Acro growth rate still slow

Madison Area Reef Society - Club and reef discussion

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Acro growth rate still slow

Postby BraenDead on Mon Nov 03, 2014 10:27 am

I restarted my system earlier this year and have had a number of acros and other corals in the system. While the acros are growing and tend to be doing well, I haven't had the growth rate that I used to have on the system. I feel like the parameters are all pretty stable, and have been monitoring them for a couple months. They have been steady at:
Salinity: 1.0255
pH: 7.9 to 8.05
Alk: 8.5 to 9 dKH
Calcium: 440 ppm
Magnesium: 1400 ppm
ORP: 430 to 460 mV
Temp: 78-79 F

I run a calcium reactor to maintain Alk/Calcium/Magnesium (using NeoMag for Magnesium in the CaRx), so there are no swings in the Alk/Ca/Mg. The salinity also stays dead-on without any swings - there is an auto-topoff that keeps the water maintained well. I am running the same lights I previously ran and had good growth, 14k Phoenix DE 250W MH. I do water changes between once a month and once every two weeks, roughly 10% of total water volume (using Reef Crystals). I run carbon, GFO, and biopellets - the carbon and GFO are changed monthly. I don't dose anything, figure everything should come from water changes and the CaRX.

For now I don't have any planned changes to try to spark better growth out of the corals, and hoping that sticking with stability would be the key (based off past experiences). Any suggestions or anything that I am overlooking?

Bob
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Re: Acro growth rate still slow

Postby Rueg on Mon Nov 03, 2014 12:05 pm

Why such a low salinity?
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Re: Acro growth rate still slow

Postby BraenDead on Mon Nov 03, 2014 12:42 pm

Steve,

I've thought about bringing it up to 1.0264, but haven't been too concerned with 1.0255 (within the margin of error of most hobbyist means of measuring salinity). The salinity wasn't kept where it is intentionally, it has just been here consistently as tested and I haven't made an effort to slowly raise it. I am measuring with a digital density meter, which should be much more accurate compared to more common means of measuring salinity, and less prone to being off from actual values. None the less, this is a good point - I'll work on bringing this back up to 1.0264.

Bob
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Re: Acro growth rate still slow

Postby Rueg on Mon Nov 03, 2014 4:06 pm

Probably will not have an impact on growth. But something to try. I really like Seachem AquaVitro Fuel for SPS, but having a hard time finding it for a decent price anymore.
http://www.aquavitro.com/products/fuel.html
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Re: Acro growth rate still slow

Postby SeeingGreen on Mon Nov 03, 2014 4:08 pm

Rueg wrote:Probably will not have an impact on growth. But something to try. I really like Seachem AquaVitro Fuel for SPS, but having a hard time finding it for a decent price anymore.
http://www.aquavitro.com/products/fuel.html


Fuel and acropower are both cool.

Best fish sells fuel in the big bottles.
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Re: Acro growth rate still slow

Postby BraenDead on Mon Nov 03, 2014 4:10 pm

Steve - thanks for the feedback! How long have you been using this additive, and what are your overall observations (Changes in growth? Changes in color? Any negative changes observed?)? How often have you been dosing it in the tank?

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Re: Acro growth rate still slow

Postby jservedio on Mon Nov 03, 2014 4:31 pm

What is your lighting setup and what are your nutrient levels like? I know a lot of us SPS keepers tend to go a little overboard with nutrient reduction and lighting and that can really cut back on your growth rates (and color). Finding that sweet spot where your nutrients aren't too low (but not growing an algae farm) and having your lighting perfectly balanced with your nutrient levels can take a while to dial in.

I know the tropes of "more light" and "lower nutrients" were solid advice for decades, but in the past few years with new, high quality equipment, I have personally found the opposite to be true where either less light was needed, or more nutrients were needed so the corals could keep pace with the lighting.
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Re: Acro growth rate still slow

Postby BraenDead on Mon Nov 03, 2014 5:31 pm

Good questions jservedio:

Lighting setup: I run 2x250W MH 14k phoenix bulbs, and the lights are on from noon to 10pm, 10hours per day. The pendants are about 6-8" above the tank and provide good coverage and lighting on the tank. This is the same setup I had previously used for many years and previously had good to great acro growth. Since a tank crash last year and starting back up, I'm just trying to get things going well again.

Nutrient Levels: This is harder to quantify. For a while I had pretty slim livestock in the tank, but have been adding fish and am up to 5 fish and 2 shrimp in the tank. I think the nutrients are picking up a bit, but I don't have any nuisance algae in the system. I clean the glass once or maybe 2x a week, just to keep it nice and shiny. The side walls haven't been cleaned in a couple months or more and I can still see pretty well through them, though there's clearly some "crud" growth on the glass. As noted, I run GFO, carbon, and biopellets, replacing these on a monthly basis.

I should also note that this is a bare-bottom system with decent flow. I was previously going to run 4 Tunze pumps, but decided that was a bit much on 75g and am running a Tunze 6055 and a 6095, ramping between 30 and 100% throughout the day. This is in addition to the return pump, a partially scaled back Sequence Dart. Overall the flow seems pretty good, with one dead spot that I use to siphon out detritus from the tank (a necessity in bare-bottom, in my opinion).

I suspect that nutrients may be my issue, though I'm not really sure. I want to get salinity up to 1.0264 just to keep that where it should be. From there, I'd like to watch the system for a few weeks, closely record any observations, and may try one of the amino acid additives. A couple weeks to watch the system and make sure everything is stable should give me a good chance to read up on the amino acid additives out there, none the less :)

One thing I should also note - I am going to try to add CO2-absorbing media in a reactor on the intake to my skimmer in an attempt to raise pH levels in the system. They are running pretty close to 8.0 right now, but I would ideally like them around 8.3 or 8.4 (likely low due to the calcium reactor).

Any other thoughts? I'll try to keep this thread updated over time to record my results/observations (if I remember, that is).

Bob
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Re: Acro growth rate still slow

Postby jservedio on Mon Nov 03, 2014 9:48 pm

Few fish, lots of light, very aggressive chemical media - that is almost certainly the problem! Biopellets especially - while phosphates are really tough to truly bottom out at 0, nitrates are super easy to strip to nothing and will end you up with slow growth and bad color.

With chemical media that aggressive, you have to feed like mad to compensate. Instead of turning to additives, slowly feed more and I bet you will have a very positive response almost immediately. I went through this exact problem last year.
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Re: Acro growth rate still slow

Postby plainrt on Mon Nov 03, 2014 10:11 pm

Did you run bio pellets on last setup?
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Re: Acro growth rate still slow

Postby BraenDead on Mon Nov 03, 2014 10:15 pm

I did previously run biopellets and had good success with them. I do think it's important to rinse them out every couple months to help clean them up and wash away the "loose" materials on the pellets (probably cuts down on some of the food for the bacteria).

Are there reported issues with biopellets?

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Re: Acro growth rate still slow

Postby Rueg on Mon Nov 03, 2014 10:51 pm

I have been using Fuel since 2012. I honestly don't pay that much attention to growth rates in my tank and have neglected my tank pretty severely. The bali green slimmer has pretty much overgrown all the other sps. With it being only a 28 gallon nano I don't have to use much. When I am 'on schedule' for maintenance I add a capful a week. My rose bubble tip anemones have been splitting quite often. I have not noticed any negative affects from adding fuel. One other note - I do not use a protein skimmer.
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Re: Acro growth rate still slow

Postby jservedio on Tue Nov 04, 2014 10:55 am

There are no "issues" with biopellets, it's just that on a tank that has a very low nutrient load, they will take your nitrate levels down far below what your corals need if there is excess phosphorus. There are 3 basic chemicals for all biological processes: Phosphorus, Nitrogen, and Carbon and they are needed in specific ratios (while it varies, typically around the Redfield Ratio). Most tanks are limited by carbon and have a very small excess of phosphate and nitrate (which is why carbon dosing is usually so effective but so dangerous to overdo). While switching the limiting element isn't so bad, having one element very scarce while the other two are very abundant can get really bad since any addition of the scarce element will be immediately utilized due to the excess of the others. If they are very close to properly balanced, your corals will never be limited by available nutrients.

I really think nutrient balance is the most difficult aspect of keeping a reef with primarily acros since they are so sensitive to it - keeping stable parameters is incredibly easy once you start dosing or using a CaRx, but getting the nutrients right is really tricky.

Another big thing I forgot to mention is feeding Acros can massively effect their grow rates (apparently by nearly 4x at max food density compared to no feeding - I'll find the study on AA if I can). Particles between 5 and 200 microns are typically the size range that acros are capable of consuming (though some, like the Red Planet will consume much larger particles). Oyster Eggs, small Rotifers, and freshly hatched baby brine are basically the perfect acro food. Apparently when it comes to acros, their growth rates stay linearly proportional to the density of the food available in the water and can eat a ton of food. Since you have such agressive chemical filtration, you can probably feed your acros quite a bit.

Shut off the return pump and leave the power heads on - broadcast a small pinch of appropriate acro food and wait a half hour. Then start target feeding when you see filimanets - it almost looks like they are sliming but the filaments are attached, much finer, and shorter.
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Re: Acro growth rate still slow

Postby BraenDead on Mon Nov 10, 2014 2:46 pm

Just a quick update - in addition to much of what was posted here, I decided to up my Alk and pH a little bit. Typically with a pH at the lower end of the scale (which mine was) you want to keep alkalinity a little higher. I suspect that this may have been a somewhat limiting factor in my system. I have raised my pH by 0.2 units using a CO2 scrubber and have raised my Alk just a bit to ~9.

I am going to look into dosing Amino Acids as well as feeding the acros as well. I'll report back on the progress!

Bob
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Re: Acro growth rate still slow

Postby jservedio on Wed Nov 12, 2014 3:21 pm

BraenDead wrote:Just a quick update - in addition to much of what was posted here, I decided to up my Alk and pH a little bit. Typically with a pH at the lower end of the scale (which mine was) you want to keep alkalinity a little higher. I suspect that this may have been a somewhat limiting factor in my system. I have raised my pH by 0.2 units using a CO2 scrubber and have raised my Alk just a bit to ~9.

I am going to look into dosing Amino Acids as well as feeding the acros as well. I'll report back on the progress!

Bob


Definitely update us on what you decide to feed - I am super interested in other people's results when feeding since there isn't a ton of information out there abotu feeding acros. I have been experimenting with tons of different foods and IMO Reef Nutrition Oyster Feast was the best option that I found - unfortunately Living Art doesn't stock Reef Nutrition products and won't special order them - so I have been looking for alternatives. I have been experimenting with the tiny particulates in blender mush after settling out the bigger particles (to feed to LPS), freshly hatched baby brine shrimp, and frozen rotifers - with the baby brine and rotifers being the best. For corals with larger polyps and mesenterial filaments (think Red Planet and millis) the baby brine seemed to work amazingly, but almost all my other corals didn't exhibit any response - Rotifers seemed to have the same problem, though a much larger subset of acros chowed down on them (though they aren't razy nutritious like baby brine with their yolk sac still attached).

My next option was going to be trying something like the New Life Spectrum NutraCel which says the particles are 10 to 80 microns - right in the perfect range for acros. I have high hopes, but I am worried about how nutritious they are any how well an acro can digest the capsule. If that doesn't work very well, I'll definitely be down for putting together a group buy from Reef Nutrition if it is possible!
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