Looking for Advice on Algae issues

Northstar24

The Tang Herder
So, I've been battling what I believe to be dinoflagellates for at least 6 months now. I've not made any progress, and I have spent hours reading internet forums and talking to fish store folks and I am honestly at the end of my rope. This post is one last ditch effort to try and figure out what I'm overlooking, and if it leads nowhere then my tank is probably coming down...

So, here is a run down of my system

Tank was established in August 2010
180 gallons up top, and about 30-40 underneath in filtration
Filtration consists of LifeReef Liferefugium II
Flow is handled by a 1200 GPH return pump, 2 MP40's and a Polario 7M

Inhabitants are down to the following:
Hippo Tang
Chevron Tang
Ocellaris Clowns x2
Banggai Cardinal
YT Damsel
Yellow Headed Sleeper Goby
Various CUC inverts (snails, hermits, serpent stars, conches etc)

Tank temp 76-77
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 0
Phosphates:0

I know the last two are incorrect. I know all about nutrient export and the fact that since I have dino's those elements are being bound by the algae

Water changes are 15% at least once a week, try to make it twice a week
Mechanical filter pad and skimmer cleaned twice a week, sometimes more
I am feeding every third day, a very small amount of food (fish consume it all within 1-2 minutes). I'm not feeding my tank enough - over the course of this battle I have lost TWO fish to starvation / not being fed well enough

I've tried GFO, ran it for 3+ months, and it actually seemed to make things worse, I recently took it off line
I've tried Chemiclean, it made no difference
I've done blackouts
I've gone a week without feeding
I've scrubbed rocks with a toothbrush

Despite all of this, the !#@$#@$@ algae will not go away. What am I missing? What should I be doing differently. I've wracked my brain and I can't come up with anything. I can't feed less - fish are already starving. My bio load isn't the issue, I have 6 fish (most of them are small, the only medium/large size fish is my Hippo)

Help me out, tell me that there is something easy I missed, at my wits end and I don't want to succumb to the thoughts I've had of posting this thing on Craigslist to be rid of it

http://i568.photobucket.com/albums/ss122/bluesrt/Aquarium/IMG_0152_zpsae015461.jpg
http://i568.photobucket.com/albums/ss122/bluesrt/Aquarium/IMG_0153_zpsbd61f30f.jpg
 
What is your magnesium level? Have you tried elevating it with Tech M? I have seen that work right before my eyes.

What about carbon dosing? Have you given any thought to going that route?

I know that neither is diagnosing the problem but either can easily become a normal part of your maintenance regiment.
 
I'm going to go 100% flow. 2 mp40 and 1200 gph seems a little lite for that monster tank. I am running the same amount of flow on my 72g. 2nd is what are u running for a skimmer and how much skimmate are you pulling? If you have any questions, I'm an hour away.
 
I've got almost 50x turnover in the tank with no noticeable dead spots, and the vortechs are on lagoon mode in anti synch so the flow is always random - I don't think the flow is the problem. This tank was algae free for quite a long time with much lower turnover rates

Skimmer is a life reef, it pulls dark green skimmate regularly and has handled much larger bio loads and heavier feeding regimens in the past without issue

Mag is at 1300 or so - never really thought of trying to elevate it to high levels. Dosing like that on such a large tank gets expensive, even with BRS bulk materials

I have run bio pellets in the past (not during this outbreak) and never really saw a difference other than some fading in the color of coral so I took them offline. I tried several different reactors and never really could get a good tumble on them. I recently saw that lifereef now makes a reactor for my filtration setup - I have thought about trying it
 
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I've got almost 50x turnover in the tank with no noticeable dead spots, and the vortechs are on lagoon mode in anti synch so the flow is always random - I don't think the flow is the problem. This tank was algae free for quite a long time with much lower turnover rates

Skimmer is a life reef, it pulls dark green skimmate regularly and has handled much larger bio loads and heavier feeding regimens in the past without issue

Mag is at 1300 or so - never really thought of trying to elevate it to high levels. Dosing like that on such a large tank gets expensive, even with BRS bulk materials

I have run bio pellets in the past (not during this outbreak) and never really saw a difference other than some fading in the color of coral so I took them offline. I tried several different reactors and never really could get a good tumble on them. I recently saw that lifereef now makes a reactor for my filtration setup - I have thought about trying it
Since your open to suggestions....... let me know when u break that down. I'm interested in upgrading.
 
I don't believe your tds is 50 before filtration. My city is ro water and tds is 128. You are in Milwaukee with pipe breaks all over that city according to tmj4, point being I would double check that tds.
2nd, I asked for weight of your skimmate. I pull 16.38 ounces on average per week. Pulling dark sludge gives no info of what is left in your tank or what is being pulled out.
3rd, I have dead spots in my tank, same flow, but my rock work is more open. Do u clean the sand bed with w/c's?
 
I don't believe your tds is 50 before filtration. My city is ro water and tds is 128. You are in Milwaukee with pipe breaks all over that city according to tmj4, point being I would double check that tds.
2nd, I asked for weight of your skimmate. I pull 16.38 ounces on average per week. Pulling dark sludge gives no info of what is left in your tank or what is being pulled out.
3rd, I have dead spots in my tank, same flow, but my rock work is more open. Do u clean the sand bed with w/c's?

So, its entirely possible that water main breaks on the complete other side of town could have increased the TDS of the water coming into my RO system. But guess what? That doesn't matter because the TDS on the output side is STILL at 1 TDS. If the output water is 1 TDS, it doesn't matter if the input water is 50 TDS or 50,000 TDS - other than filters will need to be changed more often

No clue on the weight of the skim-mate being pulled out, I don't know of anyone else in the hobby that keeps track of skimmate that closely. Cup gets filled twice a week, and it gets emptied as necessary

During water changes I scrub most of the rock (some of the base rock in the back isn't easily reached for a full scrubbing. I also try to go through a small section of sand bed as well

Flow itself doesn't cause algae - something else is the problem. Since this stuff is growing everywhere including directly in the path of the Vortech's I highly doubt that flow is the issue. I'll dig out some old Koralia's and add them to the tank for the sake of increasing flow - but it won't solve the problem
 
I weigh my food and weight the skimmate. You then know what is in and what is out. Your tds before was a guess? What number is the real number then?
You have pictures of your tank, but no filtration pictures. With 30 ro 40 gallon filtration for a 180g, I would think that is pretty lite, don't you? You have your dt now become your filtration, your circulation for your sump is weak in my honest opinion. Your rock work is to close, open it up and you'll see improvements. Where is all the algae coming from? You are feeding and it stays between that rock pile on the bottom. Flow doesn't create algae, but it sure the hell promotes it.
 
TDS on the incoming water has consistently been between 50-60 TDS. So consistent that I don't even check it anymore. The TDS of the incoming water doesn't matter because for the 3.5 years I have run RO/DI water, the output has steadily been 1 TDS - I verify the TDS reading on the output water EVERY TIME I run the system to make water. As soon as that output starts creeping up, I replace the resin. The carbon blocks are changed 2x a year, and the sediment filter gets changed whenever it needs to be (based on it turning yellow). With absolute certainty I can say that the TDS of the water used for water changes is 1 TDS - end of story.

The water under my stand contained in my filtration is out of my control. Its a LifeReef LifeRefugium II, and that particular setup has been used on many good looking tanks. Could it be more? Absolutely, but I'm limited to the space underneath my stand - an in basement sump or crazy setups like that aren't in the cards. This filtration has worked for the display tank in the past without issues, under much heavier bio loads and feeding schedules. The 40 gallons is an estimate, in reality, it could be more or it could be less. If you're curious, you can find it here:
http://www.lifereef.com/lifereefugiumII.html I have the first system on the list. I never used the CF fixture over the refugium, it was replaced ages ago with a CFL bulb and recently a PAR38 bulb specifically designed to grow macro algaes (has LED's in the white / red spectrum) Since I've set things up, Jeff has started offering an upflow reactor that plugs into the system manifold and I've recently though about purchasing at least one of them to run either bio pellets or to start up GFO again. Theoretically I could run both bio pellets and GFO in two seperate reactors, the manifold has outlets on it, all of them are currently occupied by traditional down flow filter cylinders. I currently run some carbon in one of them, the other two are currently empty

I've tried on several occasions to loosen up the rock work its more open than the photos give it credit for. That said, it could probably be opened up more. It's also stacked fairly low, at its highest point I don't think its any higher then about half the height of the tank. That being said, I'm always moving rocks around to open it up more, because it just looks better from an aesthetic point of view. I am doing another water change tonight, I'll see if I can open up the rock work some more - all of my rock is fairly large, so its difficult to get it to really open up
 
GFO is one of the most ridiculous things I've tried. It was outrageously priced and its effectiveness is less than desired. I bumped up my skimmer to a Diablo 225 and seen vast improvements in water quality and coral response. This is serious, I pull more out in 1 week than I did with my old skimmer in a month which allowed me to get rid of my refugium and cheato. My only other thought is co2.
 
last cyano problem I had was due to low sg-badly calibrated refractometer- it is easy to overlook the obvious-for me anyways
 
After hours of scrubbing rocks and pulling them out this is what I was able to accomplish as far as 'opening up' my scape

I am also debating on getting a pair of some sort of sync able power heads for the back wall - one on each side of the stack in the middle. They'll be pointed towards the front pane of the tank in anti synch mode and will replace the Polario that is currently on the back wall moving water left and right
 

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Oh Matt. I completely understand why you're frustrated. There were days when I couldn't even look at my tank because it upset me so much.

I know you can kick this.
 
The sand is mostly the oolithic stuff with a few spots where I put some larger grained stuff due to the undertow from the Vortechs

Thanks Erin - been a very rough couple of months with the tank, culminating in having to euthanize my 10 inch sailfin that was with me for the last 4 years, he was the second fish I purchased after the cycle
 
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