they're the ones killing the tissue. Not likely, but at this point I've gone crazy and I trust nothing and no one 😡

@stylaster had a similar problem and he lost his whole tank. He's one of our most veteran members in reef keeping, too. It's just so freaking crazy and frustrating. I'm about to switch my tank over to just zoas and anemones. Neither of which seem to be impacted. 😆😜.

Wish I could offer something worthwhile!

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Your alk is high enough to cause problems. Lower your alk to 7.5-7.8. People with Ca reactors are able to get away with running it as high as you are, but IME it causes problems from 8.5 and up if you are dosing 2-part.

And stop dosing the Red Sea no3/po4x right away.

I think the carbon dosing (nopox) with high alk is what could be causing the issues. Even though your nutrients still seem high enough, in some systems this combination can really stress stony corals.

Phosphate of .15 is fine. Nitrate of 20 is a little high, but could be brought down with water changes.

I had a similar thing happen to me years ago when I carbon dosed with Red Sea nopox to get my nutrients down. I struggled for months and killed pretty much all my sps. I quit using nopox and things got better within a few weeks. As it turned out, my nutrients were not actually high enough to be a problem and taking them down with carbon dosing (nopox) caused way more problems. You said that your corals were doing fine at nitrate 20 and phosphate .15, right?

I know that some people have success with the Red Sea nopox, but in some systems it can be really hard on stony corals.

Good luck!

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I agree with Lexinverts on both the alk and nopox

For whatever its worth, I'd also consider it overfiltered. Its really striking that you feed a lot but have very low nutrients in the water and no algal growth. 

Filter socks, UV, carbon reactor, and GFO reactor all running? I know there is lots of variation on this point, but in my subjective experience corals are happier without *any* of those in the system. Every time I try adding any one of these I end up removing it because it only seems to make things worse. 

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On 8/8/2021 at 1:15 PM, GreenJeans said:

I'm feeling frustrated and defeated. I don't understand why corals that used to thrive in my system are struggling or have died off completely, new corals struggle and usually die.  The last couple frags I added died within a week or two. The stylopora was losing chunks of flesh like it was being eaten or just dissolving?!  Seems like only softies are happy, and not even all of them...

I've been there, few years ago, and again recently.   Kind of the Whoa, where is everything going.   Mine lead to dino's, cyano, dino's, cyano, and ... I'm hoping I'm coming back out of the crash.  

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Thanks for all the thoughts, it's at least reassuring to know I'm not the only one -

I'll lower the alk to 7.5-7.8.  I'll also stop dosing No3/Po4-x.  I started the nopox dosing pretty recently; I had been losing corals long before starting, the dosing is an attempt to lower nutrient levels thinking that was my problem.

I'll also pause the UV, carbon reactor, and GFO reactor, then watch nutrients closely...I guess if it ain't broke don't fix it, here my thinking was added toys for added security/success rate. Maybe the 24/7 GFO/carbon/UV is too much...

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Just a question, do you have any pod eaters? I've heard of pods going crazy on corals if you dont feed often and have a huge population of them 🤷‍♂️ sounds crazy but anything is possible. Alot of chat about it on reef2reef.

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Nope, no pod eaters, and definitely plenty of pods.  I haven't been feeding phytos but they're still easy to find all over the tank...maybe I need to feed phytos to keep make sure my pods are happy and not munching on corals?

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I would give it a try,or just get a pods eater,it is a rare occasion but I mean your tank looks super clean, parameters look solid and a old tank I would think it would have tons and tons of pods and if they are starving they could feed on stuff thats not dead yet. You can also do night spotting with a flashlight with some test corals and see if they are chomping on them.

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May I make a suggestion?

 

Try the Syn-biotic salt.

 

It's what I use the first time I switched I noticed a big difference in my coral health.

Then stock was hard to get and had to use Red Sea blue, corals looked mad. After a few months finally got some synbiotic and everything puffed up happy again. I thought it had to be just my imagination.

Then I gave some of the salt to a friend I made at an LFS, just to see his reaction. And he saw the same thing, his corals were much happier.

 

Try it, it might help. I could be convinced to give you some.

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1 hour ago, Hincapiej4 said:

Then stock was hard to get and had to use Red Sea blue, corals looked mad. After a few months finally got some synbiotic and everything puffed up happy again. I thought it had to be just my imagination.

Anyone else having unhappy corals with Red Sea Blue?    I was running Red Sea Black, but having a hard time keeping my Alk down.  So switched to Red Sea Blue.    Any chance I made a bad choice for SPS and LPS?

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1 hour ago, obrien.david.j said:

Anyone else having unhappy corals with Red Sea Blue?    I was running Red Sea Black, but having a hard time keeping my Alk down.  So switched to Red Sea Blue.    Any chance I made a bad choice for SPS and LPS?

I run Red Sea Blue Bucket and I am having success with it. I have heard that the Magnesium is a little low in the blue bucket, but I have not had any issues.

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16 minutes ago, Lexinverts said:

I run Red Sea Blue Bucket and I am having success with it. I have heard that the Magnesium is a little low in the blue bucket, but I have not had any issues.

Agreed on the Mg side.  I've just been supplementing with BRS bulk Mg.  My goal is to be 1300 or higher.

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I would be shocked if it was your salt.  I ran a successful sps tank with instant ocean. 

I like the idea of piranha like pods...never heard of that but seems logical. Yes on the alk being a tad lower.  Especially when using two part.  

High nutrients wil cause your corals to brown out but not to die. There has been a rash of complete and rapid tank deaths lately.  The only one I have been privy to was the result of toxic dino explosion.  This typically happens as a result of a bacteria population that is out of whack.  Which, obviously is impossible to see but is quite common with dry rock started systems... ask Eli. 

After ruling out pests, i would try and find some sources of live rock. 

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2 minutes ago, EMeyer said:

Good question - I see from the notes there is a refugium with rock and algae. Got any live rock / live sand / mud in the system? 

Hint:   reference this article...

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

And for $22, I added some of both to my system from floridapets.com   It was out of stock for a while, I just checked back every few weeks.   But you could also shoot them a note.   I'm a fan of bio diversity, generically.

1 1 piece(s) live golden sand3 Live Golden Sand 3 Cups $11.99    
2 1 piece(s) live mud3 Live Mud 3 Cups $11.99  

 

 

 

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The reason I mentioned synbiotic is not just because of the extra stuff in it or the salt itself. It's because it has a mild carbon dosing in the salt that will carbon dose for you, will help, and actually works.

 

Last I checked, my Nitrates were 4 and phos was .03. Never been that low, anywhere near, with red sea. And I always ran a refug, and did try nopox at one point. 

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I think you got too much $hit going on. I’ve had amazing success just running a skimmer, chaeto, and 2 part. These 2 part tanks were also just running IO for salt, anything else salt-wise IMO is just magic beans. I’d rather control the Ca/Alk with 2 part. There are way too many variables on your setup to even begin to make adjustments. 

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