Zero nitrates with phosphates

Discussion in 'Reef Chemistry' started by Eugene, Jan 4, 2017.

  1. Eugene

    Eugene Supporting Member


    I'm a new reefer and it's my first tank so not sure what to do - my tank is about a year and half old and since the beginning I was having all kinds of algae and not too much coral grow. All test where fine - zero phosphates, zero nitrates and the corals where struggling while algae didn't care. Couple month ago I decided to try "kiss" approach - removed all chemical filtration, turned off reactors and left only skimmer. Immediately I saw a lot of coral grow - SPS got nice colors, zoas started to grow etc. As well as algae - I have a lot of hair algae and something strong that might be bryopsis (it doesn't look like a feather but strong and think compare to regular hair algae), some cyano etc. The last test showed 0.04-0.08ppm PO4 and zero nitrates.
    Now I'm wondering what to do to get rid of algae - add some nitrates (I have potassium nitrate from planted tank past), turn on GFO reactor with a little GFO or something else? The algae is really ugly, but I don't want to stress corals too much either by limiting nutrients.

    Attached Files:

  2. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    My opinion:
    How about adding an herbivore to eat algae? Tang? More snails?

    Otherwise, I would start with GFO. A fancy reactor or simple media bags.
    It does not seem like you have a drastic problem, so GO SLOW.
    Adding potassium will likely help with Cyano, but possibly make Algae worse.
    You do not mention water changes. Increasing that might help also.
    Coral reefer likes this.
  3. Eugene

    Eugene Supporting Member

    My tank is too small for tang - it's 34 gal + 8 gal sump. Full of snails and hermits. The algae grow is really fast, I don't think any herbivore will be able to eat that much. And it was struggling with GFO for more than a year - water was too clean, corals pale, no coraline etc. but a lot of algae problems.

    Also not sure if phosphates are too high - according to Red Sea 0.1ppm is ok.
  4. Vhuang168

    Vhuang168 Supporting Member

    A small tomini would work in a 34g. For a while anyway.

    I would aggressively manually remove as much algae as possible. Run your skimmer, run gfo (changing often), run carbon.

    What kind of nutrient export were you doing besides skimmer and gfo?

    You can also try Vibrant which a few club members have or are going to try. It seems to be very successful for some tanks that struggle with algae.

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  5. Eugene

    Eugene Supporting Member

    I only use skimmer and gfo for a year and half, changing 5 gal per week.

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  6. Vhuang168

    Vhuang168 Supporting Member

    So other than the skimmer and water change you have no other nitrate export.

    A lot of people think having a skimmer is all you need but a skimmer is only about 30% effective.

    If you don't want to try Vibrant, I suggest doing more nitrate export.

    Either biopellets or carbon dosing will work but it takes time and a commitment to stick to the dosing regiment.

    You can look into implementing an ATS or Chaeto reactor.

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  7. Eugene

    Eugene Supporting Member

    I have auto doser, so no problem with dosing chemicals but very limited space for anything else - there are simply no space in the stand.

    At the same time I have concern that I don't have enough nutrients, not too much. I have no problem to limit nutrients, but it will harm corals at the same time... For a year I had 0 PO4 and 0 nitrates - there where no coral growth but algae survived.

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  8. I'd look at setting up a refugium.
  9. Vhuang168

    Vhuang168 Supporting Member

    8g sump. That's gonna be an awfully small fuge.

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  10. Coral reefer

    Coral reefer President

    Bigger tank...bigger tank...bigger tank...
    Chant echoes on for infinity ...
  11. Eugene

    Eugene Supporting Member

    Yeah, the space is really limited. But the chemical filtration is easy and cheap - I have gfo reactor and can remove all phosphates. The question is - do I need to? Or should I focus on growing corals instead and left some nutrients for corals and add some nitrates instead?

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  12. HOB fuge. I've seen a few that look nice actually.
  13. Vhuang168

    Vhuang168 Supporting Member

    That could work if hung off the dt. But do you really want something big hanging off the display?

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  14. BSAJim

    BSAJim Guest

    Eugene, first take a deep breath and remember that nothing good happens quickly in a reef aquarium.

    That said, you may not being having spectacular growth, but it does not sound as though you are losing corals either. Not bad on a new tank. If you read threads, you will hear of very experienced reefers losing specimens - you are not failing.

    I have been through the massive algae problem - this can be solved. There have been a number of solutions proposed and tested, with varying results. AlgaeFix, Vibrant, AlgaeX, and peroxide all all being actively used to beat back the algae problem combined with filtering and physical removal. Read through the posted threads and decide for yourself what you want to do.

    rygh is wise in suggesting that you go slow. Take another breath. The final solution may take some time and creativity.

    In the meantime, NOTHING gets worse with frequent water changes, and frequently can make things better.

    Coral reefer likes this.
  15. Gablami

    Gablami Supporting Member

    Eugene, you're saying that whether you have zero nutrients or lots of nutrients you're going to have algae either way. But at least with more nutrients your coral are growing.

    I think you have to try something new like some of the chemical solutions that we have posted recently (vibrant, h2o2). It seems you have resigned yourself to having algae. Your system seem out of balance, but I believe that at this point, your high nutrients cannot be helping the algae problem.
    Coral reefer likes this.
  16. Baykes

    Baykes Webmaster

    A lot of times the phosphates and nitrates read 0, when algae is present, falsely leading one to believe that there is no nutrient excess, when in reality the algae is using up all the nutrients.

    To me, that second pic looks like bryopsis. This is notoriously a hard algae to get rid of. Some people have had success using Kent Tech M which is a magnesium supplement. That Vibrant product looks promising, I think that it is one of the only product that I have seen that claims to treat bryopsis. Maybe worth a shot ;)
  17. Eugene

    Eugene Supporting Member

    Yes, I think its bryopsis. I used peroxide for past 2-3 month to spot-treat it and while it gets much better for a little it doesn't get killed completely and grows back.
    Also tried Algaefix with similar results for about 2 month.

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  18. Flagg37

    Flagg37 Colorado member

    Have you tried any black out periods? Your corals can go longer without light

    I would do like @Vhuang168 said and do as much manual removal as possible then a fairly large water change. Then I'd turn the lights off and add something like vibrant.
  19. Eugene

    Eugene Supporting Member

    For now my main concern is how to balance system first and only then fight algae. Without balance all remedies is meaningful - algae gets back immediately.
    Correct me if I'm wrong here but I think I should first find the root cause, fix it and than I can slowly attack algae. The nutrient imbalance is little complicated to me - for example
    with 0 nitrates I can't dose carbon.
    I feed fish each day - pellets, ROE, frozen mysis ( one at a time, sometimes a little of two) however bio-load might be light for 40 gal - two clowns, one starry blenni, one gramma, shrimp and lot of hermits, one emerald and snails.

    Yesterday I put back half or less of recommended dose of GFO - will see how corals will react. Previously everything was pale colored, even coraline didn't grow.
  20. sjbro

    sjbro Supporting Member

    Could it be that the hair algae in your tank is feeding on nitrates? AFAK, the bacteria that detoxifies nitrates needs some traces of phosphates. And the other way around. If you are aggressively using GFO, that would trap the phosphates, then the bacteria will starve and the nitrates will be left in your tank, leaving HA to feed on them. The fact that your test kits sees 0 nitrates, it could be simply because the algae feeds on them.

    If I'm right, it will be visible in your tank soon, now that you turned the GFO back on. I mean, you should see the algae continuing to grow fast while the corals will pale / won't thrive.

    Since your sump is small, I would say to add a marinepure ceramic media or similar.
    I personally also like the bio-pellets reactor. I had similar HA growth as you in the past and I didn't like GFO because of high maintenance & the residue that was very hard to rinse when adding new media. Now I use a a bio-pellet reactor, skimmer and a refugium with deep sand bed and chaeto. From what I read marinepure ceramic media is similar to a deep sand bed. The bio-pellets are also similar in the way that they promote bacteria grow, but in addition the bio-pellets also supply food to bacteria (the equivalent would be what other guys are doing through vodka dosing).

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